The Big One

Nobody understands why Joe loves fishing. But one day, he catches something very special.

Lexile Level: 370L / Guided Reading: O / DRA Level: 34

Download Story

On Level

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.

Featured Skill


Key Skills

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

Standards Correlations

This article and lesson support the following standards:

Common Core anchor standards: R.1, R.3, R.4, W.2, SL.1, L.4, L.6

TEKS: 3.2, 3.4, 3.8a, 3.8b, 3.20c, 3.29, 3.30

Teaching Materials

Activity Sheets

Download All
Close Reading Questions
Pause and Think
Reading Kit: Character Change
Reading Kit: Inference

Lesson plan

Print All

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

• 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, available in this guide and online.)


Introduce Vocabulary

(15 minutes, activity sheet online)

• 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

(activity sheets online)

• First read: Students should read the story through one time for general comprehension. Whether your students read as a class, in small groups, or independently, ask them to answer the Pause and Think questions along the way.

• Second read: Distribute the close-reading and critical-thinking questions. (For struggling readers, you can distribute the sheet of Pause and Think questions, also available online.) Preview them as a class.

• Have students read the story again, pausing to answer the questions.


Close-Reading Questions (20 minutes, activity sheet online)

• 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.

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.