A House that Once Was

Free lesson plan, writing template and printable word-search puzzles for kids

a house that once was

Best suited to:

K – Year 6

KLAs covered:



  • wondering;
  • using our imaginations;
  • observing and thinking about what our observations tell us;
  • what makes a home?
  • are houses and homes different from one another?
  • visual literacy: how illustrators use different styles to illustrate different parts of a story;
  • emotional literacy: how would you feel in this situation? How do you think the children feel?

Need to know:

  • two children find an abandoned house in the woods, go in through a missing window and explore the house, wondering who lived there and where they might have gone. At the end, they return to their own cosy, warm home;
  • written in verse with a lovely rhythm which makes it very enjoyable to read aloud;
  • unusual and beautiful illustrations using a sponge-like technique;

Discussion Questions (before reading):

  • what do you see, think and wonder when you look at the cover of the book?
  • what do you think this book might be about? (discuss cover and title)
  • is there a difference between a house and a home? how would you explain the difference?

Discussion Questions (after reading):

  • what do you notice about the the text on the first and last pages? (it’s the same). Why do you think the author might have done this?
  • what does the author mean when she says the house “once was but now isn’t a home”?
  • what do you think makes a house or a place into a home?
  • who are some of the people the children imagine might have lived in the house?
  • who do you think lived in the house? What makes you think that?
  • why do you think the house has been abandoned by the people who once lived there? What makes you think that?
  • what do you notice about the illustrations? How would you describe them?
  • show the children the page where the children climb into the house. Ask ‘how do you think they might be feeling?


Years K-2

  • children imagine who they think might have lived in the house and draw a picture of the person or people. They can also write about them. Younger children can label their picture, with assistance if needed and describe their drawing, and the thinking behind it, to the class;
  • children write about what makes their house a home: photos of us on the walls, our books, my picture on the fridge, my toys in my bedroom;
  • children use sponges to create an artwork based on the house in the story;

Years 2-6

  • children write a description or a story about who they think might have lived in the house, why they left, where they are and what they are doing now;
  • children create an artwork based on the book, using sponges to apply the paint. For the instructions and templates for this activity, click here;
  • children write about what makes a house a home. This can be in the form of a poem, a piece of creative writing inspired by the book or an opinion piece. If they write an opinion piece, they should be encouraged to brainstorm three things that they think make a house a home and write a paragraph on each, starting with a topic sentence and elaborating on each one.

Your free, printable word-search puzzles and writing template

These free printable word-search puzzles for kids are great for building and reinforcing the vocabulary used when discussing the picture book A House that Once Was. 

There are three different puzzles in this file to enable you to differentiate the activity according to the learning needs of your students.

Download and print our free writing template for use with A House that Once Was here (PDF).

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