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16-A Edward Hooper, House by the Railroad, 1925
Olga Rozhkova


Lesson Plan Title: House by the Railroad

Skills Covered: Reading, writing, speaking and listening skills

General Goal(s): The students will develop reading, speaking, listening and writing skills necessary for recognition, comprehension, interpretation, analysis, evaluation and appreciation of the work of art. They will use vocabulary to describing accommodation, the issues of housing and the importance of home in human life.

Specific Objectives: The students will develop knowledge and ability to use a range of vocabulary items related to description of painting, different types of houses, neighborhood, location, renovation of the house. Through class discussion and role play they will learn to characterize, think critically to evaluate the work of art. The students will also develop creative skills of writing based on the subject matter presented by the picture.

Materials/ Visual Aids: Projector, computer with internet access (to present the reproductions  of 1) “House by the Railroad “ by Edward Hopper 2) “American Landscape” by Charles Sheeler 3) “The Sources of  Country Music” by Thomas Hart Benton ) or slide projector and the slides with the reproductions of these paintings; paper, pens/pencils.

Warm-up activities
       Activity #1. (Entire class activity) Discuss the following questions:
1. Do you live in a house or in a flat?
2. Which would you prefer to live in – a new modern house or an old traditional house? Why?
3. Would you spend a lot of time and money doing up your house?
4. Do you like your home? Why? Why not?
5. What can you see from your living room/bedroom/kitchen window?
6. Would you like to design your own house or would you apply for professional help?

       Activity #2. Discuss in pairs what sort of people you would expect to find living in the following houses:

1.  a castle    2. a  wigwam    3. a mansion    4. a lighthouse      5. blocks of flats     6. a palace  

 7. a bungalow     8. a detached house       9.    a caravan   10.   a ranch

Activity #3. Think of the different ways to complete the following sentences:

  1. Some people in the USA/Russia live in  ……………..
  2. Very few people in the USA/Russia live in ………….
  3. The majority of people in the USA/Russia live in ………….
  4. When people look for a place to live the most important for them is ………
  5. My ideal house is …………………

Activity #4. Look at the picture by Edward Hopper (1882-1967), House by the Railroad, 1925. You can find it if you go to http://picturingamerica.neh.gov (in the Gallery it is picture number 16a).

  1. What can you see in the picture? Make a list of all the things you can see in the picture.
  2. Turn away. In pairs, try to remember the things you can see in the picture.
  3. Tick (v ) the things you can see and cross (x) the things you can not see in the picture.

drainpipe ?  garden ? railway tracks ? chimney pot ?  gutter ? porch ?  columns ? porch? balcony ? patio? loft ? bay windows ? lawn ? flowerbed ? cellar?

Activity #5. Look at the picture “House by the Railroad” by Edward Hopper and discuss with your partner whether the following statements are true or false.

  1. The House by the Railroad is situated in an isolated position.
  2. The House by the Railroad is situated in idyllic position.
  3. The House by the Railroad is in terrible condition.
  4. The House by the Railroad is surrounded by picturesque views.
  5. The House by the Railroad looks uninhabitable.
  6. The outside of the house still retains the character of the original building.
  7. The House by the Railroad seems to belong to the rich family.
  8. The House by the Railroad looks very modern and stylish.
  9. The House by the Railroad needs repairing and restoring.

Activity # 6.  Work in pairs. Describe The House by the Railroad. You may take notes while doing this exercise. Speak about:

  • Type of house
  • Size (number of rooms)
  • Location
  • Special features
  • General description

   Present your description to the group of other students.

       Activity #7.    Discuss the following questions:

    • Would you /wouldn’t you like to live in The House by the Railroad? Give your reasons.
    • Could the House by the Railroad be haunted? Why?
    • List the advantages and disadvantages of this house.
    • Think about a typical house in your country. What differences would there be? Can you account for them?
    • Which of the following adjectives would you use to describe The House by the Railroad?

economical     impractical      gorgeous   cold     spacious    comfortable   attractive   eccentric  derelict  ordinary    brand new    unique   huge  family-sized  cozy luxurious  well-maintained     noisy   funny

 6. Which property in your opinion the House by the Railroad will be best for :

  • a family with young children, husband working at home
  • a young couple without a car, buying their first property
  • a retired couple whose family often come to visit them

           7. Listen to the podcast “House on Loon Lake” on this American Life (http://www.thisamericanlife.org). It is a story about an abandoned house and is reminiscent of this painting. Express your attitude to what you’ve heard.

          Activity #8. Role play.  This activity will give you an opportunity to work with your partner and use the language in a free and creative way. One of you is going to be a House buyer, who wants to have a bargain and doesn’t want to spend much money for the House by the Railroad, and the other would be an Estate Agent, who wants to the customer to pay for the House by the Railroad as much as possible and tries to turn it’s disadvantages into advantages.  Each of you will work on his/her own and write down points to be used in a dialogue (3 minutes). Present a dialogue between the Estate Agent and the House buyer. (5 minutes).

         Activity #9.  Imagine that you have finally bought the House by the Railroad and you want to renovate it. What will be the changes that you would like to make to transform it into a dream home? What needs to be done? Why? Write down your ideas on a separate piece of paper. Discuss the list of ideas with your partner. Agree on the final list to present it to the class.

         Activity #10.  Go to website http://picturingamerica.neh.gov. In the Gallery find the following pictures:  1. 15a - Charles Sheeler (1883-1965), American Landscape, 1930; 2. 16a - Edward Hopper (1882-1967), House by the Railroad, 1925; 3. 18 a - Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), The Sources of Country Music, 1975.
Imagine that you were presented these pictures for your birthday. Discuss in pairs what picture would you put a) in the living room   b) in the study    c) in the kitchen. Account for your choice.


Extra-Class Work (Homework). An English-language newspaper is going to publish a series of articles about people and their homes, Write to the paper as if you were the owner of the House by the Railroad indicating how you feel about it.
The article may start like this :
“We found the house by the railroad. I thought. Here is my home. It will bring me some peace of mind. Here I would become myself. The gray house by the railroad fulfilled the promise it made to me. ……………”    Write between 120-180 words.

List of References