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Introduce the lesson by doing something catchy, like showing clothes from the 60’s, photos of hairstyles, etc. Elicit from students that they can identify something from a different time period and style. Tell students that Louisiana has many buildings that are from different time periods and styles and that it is possible to figure out the styles by carefully examining the characteristics of the buildings.

  • Instruct students to draw a building on a piece of scratch paper.
  • Ask students what items are in most of their pictures. These are the attributes of a building. The attributes are the characteristics that make a building a building! For example, students may identify some of these attributes of a building: roof, door, windows, shape, building materials (bricks, wood, etc.), and “footprint” on the ground (such as rectangular, square, L-shaped). A building may also have a balcony, porch, or steps. Record student responses to generate a checklist of attributes.
  • Use a web converter/TV to display the National Park Service website “The Walk Through: Identifying the Visual Character of Historic Buildings” http://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/18-rehabilitating-interiors.htm. Exploring this site will enhance your class attribute list and make students aware of characteristics to notice when “reading” a building. Step 1 and Step 2 of the “walk through” will be helpful in this activity because they demonstrate an exploration of a building’s exterior. Be sure to click on the side bar menu to see photographs demonstrating the concepts of shape, roof and roof features, openings, projections & recesses, exterior materials, trim & secondary features, and setting. Step 3 explores a building’s interior.
  • Practice “reading” a building by viewing the Learning to “Read” Louisiana Buildings transparency of four Louisiana structures on the overhead projector. Use a blank transparency as an overlay and outline the attributes of the buildings as the students discuss them. Ask students to identify characteristics of the buildings and then find the two that have similar attributes. Work as a class and have students “read” the buildings, looking at doors, windows, roof shapes, etc. Number 1 and Number 4 are examples of French Creole Cottages. Students will notice the central chimney, two front doors, and full gallery (porch.) Number 2 is Queen Anne Revival and Number 3 is Italianate. However, it is not necessary to tell the students the names of the styles at this time.
  • Tell students that all of the photographs that they will examine in the next activity are actual places in Louisiana that they can visit or locate on the Internet at the Louisiana Register of Historic Places website. Display the printouts of the twelve architectural styles on a bulletin board or somewhere that students can have easy access to them.
  • Divide the students into groups. Explain that they are going to work together to categorize pictures of Louisiana buildings that are alike and discover their architectural styles. Give each group a set of pictures and a Learning to “Read” Louisiana Buildings handout. Students will be unaware that each set contains pictures of three different styles of houses.These sets are:
    1. Eastlake, Dogtrot, Colonial Revival
    2. Greek Revival, French Creole Urban Townhouse, Queen Anne Revival
    3. French Creole Raised and Galleried Plantation, Italianate, Gothic Revival
    4. French Creole Cottage, Shotgun House, Spanish Colonial
  • Encourage students to analyze the photographs by “reading” the doors, windows, roof, shape, and other attributes of the buildings. Each group should categorize their pictures by similar characteristics. Students will record clues that they see and their categories on the Learning to “Read” Louisiana Buildings handout.
  • After groups have classified the photographs in a set, allow them to peruse the 12 Louisiana Architectural styles to determine the names to the groups they have created. , Students should use this information to verify their classifications before trying another group of buildings.
  • Students will trade sets of photographs and repeat the activity until each group has seen all sets of photographs.

Each group will present their last set of photographs to the whole class, telling the names and characteristics of the architectural styles that they found and the clues they used to classify the photos.

  • Students may comment that some styles resemble others or that some are called “revival” styles. Explain that “revival” means “to bring again into use or notice.” Point out that some old houses were modified to include the “latest” styles. For example, Eastlake gingerbread details may have been added to an older house to make it more “up to date” and fashionable. Students may research their architectural styles more fully by accessing the Historic Preservation Supplement website at http://www.crt.state.la.us/crt/ocd/hp/ocdhp.htm or the teacher could provide handouts of this background information.
  • Create a time line showing the years when different architectural styles were popular in Louisiana. Point out that Louisiana was not quick to adopt new styles, so sometimes other parts of the nation had new styles before we did. This still happens with today’s styles! Group members will work together to place their three architectural styles correctly on the time line. One picture of each style may be glued to the time line or students may draw their own pictures. Add pictures of period clothing and modes of transportation to the time line to give students a better understanding of what life in Louisiana was like during each time period. Add important dates from Louisiana and U.S. history.
  • Students will notice that some of the styles are very similar, such as French Creole Cottages and Raised and Galleried Plantations. Students may work independently to compare and contrast any two architectural styles by creating a Venn Diagram. Students will write a paragraph and present their comparisons to their small group. The finished paragraphs and diagrams may be posted on the classroom bulletin board.
  • Hand out student copies of the Styles of Louisiana Architecture: Hunting for Historical Buildings booklet. Introduce the scavenger hunt assignment by reading the directions with the students. Students will work independently or in their groups to fill in the characteristics of each kind of architecture. As students find examples of additional architectural styles in their communities, they will record this information in the booklet. This would be a fun family or field trip assignment!

Reproducible Materials

Assessment Procedures:

  • Evaluation Rubric
  • Teacher Observation

Exploration and Extension:

  • Look at pictures of modern day houses in our state and determine what architectural styles they resemble.
  • Create a new kind of house that embodies elements of Louisiana History such as our French, Spanish, Creole, Native American, English, German, or other heritage. Draw a picture or build a model to show your new creation.
  • Research different architectural styles to determine their origin and learn more about them.

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National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
645 University Parkway
Natchitoches, LA 71457

Email: ncptt[at]nps.gov
Phone: (318) 356-7444
Fax: (318) 356-9119