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Illustration of Thomas Harding's book "The House by the lake"© Goethe-Institut London

The House by the Lake

We offer two teaching units on the book "The house by the lake" in which pupils can learn their first German vocabulary. Further teaching materials, videos and a creative competition introduce the pupils to the German language and history in a playful way. 
Target group: pupils with no or little knowledge of German aged 7-12 (Key Stage 2 + Year 7).
Themes: Home, family, World War II, GDR and the fall of the Berlin Wall


Book Summary

The House by the Lake (2020) is an autobiographical picture book for young readers. Deeply interwoven into a century of contemporary German history, the book tells the story of a family against the backdrop of the Holocaust and the fall of the Berlin Wall:

On the outskirts of Berlin, a wooden cottage stands on the shore of a lake. Over the course of a century, this little house played host to a loving Jewish family, a renowned Nazi composer, wartime refugees and a Stasi informant; in that time, a world war came and went, and then the Berlin Wall was build a stone´s throw from the cottage´s back door. The narrative is told form an original perspective; the house witnessed happy and not-so happy times as well as periods of loneliness until it was discovered and rescued by the author. With words that read like a haunting fairy tale this is a very special and thoughtprovoking book which will help children to consider Germany´s 20th century history (Reading guide, Candlewick Press)

Recommended Reading Guides and Literature

The BBC introduces the author and the book in this short video

Visit the Website of the Alexanderhaus to learn more about the project and to find out how the house near Berlin looks today.

A great starting point for teaching the book is Candlewick’s comprehensive reading guide with suggestions for student projects. 

Book recommendation: Terrible Things by Eve Bunting. It's about a group of animals and how they react when a dark thing comes to the woods. It's an opportunity to talk about standing up when other people are being hurt, without getting into the details of the Holocaust yet.

Teaching Materials

Get creative!

  • Soul Places Hawthorn Primary School ©Hawthorn Primary School
  • Osbaston CIW School ©Osbaston CIW School
  • Montgomery CIW School ©Montgomery CIW School
  • Eveswell Primary School ©Eveswell Primary School
  • Soul Places Ysgol Pen Y Bryn ©Ysgol Pen Y Bryn
  • Soul Places Ysgol Pen Y Bryn ©Ysgol Pen Y Bryn

Let your students get creative. Here is an idea of how to organise a small competition in your classroom using the material from "The house by the lake". 
If you like, you can also send us photos of your students' artwork to teacher-services-london@goethe.de and we will include them in our virtual art gallery. 

Are you looking for prizes and goodies to treat your students? Order one of our sets in the webshop!

Idea for a creative competition - download here