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15-B William Van Alen, The Chrysler Building, 1926-1930
Tamara Grigorenko


THEME: Skyline, Architecture

LESSON PLAN TITLE: As High as the Sky

SKILLS COVERED: Ability to work in a group, fluency, accuracy, analyzing primary sources, writing, comparing and contrasting, evaluation, creative writing†

GENERAL GOALS: to get students acquainted with American architecture and its historical background on the example of the Chrysler Building in New York.

SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES: to teach names of the figures and parts of the skyscrapers; to teach preposition patterns

MATERIALS/VISUAL AIDS: Studentís Worksheets, Screen and Multimedia projector or a Smartboard, high-speed Internet access

Pre-task: it is strongly recommended to read the article about William van Allenís The Chrysler Building in Picturing America Teachers Resource Book. A teacher also can make an introduction by telling his students the following information. The word "skyscraper" originally was a nautical term that denoted a small triangular sail on a sailing ship. The term was first applied to buildings in the late 19th century as a result of public amazement at the tall buildings being built in Chicago and New York City. The word skyscraper often carries a connotation of pride and achievement. The skyscraper, in name and social function, is a modern expression of the age-old symbol of the world center: a pillar that connects earth to heaven and the four compass directions to one another [1].

Exercise 1. Listening.
Start your lesson with watching a 10-minute film about history of the Chrysler Building, narrated by a famous American actor and film director John Malkovich.
YouTube Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nio-w5e1hhE
Pre-intermediate students will need teacherís comment.

Follow-up activity. Teacher can ask his/her students the following questions:

  1. What city the Chrysler Building is situated in?
  2. Is it the tallest skyscraper in this city?
  3. What company did it belong to?
  4. Who ordered this building to be constructed?*
  5. What did the narrator call ďmy Northern starĒ?*

Exercise 2. Vocabulary
The Chrysler Building picture is hanging in front of the class. Each student receives a worksheet (see Appendix 1). They can work in small groups or with a partner. The task is using a dictionary to find a word that suits the definition that is given. Students know the first letter and the total number of letters in a sought for word. After that students in groups describe the structure of the Chrysler building.


Exercise 3. Vocabulary and prepositions. Writing. Speaking

Group work (3-5). Students receive worksheets (see Appendix 2). Having a look at the picture of the Chrysler Building they should locate rectangles, squares, triangles, arches and fill in the gaps in the sentences.

Key: 1. Spire 2. Triangles and arches 3. Square 4. Rectangle.

Then they are doing speaking task. They imagine being a group of famous designers that receive an order from a millionaire to build a skyscraper. First of all they have to decide following things:

  1. Which city/ country will it be situated in?
  2. How many meters tall will it be?
  3. How many stories will it have?
  4. What will be special in its design? Describe main parts (base, main body, roof).
  5. What name will it have?

Then each team should make a presentation of their skyscraper. The most original skyscraper wins. For intermediate and upper-intermediate students you can quote John Julius Norwich who said "Art Deco in France found its American equivalent in the design of the New York skyscrapers of the 1920s. The Chrysler Building...was one of the most accomplished essays in the style." (John Julius Norwich, ed. The World Atlas of Architecture. p366) and ask to mention the style of their future construction.

As a home-task students can do a webquest. The task will be to find out the tallest building in a) New York b) world c) in their own city/country and write a short report/make a PowerPoint presentation about it.
Intermediate or upper-intermediate students you can ask to choose a skyscraper they like most and write a short essay/make a PowerPoint presentation about it.

Recommended websites for a webquest:


Webliography. Further Reading

  1. A major resource about world skyscrapers http://www.allaboutskyscrapers.com/
  2. Skyscraper Museum based in New York City with a large section for teachers http://www.skyscraper.org/home_flash.htm
  3. Historic background of the Chrysler Building with photos http://www.cbsforum.com/cgi-bin/articles/partners/cbs/search.cgi?template=display&dbname
  4. Another good historic reference with a great set of pictures http://www.nyc-architecture.com/MID/MID021.htm


Appendix 1.

Studentís Worksheet

Look at the Chrysler Building at the 15b picture, study it carefully. Using a dictionary find missing words according to their definitions. The first letter is given.

Now describe the structure of the Chrysler Building. What part does it consist of?

Appendix 2. Studentís Worksheet.

Where can you find these figures in the skyscraper? Fill in the gaps.

  1. At the top of the building is a ___________ that makes a skyscraper even higher.
  2. The top of the Chrysler Building consists of† __________ and _________ that are lit in the night.
  3. Windows of the skyscraper have the form of a _________ .
  4. The body of the Chrysler Building represents a huge ___________ that enriches New York City skyline.

Now imagine that you and your classmates are a group of world-famous designers. One millionaire wants to have his own skyscraper, like Walter P. Chrysler. He wants it to be very tall and of unusual design. Decide the following:

  1. Which city/ country will it be situated in?
  2. How many meters tall will it be?
  3. How many stories will it have?
  4. What will be special in its design? Describe main parts (base, main body, roof).
  5. What name will it have?

Now write a business plan of the project. Then make a presentation of your skyscraper so that the millionaire will give all his fortune to build it. And donít forget Ė you have strong competitors