Lisa K. Weber

The Big One

This witty, sweet story about a boy who makes a fishing fan out of his father has a special emphasis on character. Students will understand how the main character feels throughout the story, as well as the events that cause him to feel that way.

From the September 2016 Issue

Learning Objective: This witty, sweet story about a boy who makes a fishing fan out of his father has a special emphasis on character. Students will understand how the main character feels throughout the story, as well as the events that cause him to feel that way.

Lexiles: 370L, 550L
Guided Reading Level: O
DRA Level: 34
Topic: History,
Audio ()
Activities (5) Download all activities bundle
Quizzes (1)
Answer Key (1)
Audio ()
Activities (5) Download All Activities
Quizzes (1)
Answer Key (1)
Can't Miss Teaching Extras
Inside Scoop

Some inside scoop to share with your students: This story was based on the experience of author Tommy Greenwald’s oldest son. But there was one key difference in real life: After their unsuccessful ice-fishing trip, Tommy never fished with his son again!


Audio Tips

Speaking of Tommy Greenwald, he recorded the audio version of “The Big One” for us. Make the most of audio in your class with these ideas.


Creative Writing

Have your students do a creative writing exercise about a time they felt at odds with the people around them. Maybe they have a hobby that their family and friends don’t understand. This could also be a class discussion!



Your students will love Tommy Greenwald’s other books, including the super fun Crimebiters series.


More About the Article

Key Skills

character, text features, vocabulary, close reading, inference, plot, character’s motivation, explanatory writing

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan


Preview Text Features (10 minutes)

  • Direct students to the text features, including the bubble on the first page that says “Fiction.” Ask: What does this tell you? Point out the subheads and the Pause and Think boxes at the end of each section. Explain that the questions in these boxes will help them better understand the story.  

Set a Purpose for Reading (10 minutes)

  • We have created a fiction package that helps students focus on one important aspect of the story—in this case, how the main character feels throughout the story. The tasks in the Think and Read and Think and Write boxes work together to support this skill focus. Have one student read the task in each box.
  • Read aloud the first Pause and Think box on page 11. These questions will check basic comprehension. (Students will delve into higher-level questions with the close-reading questions.)

Introduce Vocabulary (15 minutes)

  • This story includes four vocabulary words highlighted in bold: bait, rippled, reeled, and grime.
  • The words are defined at the bottom of the column in which they appear. Discuss the meanings of the words, looking at how they are used in the story to help students further understand them.
  • Distribute our vocabulary activity for more practice with these words.


Reading and Unpacking the Text

Close-Reading Questions (30 minutes) 

  • Read the last three lines of “On My Own.” How do you think Joe’s mom and dad feel when they say “Wow” and “Gee”? How do you know? (inference) They’re trying to act excited, but they’re just not interested. You know this because they don’t say anything else, and they don’t ask any questions to learn more about what Joe is telling them.
  • In “Time to Fish,” why does Joe feel embarrassed that his dad is drinking hot chocolate? (character) Joe feels embarrassed because everyone else’s parents were fishing, not inside the tent drinking hot chocolate.
  • In “A Surprising Catch,” why does Joe’s dad take the elephant home? What do the last three lines of this section tell you about the fishing trip? (plot) Joe’s dad wants Joe to understand that the stuffed animal is special, even if it wasn’t what he wanted to catch. The last three lines tell you that Joe’s dad really did enjoy himself on the fishing trip.
  • In “A New Fishing Fan,” how does Joe feel when his dad asks to go fishing? Why? (character) Joe is surprised and happy. He didn’t realize his father had such a good time on their trip that he would actually want to fish again.
  • In the last line, what does Joe mean when he says he caught The Big One? (inference) In this case, Joe’s dad is The Big One. Joe “caught” him as a fishing partner.

Critical-Thinking Question (7 minutes)

  • By the end of the story, why does Joe’s dad want to join Joe on his next fishing trip? (character’s motivation) Joe’s dad ended up having a good time on the first fishing trip with Joe. It didn’t matter that they didn’t catch any fish because they were talking and laughing and creating memories together. He wanted to do that again with his son.


  • Call on a volunteer to read aloud the Think and Write box at the bottom of page 15.  
  • Download and distribute our Fiction Reading Kit, which focuses on key reading skills, including the featured skill, character. Have students work in small groups to complete it.

Differentiate and Customize
For Independent Readers

Go over the text features and vocabulary in class, then have your students read the story for homework and answer at least two close-reading questions as well as the critical-thinking question.

For Small Groups

Break the class into groups to do a second read. They should answer some or all of the close-reading questions. Then ask them to discuss the illustrations. How do the drawings help students better understand the events in the story? Each student can pick a favorite illustration and explain why it helped him or her comprehend the story

For Struggling Readers

Instead of using the closereading and critical-thinking questions, print out the Pause and Think questions and have students answer them. These basic comprehension questions help ensure that students can follow the story’s events. 

For Advanced Readers

Ask students to consider what the story would have been like if it had been told from Joe’s dad’s point of view. Have them write a one-paragraph summary of events told by Joe’s father.