The House that Jack Built Lesson Ideas

Mother Goose rhymes are the ideal first experience of poetry for young children. One Mother Goose rhyme that many young kids will not have heard already — and which actually has sophisticated enough vocabulary for elementary kids as well — is The House that Jack Built:

This is the house that Jack built.

This is the cheese
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the rat,
That ate the cheese
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the cat,
That killed the rat,
That ate the cheese
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the dog,
That worried the cat,
That killed the rat,
That ate the cheese
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the cow with the crumpled horn,
That tossed the dog,
That worried the cat,
That killed the rat,
That ate the cheese
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the maiden all forlorn,
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn,
That tossed the dog,
That worried the cat,
That killed the rat,
That ate the cheese
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the man all tattered and torn,
That kissed the maiden all forlorn,
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn,
That tossed the dog,
That worried the cat,
That killed the rat,
That ate the cheese
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the priest all shaven and shorn,
That married the man all tattered and torn,
That kissed the maiden all forlorn,
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn,
That tossed the dog,
That worried the cat,
That killed the rat,
That ate the cheese
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the rooster that crowed in the morn,
That waked the priest all shaven and shorn,
That married the man all tattered and torn,
That kissed the maiden all forlorn,
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn,
That tossed the dog,
That worried the cat,
That killed the rat,
That ate the cheese
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the farmer sowing his corn,
That kept the rooster that crowed in the morn,
That waked the priest all shaven and shorn,
That married the man all tattered and torn,
That kissed the maiden all forlorn,
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn,
That tossed the dog,
That worried the cat,
That killed the rat,
That ate the cheese
That lay in the house that Jack built.

Simms Taback has done a picture book of The House That Jack Built with his usual antic drawings, and Diana Mayo has illustrated a beautiful one. Pam Adams has also done a version of This Is The House That Jack Built with holes in the pages to peep through.

Have students listen to the poem and clap along to the rhythm.  Write out the animals and people on word cards and use a Doll Family, Farm Animals, and Domestic Pets to put each character into a dollhouse or box as you say the poem. (We never found a toy rat, and might have to say, “This is the gerbil that ate the cheese…”)

Use tangrams to create the characters in the poem:

This diagram is from Dover.

Once the rough outline of the story has been established, look closely at the words which may be unfamiliar, such as “crumpled,” “forlorn,” or “shorn.” Have students guess at possible meanings, and then look up the words or explain them.  Have students choose a character to draw, incorporating the characteristics describing the tattered man, shaven priest, or forlorn maiden.

Then help them find the rhymes. This is the perfect piece for the “-orn” word family. Write all the -orn words out on sentence strips for your pocket chart or word wall.

By now, you may have most of the words written out, and pictures for those you haven’t written out. Use them to create a rebus for the poem on chart paper or on the bulletin board. You’ll find that the last verse is enough to write out. Point to the lines as you read and/or recite the poem as a class.

There’s a real sense of accomplishment in learning this poem by heart.

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