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A House That Once Was: Reading Group Plan - 3rd Grade

Subject: Reading

Grade: 3

Lesson Objective:

To learn about how words develop scenes in books, read the book A House That Once Was and answer questions about the book.

Common Core Standards:  


Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.


Refer to parts of stories, dramas, and poems when writing or speaking about a text, using terms such as chapter, scene, and stanza; describe how each successive part builds on earlier sections.




  • Does anyone know what a scene is?

(Allow the students to answer.)



  •  A scene is an environment where something happens, or it can mean a section of a story or film. 

Creating Book Scenes and Moods

  • Today we will be talking about how words can help create a scene in a book and how a writer can use moods to build their story.
  • Writers can use words to describe a scene, so we feel like we are experiencing what the characters are going through. They bring the story alive for us. 
  • An example is describing tree shapes and the sounds and smells of a forest, so we feel like we are in the forest with the characters. 
  • What are words you would use to describe the scene of a forest?

(Allow the students to answer.)

  • Sometimes writers can also use different scenes in a story to compare contrasting moods as a way to build their story.
  • Contrast are two things that are different from each other. 
  • The mood of a scene is the feeling that the scene makes us feel. 
  • For example, writers can use words such as fresh air, clean, and sunny to describe an outdoor scene in the park. 
  • What mood (or feelings) do you feel from these words to describe the park scene?

(Allow the students to answer.)

  • In comparison, a writer can use words such as dark, dirty, and damp to describe a basement. 
  • What mood do you feel from these words to describe the basement scene?

(Allow the students to answer.)

  • When the character moves from the park to the basement, the different moods in the two scenes can help the writer highlight how unpleasant the basement is when compared to being outside. 
  • Does anyone have any other examples of contrasting things?

(Allow the students to answer.)

  • Why do you think writers use this method to write stories?

(Allow the students to answer.)

  • On top of making a mood you are creating become highlighted, contrast can help scenes in a story stand out, be more interesting, or be more memorable.
  • Contrast can also exist in characters. For example, A villain and A superhero will have two different personalities, thoughts, and actions making a story more interesting. 
  • Today you will be identifying the different scenes in a book and how the author uses words to create moods and contrast.
  • You will also be answering questions to show you understand what is happening in the story you heard.


  • The book you will be listening to is A House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano. This story is about two children visiting an abandoned house in the woods and imagining who lived there. 
  • Has anyone ever played make-believe? What did you imagine, and why was it fun?

(Allow the students to answer.)

  • Imagination play is important because it can help you exercise your creativity. You can learn to imagine different ways to think of things.
  • It also helps you with problem-solving skills as you imagine different situations.
  • You will see how the children in the book use their imaginations to make their experience in the abandoned house more fun. 

A House That Once Was Book

  • I will now play the book A House That Once Was for you. Listen to the story carefully, and feel free to make notes, because I will be giving you a worksheet with questions.
  • As you listen, I want you to be thinking about the words the writer uses to create the scenes in the story. 
  • For example, how does the writer describe the abandoned house, what are other places the writer describes in the book, and how the mood of the abandoned house and the children's house compare with each other. 
  • After you finish the worksheet, we will talk about your answers.
  • Does anyone have any questions?

(Let students listen to the book using the YouTube link provided. Provide the worksheet. After a short time, ask the students if they want to hear the story again before sharing answers.)



  • Who would like to share your answers?

(Allow the students to share.)

Written by Sara Menges

Education World Contributor

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