Accepting Differences: Lesson #1 Amos & Boris

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Clark University

Learning Activity Plan

Accepting Differences: Lesson #1

Amos & Boris
I. Describe what it is you will teach. What is the content?
This is the first of four lessons of a text set centered around the theme of accepting differences. Students will be introduced to the topic of accepting differences through a read-aloud of William Steig’s Amos & Boris (1971). After the read-aloud, students will engage in a discussion about the differences between the characters and how they became such good friends despite their differences. They will also assume the characters of Amos and Boris to write letters to one another.
II. Describe why the content is important for your students to know.
The content of the story is important because they will need to do a character analysis before they can engage in the discussion about the characters accepting each other even though they are very different. The theme of accepting differences can extend out of the text and into their lives. Students can learn from the characters that it’s okay to be different, and make connections between themselves, other texts, and the world. It is important for students to understand theme because that is one way the author communicates his or her ideas about an authentically human experience to the reader through the characters, even if they are not human.
III. Describe what specifically students will know and be able to do after the experience of this class.

  • Students will know how the theme is displayed through the characters.
  • Students will be able to explain how dis/similar Amos and Boris are.

  • Students will be able to identify what Amos and Boris appreciate about each other’s differences and how that led to their “deep admiration” of one another.

  • Students will know what Amos and Boris do (in general) in order to write letters.

  • Students will be able to use appropriate vocabulary in their letters.

IV. Describe how you and your students will know they understand what it is you want them to know and be able to do.

  • Students will compare and contrast the characters in a whole-group setting (Amos: delicate, dainty, light touch, small voice, gemlike radiance; Boris: bulky, grandeur, power, purpose, rich voice, abounding friendliness) and how that led to their close friendship.

  • Students will discuss how their lives would be different if they had never met. (Would Amos have died? Would Boris have died? How do you know?)

  • Students will have a written conversation with a partner pretending to be Amos and Boris and tell the other about what they did while they were apart.

V. Describe how you will provide for individual student strengths and weaknesses. How will you and your lesson consider the needs of each student?

To provide for my ELL students, I will introduce vocabulary before we read the story. I will read slowly and with emphasis so that they can understand the story clearly. The engagement will be altered for the students who need scribes; they will have the conversation orally about what they did while they were apart.
VI. Describe the activities that will help your students understand the content of your class lesson by creating an agenda with time frames for your class. Be prepared to explain why you think each activity will help students on the path toward understanding.


Teacher Activity

Student Activity

Materials Needed


Introduce vocabulary and go over definitions

Listening, pronouncing


Read-aloud of Amos & Boris

Listening, looking at pictures, making observations, making connections

Book (Amos & Boris, 1971)


Lead discussion: How did Amos and Boris become such good friends if they are so different? What would their lives be like if they had never met?

Participate in discussion



Writing conversation journals with a partner

Paper - black and white notebooks?

VII. List the Massachusetts Learning Standards this lesson addresses.

1.1. Follow agreed-upon rules for discussion.
2.1. Contribute knowledge to class discussion in order to develop a topic for a class project. [The text set.]

11.1. Relate themes in works of fiction and nonfiction to personal experience.

VIII. Reflection:

a. In light of all areas of planning, but especially in terms of your stated purpose and objectives, in what ways was the activity/sequence successful? How do you know? In what ways was it not successful? How might the activity be planned differently another time?
The activity sequence was successful in that students were able to make predictions about upcoming events in the story by looking at the pictures and making educated guesses possibly based on other literature or their own lives. Although that was not one of the goals for this lesson, it is important because making predictions demonstrates comprehension of a story. The vocabulary also went well, and they internalized some of it because they remembered the word “conference” when Dawn said she was leaving for one later that afternoon. They all shouted, “Meeting! You have a meeting!” when she left the room. I think going over the vocabulary helped them understand the story because William Steig writes in very mature language that my second graders probably don’t understand.

Unfortunately, students did not get to some of the discussion topics because of time. I took a lot of breaks while reading to allow students to comment or make predictions, and in retrospect, that was not a wise decision. While they made some thoughtful predictions and used some of the knowledge they already have about whales, it took too long to share. By the time I finally finished reading, Earl had to go to the bathroom, which meant we all had to go to the bathroom, and when we got back we had snack and then had to go to art. They got started on their letters, but only a few finished and only one did what I asked. Warsame, who is usually poor at following directions, wrote in his letter, “Dear Amos, I am going to Africa here’s one of the things I did I saw some big animals….” Other students thanked Amos or Boris, respectively, for his generosity. This was kind of disappointing to me because they know a lot about whales and they could have used that knowledge in their letter if they were writing as Boris. Students did not have time to respond to one another, unfortunately.

I would say this lesson is fairly incomplete, but there isn’t time to finish it, or discuss the book further. Part of the discussion that we did have was productive, in which students answered how a whale and a mouse could become such good friends if they are so different from one another. One student, I think it was Sara, said that they became good friends because they could trust each other. That is definitely true and implies some qualities of a good friend. I wish we could have expanded the discussion to include some of the similarities and differences, as I had planned. I had also planned on discussing the theme of the story and introducing them to the idea that we would be working on for the next few Fridays. On the other hand, it might be nice to ask them that question in the next lesson and see if they find the connection on their own.
I would say that time definitely worked against us and led to an unsuccessful overall plan. I know that next time I need to take fewer breaks and ask students not to share so much because we have a lot to get to. The problem is that I want to hear what they have to say, but I probably don’t need to ask every student with his or her hand raised. I could have asked one student for a prediction and then did a “thumbs up or thumbs down” if you agree with so-and-so’s prediction, and then moved on to see if it was true. They have a lot to say, but maybe it’s better to get through what I had planned and let them write what they think during the activity or assessment.
I wish there were time to do this lesson in its entirety, but there isn’t before Friday’s (11/12) lesson and probably not after that, but maybe we can re-read the story at the end of the unit, have the discussion I had planned, and finish the activity.

b. What additional questions from the teacher or children need to be addressed?

What is a theme?
How does Amos & Boris fit into our theme of accepting differences? Can you think of an example from the story where one character accepted the other even though he was different?
Can you think of any other examples of stories where others accepted one character even though he or she is different?

Revised 2/7/08

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