Activating prior knowledge

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Read-Aloud Lesson Plan


Amos and Boris – Library 2 and Library 4


William STEIG

Grade Level

Grades 4 and/or 5



Text Summary

Amos, a Mouse, and Boris, a Whale, become life-long friends when a disaster brings the two together. The Mouse always wanted to sail, and built a boat to take him to the other side of the Ocean. He fell off his boat and was about to drown, but the Whale saved him. Later in the story, the Whale also meets with misfortune and the mouse returns the favor, saving the whale. How each manage to save the other is most entertaining and forms the very crux of the story.


Students will

  • Develop specific strategies for reading comprehension following the teacher model of thinking aloud and asking questions
  • Demonstrate comprehension by discussing their reactions to a story, identifying with characters in a story, and relating events in a story to their own lives

  • Learn about character development and themes using charts created by the class

  • Develop oral language skills as they participate in discussions about our story

Materials Needed:

Preparing for the lesson:
Reading the Book
Distributing Paper and Pencils or NoteCards (Post-it Notes) to Students so they can answer a few of the questions on the last page – some of the questions will be oral only to assess their skills in reading and comprehending the text.
This is a story about dreaming big! The Mouse buiilds a boat to take him to the other side of the ocean and makes his dreams come true!
Have you ever dreamt big? What have been your dreams? How do you plan to achieve them?
In this story, a mouse builds a boat and sails across the ocean
Do Mice really build boats? Can Mice really sail?

Is this story Make-Believe or a Real Story?

Is it likely that a Whale would ever, in real life, meet a Mouse?
What do you think would happen if a Mouse ever met a Whale in real life? What do you think would be the end result?

Before Reading:


This is book that provides us with a story about dreaming and especially about friendship and what makes a friendship work.
Pair this with the book HOW TO BE A FRIEND (158 SLI) and during Days 1 to 3 (when it is appropriate) really talk to the children about friendship and how they know if someone is being a good friend to them.

IF you didn’t even know what the book is about, what could you infer about this book from the title alone?

Let them answer – give them time to answer –

and in my think aloud afterwards, I would say if I saw the title this book, I would think, OK, this is the story of two people, so, I would activate my prior knowledge this way: this is the story of two people, an Amos and a Boris, who somehow end up meeting each other, then this must be the story of how they meet and it probably tells a story of how fate or circumstances brought them together, probably in a very strange and unexpected fashion.

For you class, please think, since this is the story about Friendship, what are the essential elements of friendship?
How do you really know if someone is a friend and not a pretend friend? Do you know any friends who would gladly save your life if you were in trouble?
This story is exactly about a friendship between two very different animals who meet each other in a curious way.
I want you to carefully pay attention to how they met, and also please pay careful attention to how they became friends and how they ended up saving each other’s lives. I want you to relate what happens at the very end of this very beautiful story.
I’m now going to read a book to you called AMOS & BORIS
I want you to listen and pay attention to the story of this very unlikely friendship. Think: As I am reading, what makes this friendship unlikely? And, what makes this friendship work?

During Reading:


. During reading, I will stop every so often and ask the following questions:
Who is Amos, and where does he live? What sort of creature is he?

How do you know that Amos is fascinated by the sea? The author gives many clues to this: what are they?

In what way does Amos prepare for this journey? Does this sound realistic to you? Why not?
Do you think Amos is a good Sailor? Why do you say this? If you don’t agree that he makes a good sailor, what evidence is there in the book for this?
How would you describe Amos after he fell off the boat?
At this point in the story, how would you describe Amos?
The Author uses adjectives to describe Amos?
What are adjectives?
Can you give me an example of an adjective in a sentence? This is a post –it note activity – write a sentence about anything you like with at least one good adjective: as in Jack loves to fish, especially fleshy fish, and colorful fish. When he brought these fish home, his mother made such delicious and mouthwatering meals. (NOT THAT I EXPECT SUCH LONG SENTENCES!  )
Ask students if they remember the adjectives used to describe Amos – I will re-read that part and ask students to key in on the adjectives being used.
This POST-IT NOTE activity will take perhaps10 minutes – after we explain adjectives and give examples of adjectives in sentences, as in Amos wisely planned the building of his boat and carefully thought about the supplies he was going to bring along.
After the Post-It notes – we discuss and look at the Notes and read aloud the more interesting ones.
DAY 2 of the Lesson: read a bit more and ask: Talking about the supplies that Amos brings along, what are the supplies and are these supplies realistic?
IF you were going to make such a journey, what supplies would you bring with you?
How did Amos meet Boris?
How would you describe Boris?
How is he different than Amos?
Can people be friends even though they are not at all alike? (I will do my Think – Aloud here) and encourage students to talk about their own friendships


After Reading:

Why do think Boris agreed to take Amos back all the way across the ocean – and out of his way - -to Amos’s home?
Would you have done that?
Is the nature of friendship?
Can you recall a time in your life where a friend has done something really unexpected for you, in which your friend went really out of his or her way to help you?
I will do a think aloud of my own here and share a personal story.
How did Boris treat Amos? What was his attitude toward Amos? How does the author describe their relationship?
Besides purely physical differences, how were the two friends alike? And, how were they different?
How would you describe their friendship?
How did Amos repay the help that Boris gave him when Amos was stranded in the ocean?
Why do you think they became such good and loyal friends?
Finally, do you think they will ever see each other again after Amos helps Boris get back in the ocean?
DAY 3: ACTIVITY FOR G4: on a piece of paper, write down the character traits or personalities of both Amos and Boris; for example Amos is... – and Boris is --- (AISC INTRANET: DOUBLE BUBBLE THINKING MAP UNDER INSTRUCTIONAL STRATEGIES:
I will re-read a few pages to get them ready for this activity.
Students will receive Bonus points if they can remember specific points from the story that would support what they are writing down.

Vocabulary Lesson

Friendship and the nature of a good and loyal friend
Patient – Patience


Sailor – Sailing – Sail
Squeaked – Squeaks
Spluttering – Splashing
Ambition – Ambitious
Wiggle – and Wriggle
Rumble – Rumbled
Engage -- Engaging


Today we learned how we can use and activate our prior knowledge in figuring out what a story is all about before even readingthe story!
Activating our prior knowledge before read is important as it helps us read intelligently.
Specifically, activating our prior knowledge will help us:
Predict what will happen
Pay Closer attention to the story and
Figure out the basic plot lines or story lines
For example, just seeing the title and the cover alone, I certainly don’t know the Mouse’s name, but I figure out that it is either Amos or Boris, and something will happen in which one character will meet the other one and probably in a strange way.
That something is precisely what will make the story happen and give it an intrigue or a punch and thus make it interesting to the reader and keep the reader engaged throughout.
Why do you think it is neccessary to activate your prior knowledge before reading a story?




Reflection sheet

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