How Bad Could It Be?

A boy learns a valuable lesson about teasing in this thoughtful story

Lexile Level: 430L / Guided Reading: P / DRA Level: 38

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Learning Objective

Students will identify how a character changes in a story about a boy who feels pressured by a friend to tease a fellow student.

Featured Skill


Key Skills

Character, plot, character motivation, vocabulary, interpreting text, close reading, critical thinking, inference, key details, text features, character education

Standards Correlations

This article and lesson support the following standards:

Common Core anchor standards: R.1, R.3, R.7, W.2, W.3, SL.1, L.4, L.6

TEKS: 3.2, 3.4, 3.8, 3.18, 3.20, 3.29, 3.30

Teaching Materials


The author of the story talks about her inspiration for the story, her favorite scene, and more!

Activity Sheets

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Close Reading Questions
Pause and Think
Quiz - On Level
Quiz - Higher Level
Reading Kit: Character
Reading Kit: Plot

Lesson plan

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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 the students better understand the story. Ask students: Based on the illustration on the second page, what do you think the prank is?


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 changes. 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 12. 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: ignore, template, thuds, and firmly.
• 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)
• In the first paragraph, Ben gives two reasons for wanting to do whatever Kevin is doing. What are they? (character motivation) Ben says that what Kevin does looks like fun. But Ben also feels nervous about not doing what Kevin does.
• In the first section, Ben says “How bad could it be?” What does he mean by this? (interpreting text) Ben doesn’t think any big problems will occur if he doesn’t go along with Kevin’s plan.
• In “A Weird Ride,” why does Kevin squish up against Ben on the bus ride to school? (inference) Kevin squishes up against Ben because he’s mad that Ben didn’t go through with the plan to squish Truman.
• In “Time to Tease,” what does Kevin mean when he says Truman would probably have to give away his Halloween candy? (inference) Kevin thinks Truman would have to give away his candy because he has a peanut allergy and it wouldn’t be safe for him to eat it.
• In “The Prank Falls Apart,” why does Ben feel sick when Mr. Caleb asks what happened to Truman? (character) Ben likes Mr. Caleb and doesn’t want him to think he’s a bad person for what he did to Truman.  


Critical-Thinking Question (7 minutes)
• How do you think Ben will treat Truman from now on? Why has he changed his mind? (character) Ben no longer wants to tease Truman or gang up on him with Kevin. He’s ashamed of the way he treated Truman.


Problem and Solution
• 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. You can also start an extension discussion on social-emotional learning: Ask your students how they would respond to someone like Kevin, who pressures them to do something mean.

Teaching Extras


This story could spark a classroom discussion about pranks: Are they ever harmless? Students can share their own experiences either pranking someone or being pranked, and how it felt either way.

Further reading

Two books by author Trudy Ludwig examine bullying from compelling angles: Just Kidding is about standing up to a more subtle form of bullying: kids who put you down. Confessions of a Former Bully, as the title suggests, takes you inside the mind of a girl who used to bully. Both books include tips to help children manage difficult situations.

True story

Our story touches on the unfortunate trend of food-allergy bullying, where students are teased for their food allergies. Consider sharing this true story of a teenager who’d been bullied for having a food allergy and what he wants other kids to learn from his experience.

The Ant Bully

The animated movie “The Ant Bully”, about a new kid in town who’s the target of the local bully, could be good to watch as a class.

Beloved teachers

Ask your students if they’ve ever had a teacher whom they’ve liked as much as Mr. Caleb’s students like him. (And let them know there’s no pressure to pick you!)