The Story, The Whipping Boy - Background Knowledge

7 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT understand what "background knowledge" means as we prepare and start to read "The WhippingBoy" by Sid Fleischman.

Big Idea

"The Whipping Boy" is a literary masterpiece! However, without background information, it will be difficult for the students to understand. Students will learn what background knowledge is as well as build the schema they need to understand the text.


What is Background Knowledge?

30 minutes

Today we will be starting "The Whipping Boy" by Sid Fleischman.  According to the lexile level, "The Whipping Boy" is not a complex text for 4th graders.  It has a Lexile level of 570L.  If you look at the Lexile level and the length of the book only, the book is not complex.  What makes the book complex is the dialect and the vocabulary which are unfamiliar to 4th grade students.   Students can relate to the characters in the story because they are of a similar age.  They also find the medieval setting fascinating.  This book is a great read to challenge students and also spark interest in reading.  When we finish the book, I like to ask the students how many of them would honestly pick up this book and read it based on the cover or the title.  Then I asked the students how many of them were glad they read the book.  Almost all of the students usually are.  This is a great lesson on not judging a book by its cover.

In the previous lesson, I introduced the students to some of the difficult vocabulary words in the text. To start out this lesson, we will talk about what background knowledge is and how background knowledge can be helpful in understanding a text.

To help the students better understand what background knowledge is, I will give them each group of about 3 or 4 students a comic strip and the "Dissecting a Comic Strip" page found in the resources.  The comics found in the resources were found on Google and labeled for commercial reuse.  The students' job will be as a group to take a look at what the punch line is, what background knowledge would a person need in order for the reader to understand the cartoon, etc. 


Medieval Times Introduction

20 minutes

Students will most likely not have much background knowledge in Medieval times and whipping boys.  It will be helpful for them to understand these things prior to reading.

To better prepare students for our novel, I will read "You Wouldn't Want to Be a Medieval Knight: Armor You'd Rather Not Wear" by Fiona MacDonald to the class.  I will tell them about what a whipping boy was.  Here is a link for some good information on whipping boys:

 Macdonald, F. (2013). You Wouldn't Want to Be a Medieval Knight!: Armor You'd Rather Not Wear.  Danbury, CT : Franklin Watts

Whipping Boy Chapter 1

20 minutes

As we begin chapter one of "The Whipping Boy" by Sid Fleischman, I will have the students take out their notebooks.  I would like the students to jot down unfamiliar words as we read and also any questions they might have about the story so far.  When they jot down an unfamiliar word I would like them to also note the page number the word was found on.  After we have read the chapter, we will look at the unfamiliar words and find them in the text. We will reread trying to find meaning to the unfamiliar words from clues within the text.  If we are unable to find meanings within the text, we will use the dictionary to help us define unfamiliar words.  

We will read this novel together as a class "popcorn style."  I call it popcorn style because I call on different kids around the room at random so the students never know who is going to read next.  It is important for them to be following along and reading with us that way.  

After we have finished reading the first chapter, we will talk about unfamiliar words the students may have come across while reading as well as any questions they may have had while reading.  Once we have addressed any questions and unfamiliar words, I will have the students write a brief summary of the chapter in their notebooks.  

Fleischman, S. (2003). The Whipping Boy. New York, NY : Greenwillow Books