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Illustration by Gary Hanna
The Legend of the Lake Monster

Is there a giant beast living in Scotland’s largest lake?

By Lauren Tarshis
From the October/November 2020 Issue

Learning Objective: Students will study text features to gain a richer understanding of an article about the search for the legendary Loch Ness monster.

Lexiles: Starter, 500-600L, 600L-700L
Guided Reading Level: P
DRA Level: 36
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Think and Read: Text Features

As you study the article and its text features, think about why people believe in the Loch Ness monster.

On a cool afternoon in 1933, Aldie and John Mackay were driving along the shores of Scotland’s largest lake. The Loch Ness was usually murky. (Loch is the Scottish term for lake; pronounced “lock.”) On this day, its waters sparkled in the sunshine. 

Then Aldie saw something she would never forget. The water rippled. A giant creature seemed to rise out of the loch. It appeared to be black, with a humped back.

Aldie grabbed her husband’s arm. She screamed, “Stop! The beast!” John stopped the car. The creature seemed to “roll and plunge” in the water. For several minutes, the couple stared at the lake. Finally, the creature disappeared.

News spread about what the Mackays had seen. Some people rolled their eyes and laughed. But many others were fascinated. There had always been something mysterious about the Loch Ness, something spooky. 

The story was believed by many people who lived near the lake. In fact, it was a local legend. For hundreds of years, people had whispered about a creature living in the loch. The stories told of a huge, scary beast. Many stayed away from the woods around the lake because of these stories.

Over the next few weeks, rumors spread about a long-necked creature.

“It was horrible,” reported a schoolteacher. “It had a head like a cobra.”

“It was as big as an elephant,” said a local farmer.

“My heart stopped,” described a visitor. “It looked right at me.”

Was there really a monster living in the lake?

It was a cool afternoon in 1933. Aldie and John Mackay were driving next to Scotland’s largest lake. The Loch Ness was usually murky. (Loch is the Scottish term for lake; it’s pronounced “lock.”) On this day, its water sparkled in the sunshine.

Then Aldie saw something she would never forget. The water rippled. A giant creature seemed to rise out of the loch. It looked black, with a humped back. Aldie grabbed her husband’s arm. She screamed, “Stop! The beast!” John stopped the car. The creature seemed to “roll and plunge.” The couple stared at the lake for a few minutes. Finally, the creature disappeared.

News spread about what the Mackays had seen. Some people rolled their eyes and laughed. But many others were fascinated. The Loch Ness had always seemed mysterious. It was a spooky place.

Many people who lived near the lake believed the story. It was a local legend. The legend told of a lake creature. People had whispered the stories for hundreds of years. They said the creature was a huge, scary beast. Many stayed away from the lake because of these stories.

Rumors spread about a long-necked creature.

“It was horrible,” said a schoolteacher. “It had a head like a cobra.”

“It was as big as an elephant,” said a local farmer.

“My heart stopped,” described a visitor. “It looked right at me.”

Was there really a monster living in the lake?

It was a cool afternoon in 1933. Aldie and John Mackay were driving next to Scotland’s largest lake. The Loch Ness was usually murky. (Loch is the Scottish term for lake; it’s pronounced “lock.”) On this day, its water sparkled in the sunshine.

Then Aldie saw something she would never forget. The water rippled. A giant creature seemed to rise out of the loch. It looked black, with a humped back.

Aldie grabbed her husband’s arm. She screamed, “Stop! The beast!” John stopped the car. The creature seemed to “roll and plunge.” The couple stared at the lake for a few minutes. Finally, the creature disappeared.

News spread about what the Mackays had seen. Some people rolled their eyes and laughed. But many others were fascinated. The Loch Ness had always seemed mysterious. It was a spooky place.

Many people who lived near the lake believed the story. It was a local legend. The legend told of a lake creature. People had whispered the stories for hundreds of years. They said the creature was a huge, scary beast. Many stayed away from the lake because of these stories.

Rumors spread about a long-necked creature.

“It was horrible,” said a schoolteacher. “It had a head like a cobra.”

“It was as big as an elephant,” said a local farmer.

“My heart stopped,” described a visitor. “It looked right at me.”

Was there really a monster living in the lake?

Allan Davey

Fact or Fiction?
People tell stories of a giant, hairy monster hiding in the woods. It’s called Bigfoot. There is no proof that Bigfoot exists. But a 2014 survey found that 20 percent of Americans believe Bigfoot is real.

Mysterious Creatures

Fantastic Creatures

Mysterious Creatures


People have been telling tales of mysterious animals for thousands of years. Stories have swirled of mermaids, dragons, and a giant beast called Bigfoot. Some men and women spend their lives searching for these fantastic creatures. These people call themselves “cryptozoologists.”

Cryptozoology seems more like a joke than real science to many people. But some cryptozoologists are respected scientists. After all, hundreds of new animal species are discovered each year. Couldn’t one of these animals be lurking in the Loch Ness?

Cryptozoologists have come up with several ideas about what the beast of the Loch Ness could be. Some say it is an unknown water mammal. Others believe it is an enormous fish.

Some even say it is an ancient creature called the plesiosaur. These large, long-necked reptiles lived alongside the dinosaurs. But plesiosaurs died out 65 million years ago. Or did they? Perhaps a few survived. Maybe one of their relatives is living in the Loch Ness.

Stories of mysterious animals have been around for years. Some people spend their lives looking for these fantastic creatures. They are called cryptozoologists. Some cryptozoologists have looked for a monster in the Loch Ness. They think it could be a new type of water animal, or a giant fish.

Some say it is a plesiosaur. Plesiosaurs were huge reptiles with long necks. They lived at the same time as the dinosaurs. Perhaps one of their relatives is living in the loch today.

People have been telling tales of mysterious animals for years. There have been stories of mermaids, dragons, and a giant beast called Bigfoot. Some men and women spend their lives looking for these fantastic creatures. They call themselves “cryptozoologists.”

Many people think that cryptozoology isn’t a real science. But some cryptozoologists are respected scientists. After all, hundreds of new animal species are discovered each year. Couldn’t one of these animals be lurking in the Loch Ness?

Cryptozoologists have a few ideas about what the beast of the Loch Ness could be. Some say it is a new kind of water mammal. Others believe it is a giant fish.

Some say it is an ancient creature called the plesiosaur. Plesiosaurs were long-necked reptiles. They lived with the dinosaurs. But plesiosaurs died out millions of years ago. Or did they? Perhaps a few survived. Maybe one of their relatives is living in the Loch Ness.


Eric Isselee/Shutterstock.com

The Komodo Dragon is a creature that existed in legend before scientists proved it really exists.

Finding Proof?


Finding Proof?


Most scientists don’t think these ideas make sense. They say that the loch’s water is too cold and dark for most plants to grow. Fish have an even harder time surviving in it. What would the creature eat? And one beast couldn’t live for hundreds of years on its own.

Is it really likely that a family of enormous animals is living in the loch? And that almost no one has seen any trace of them?

Tim Dinsdale was very interested in learning the answers to these questions. He was a scientist who explored the Loch Ness 56 times between 1960 and 1987. In 1960, Dinsdale and his team saw a “long oval shape” in the water. They filmed the shape for four minutes. The image was blurry. But Dinsdale was certain it showed the creature.

He gave the film to experts to study. They said that the object was “probably alive” and that it was 12 to 16 feet long. Cryptozoologists cheered. But others were not impressed with the dark, blurry blob in the water.

But most people don’t believe these ideas. They say the water in the loch is too cold. A big creature would have a hard time finding food in the lake.

Tim Dinsdale was a scientist who explored the Loch Ness 56 times. In 1960, he and his team filmed a “long oval shape” in the water. He was sure he had found the creature. Some experts thought that the shape was probably alive. But not everyone believed that.

Most scientists don’t believe these ideas. They say the water is too cold and dark for most plants to grow. Fish have an even harder time living in it.

What would the creature eat? And one beast couldn't live for hundreds of years on its own. Is it really likely that a family of big animals is living in the loch? And that almost no one has seen any trace of them?

Tim Dinsdale wanted to learn the answers to these questions. He was a scientist who explored the Loch Ness. He searched the loch 56 times. He searched between 1960 and 1987. In 1960, Dinsdale and his team saw a “long oval shape” in the water. They filmed it for four minutes. The image was blurry. But Dinsdale was sure it showed the creature.

He gave the film to experts to study. They said the object was “probably alive.” They guessed that it was 12 to 16 feet long. Cryptozoologists cheered. But others were not impressed by a blob in the water.

Bettmann/Getty Images

Picture Proof?
Tim Dinsdale led 56 expeditions to the Loch Ness. In 1960, he saw a “long oval shape” in the water. He captured it on film. But not everyone was convinced by the blurry image next to him.

Searching for Answers


Searching for Answers


American scientist Robert Rines is another respected Loch Ness researcher. He used equipment called sonar to get an image. The image seemed to show the head and body of a large underwater creature. But the image was too blurry to provide clear proof.

In 2003, British scientists studied the loch from shoreline to shoreline, top to bottom. But the team found no sign of a giant creature. Last year, scientists explored the lake again. Instead of a monster, the scientists found long skinny fish called eels! The scientists wondered: Could the Loch Ness monster just be a giant eel?


American scientist Robert Rines is another Loch Ness researcher. He used sonar to take images of the loch. One image seemed to show an underwater creature. But the image was too blurry. It didn’t give clear proof.

British scientists studied the loch in 2003. They found no sign of a giant creature. Last year, scientists explored the lake again. They found long skinny fish called eels! They wondered: Could the Loch Ness monster just be a giant eel?

American scientist Robert Rines is another respected Loch Ness researcher. He used equipment called sonar to get an image. The image seemed to show the head and body of a large underwater creature. But the image was too blurry to provide clear proof.

In 2003, British scientists studied the loch from shoreline to shoreline, top to bottom. But the team found no sign of a giant creature. Last year, scientists explored the lake again. Instead of a monster, the scientists found long skinny fish called eels! The scientists wondered: Could the Loch Ness monster just be a giant eel?

PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

Exploring the Loch

Scientists use a robot that goes underwater to look for signs of the creature.

No One Knows!

Searching for Answers

No One Knows!


It’s been over 80 years since the Mackays took their drive to the lake. More than 1,000 people say they’ve seen some kind of creature in the loch since then. Some of these sightings have turned out to be hoaxes. But could all of the sightings be fake?

Real or fake, the legend brings thousands of visitors to the lake each year. They're all hoping to see the famous Loch Ness monster.

The people who live near the lake don’t mind the visitors though. The monster is a big moneymaker. Visitors often pay to take tours of the lake. They also buy toys, books, and t-shirts based on the legend. The monster even has a nickname, Nessie.

Maybe one day someone will be able to prove Nessie exists once and for all. Until then, the mystery of the Loch Ness monster will remain just that—a mystery.

Other scientists searched the loch. One scientist took an image of a creature. But it was too blurry to count as real proof.

Last year, more scientists searched the lake. They found long skinny fish called eels. The scientists wondered: Could the Loch Ness monster be a giant eel?

More than 1,000 people say they have seen a creature in the loch. The legend brings visitors to the lake each year. It’s a big moneymaker. Visitors pay to take tours. They buy books and toys. The monster even has a nickname, Nessie.

Maybe one day somebody will prove that Nessie exists. Until then, the mystery of the Loch Ness monster will stay a mystery. 

It’s been more than 80 years since the Mackays took their drive to the lake. More than 1,000 people say they’ve seen a creature in the loch since then. Some sightings were hoaxes. But could all of the sightings be fake?

Real or fake, the legend brings thousands of visitors to the lake each year. They all hope to see the famous Loch Ness monster.

People who live near the lake don’t mind the visitors. The monster is a big moneymaker. Visitors pay to take tours of the lake. They also buy toys, books, and T-shirts based on the legend. The monster even has a nickname, Nessie.

Maybe one day someone will be able to prove that Nessie exists. Until then, the mystery of the Loch Ness monster will remain just that—a mystery.

Rosemary Roberts/Alamy Stock Photo (Toy); Martin Thomas Photography/Alamy Stock Photo (Chocolates); Steve Vidler/Alamy Stock Photo (Jelly Babies); Jeremy Hoare/Alamy Stock Photo (Doll)

Monster for Sale!

People sell Nessie toys, candy, and books,

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Can't Miss Teaching Extras
Get to Know Komodo Dragons

They may sound fictional, but Komodo dragons are real! These terrifying lizards can grow up to ten feet in length and can kill their prey with a poisonous bite. Learn more at San Diego Zoo’s website, and be sure to watch the short video at the top of the page to see Sunny, one of the zoo’s Komodo dragons, in action!

Fun Fact

The Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot aren’t the only animals whose existence cryptozoologists seek to prove. Some other creatures rumored to exist include the Yeti (also known as the Abominable Snowman), the kraken (a giant, squid-like sea creature), and the chupacabra (a monster that drinks the blood of livestock)!

 

Learn About Plesiosaurs

Have your students get better acquainted with the ancient creature that some people believe still exists in Loch Ness. The plesiosaur isn’t a dinosaur, but you can find out more about this marine reptile at The Dinosaur Database.

More About the Article

Content-Area Connections

Science: marine animals, underwater exploration

Social-Emotional Learning: responsible decision-making (analyzing situations, evaluating)

Key Skills

text features, vocabulary, supporting detail, key idea, summarizing, compare and contrast, cause and effect, supporting an opinion, opinion writing

 

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

1. PREPARING TO READ

Watch a Video/Preview Text Features (20 minutes)

  •  Help students prepare to read the article by showing the Background Builder slideshow.
  • We offer several reading experiences for this article. As a first read, have students watch the Video Read-Aloud, in which author Lauren Tarshis introduces and narrates the article as it comes to life with images; listen to the Author Read-Aloud; or read the article in the magazine or digitally.

  • Look at pages 4-5 with the class. Read aloud the title and subtitle with students. What is happening in the illustration? How does the picture make them feel? Remote learning tip: Invite students to share their thoughts in the chat feature.

  • Based on the title, subtitle, and illustration, ask students to predict what this article will be about. Have them review their predictions after they finish reading.

  • Point to the map on page 5. Have students locate Scotland, where the events in this story took place. What body of water separates Scotland from the United States?

  • Direct students to the photo at the top of page 6. Read aloud the title and caption. Explain that a survey asks people questions about an idea, person, or event. Do students believe that Bigfoot really exists? Why or why not?

  • Direct students to the photo at the bottom of page 6. Explain that Komodo dragons are lizards that grow up to 10 feet in length and can weigh 300 pounds. In fact, these reptiles are the heaviest lizards on Earth. For millions of years, they have lived in a group of islands in Indonesia, a country located off the coast of Southeast Asia in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Komodo dragons love to walk and can travel about 7 miles a day. Their food includes deer, pigs, and even huge water buffaloes! (Source: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/k/komodo-dragon/)

  • Direct students to the photo on page 7. Read aloud the title and caption. Explain that they will learn about Tim Dinsdale’s search for the Loch Ness creature in this story.

  • Read aloud the photo title and caption on page 8. Ask students to describe what the scientists are doing in the photo. How does the robot help them?

  • Ask students to compare and contrast the image in Dinsdale’s photo of the Loch Ness monster with the fake photo on page 9. Which image seems more believable? Why?

Introduce Vocabulary (15 minutes)

  • We have highlighted in bold eight words that may be challenging and defined them on the page. Preview these words by projecting or distributing our Vocabulary Skill Builder (available in your Resources tab) and completing it as a class. You may also play our Vocabulary Slideshow, where images help students with comprehension.
  • Highlighted words: murky, rippled, legend, fantastic, lurking, trace, sonar, hoaxes

Set a Purpose for Reading (5 minutes)

  • Call on volunteers to read aloud the Think and Read box and the Think and Write box. These support the story’s featured skill, text features. Ask students to look for information in the different text features—subheads, photos, and captions—to help them understand why people believe in the Loch Ness monster.

2. CLOSE READING

Reading and Unpacking the Text

  •  First read: Read the story as a class. Use the Pause and Think questions at the end of each section to check comprehension. Page 7 refers to a plesiosaur. Students can view an image on the following website: https://dinosaurpictures.org/Plesiosaurus-pictures
  • Second read: Project, distribute, or assign the Close-Reading and Critical-Thinking Questions (available in your Resources tab) to the class. Preview them together. Ask students to read the article again and answer the questions as a class or in small groups. (Alternatively, assign all or part of the Learning Journey Slideshow, which contains the questions—along with other activities from this lesson plan and links to the story and Video Read-Aloud.) 

Close-Reading Questions (30 minutes

  1. Read the first section. How did Aldie and John Mackay describe the creature they saw in the lake? (supporting detail) It was a giant black creature with a humped back. It seemed to roll and plunge for several minutes before disappearing in the lake.
  2. Why did so many people who lived near the lake believe the Mackays’ story? (key idea) Many felt the lake was spooky. For hundreds of years, people had told stories of a huge, scary beast that lived in the lake. People who lived near the lake were familiar with these stories. This made them more willing to believe the Mackays’ story about a lake monster.
  3. Read “Mysterious Creatures.” What ideas do cryptozoologists have about what the Loch Ness monster could be? (summarizing) They believe it could be an unknown water mammal, a huge fish, or an ancient creature called a plesiosaur that lived alongside the dinosaurs.
  4. Read “Finding Proof?” Why do most scientists disagree with the explanations given by the cryptozoologists? (compare and contrast) They believe that fish couldn’t survive in the cold, dark water of the loch. Since fish and most plants can’t grow there, the creature wouldn’t have any food. Also, if a family of huge animals is living in the lake, why has almost no one seen them?
  5. How do the photo and caption on page 7 help you better understand the information in this section of the story? (text features) This section describes a film Dinsdale took of a creature during one of his many explorations of Loch Ness. The photo on page 7 shows Dinsdale holding a picture from that film.
  6. What did different experts say about Dinsdale’s film? (compare and contrast) Some said the object in the film was probably alive and was 12 to 16 feet long. But others said the dark, blurry blob in the film was not impressive and didn’t convince them.
  7. Read the section “No One Knows!” How does the legend of the Loch Ness monster still affect people today? (cause and effect) Thousands of people visit the area every year because they hope to see the Loch Ness monster. The legend is also a big moneymaker for some people who live near the lake.)

Critical-Thinking Question (10 minutes)

  1. Choose one image in this article and explain how the image, along with its caption, helps prove that the Loch Ness monster does or does not exist. (text features) Answers may vary. Sample answers: The photo of the Komodo dragon on page 6 has a caption that tells you that this creature was thought to be a legend at one time. Maybe the same thing will happen with the Loch Ness monster. One day, scientists might learn that it’s a real animal too. The photo at the top of page 9 shows a hoax. It could be that the other times people thought they saw the monster were hoaxes too. 
  2. Reread the last paragraph of the story on page 9. Do you think someone in the future will prove that the Loch Ness monster really exists? Explain your answer. (supporting an opinion) Answers may vary. Students may say yes because the monster has been spotted by hundreds of people, and some have even caught it on film. New equipment could take an image that shows what the creature looks like. Others will say no because scientists who study underwater life haven’t been able to prove the existence of the Loch Ness monster in almost a hundred years. This shows that the Loch Ness monster doesn’t exist.

3. SKILL AND KNOWLEDGE BUILDING

Featured Skill: Text Features

  • Distribute or assign our Text Features Skill Builder (available in your Resources tab) and have students complete it in class or for homework.  
  • Discuss the writing assignment in the Think and Write box. Students should sum up the main idea of their paragraph in the first or last sentence. They can complete their paragraphs in class or as homework.

GREAT IDEAS FOR REMOTE LEARNING

  • Our new Learning Journey Slideshow (available in your Resources tab) is designed to make your life easier. Have students move through it at their own pace or assign smaller chunks for different days. You can also customize the slideshow to your liking.
  • Have kids listen to the Author Read-Aloud. Then convene your virtual classroom, choose the Presentation View of the article, and share your screen. Students can take turns reading aloud as they would if together in class.

  • Have students complete the close-reading and critical-thinking questions together in a video chat or on a shared Google Doc.

  • Schedule a class debate over video chat to argue whether the Loch Ness monster is real or not. Divide the class into teams. Students can wear signs indicating which side they’re on (or change their display names to indicate whether they’re a “Nessie believer” or “Loch Ness doubter”).

Differentiate and Customize
For Struggling Readers

Read aloud or have students listen to the audio version of the article while they follow along. Ask them to underline, highlight, or otherwise take note of details that show that the Loch Ness monster could be real and details that show it isn’t real. Remote-learning tip: When students read the article online in Presentation View, they can use the highlighter tool to mark the text. Discuss what students found, putting details supporting the existence of the Loch Ness monster in one column and details that don’t support it in another column. Students can refer to this pro/con document when responding to the Think and Write prompt on page 9.

For ELL Students

Read aloud the lower-Lexile version of the article while students follow. As students read, ask them to look for words and phrases in the text and captions that describe what the Loch Ness monster looked like to Aldie and John Mackay, some of their neighbors, and Tim Dinsdale. Remote-learning tip: When students read the article online in Presentation View, they can use the highlighter tool to mark the text. Collect these words and phrases for students to refer to. Then have your students use this list while describing the images of the creature in the pictures on pages 4, 7, and 9. 

For Advanced Readers

Have students reread the article (or the higher-level Storyworks version) and look for details that explain what the Loch Ness monster could be. Ask them to write a two-paragraph newspaper article about what the Mackays saw in 1933, including possible explanations for the monster based on the details they found. Their article can incorporate made-up quotes from other people who lived near the lake. Remind students to add an exciting headline. They can share their writing in pairs.

For School or at Home

Instruct students to reread the third paragraph on page 9 about different items for sale to Loch Ness tourists. Have students study the photo of some of these products. Ask them to design their own T-shirt, toy, or book based on the Loch Ness legend and draw a picture of it. Each picture should include a name and description.