Amos and Boris by William Steig

Teacher Guide by Ashley Trudeau

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our Elementary School Category!

Amos and Boris Lesson Plans

Student Activities for Amos and Boris Include:

Amos and Boris, written by William Steig, is a great story of friendship and loyalty. Amos, a mouse, goes on a journey into the ocean and meets Boris along the way. Both end up needing the assistance of the other and thus, their friendship is built. Boris saves Amos and Amos saves Boris and both vow to be friends forever.

This book is a great way to introduce key lessons to elementary students, including comparing and contrasting, picking up on key themes, and analyzing vocabulary words. Including storyboards in these Amos and Boris activities will enhance creativity and comprehension due to the visual nature of storyboarding!

Amos and Boris Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Amos and Boris Vocabulary Lesson Plan

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Amos and Boris is full of beautifully written, rich language that your students will love to discover. Many of the words are tier II or tier III words or phrases, so discovering the meaning of the word may be difficult for some students.

In this particular activity, students are able to demonstrate their understanding of vocabulary words using sentences and corresponding images. Students may be given the vocabulary words or can use words that they have discovered through reading of the text. They can also depict the meaning of the words without pictures or use the words in another context. Here is an example of a visual vocabulary board with words from the story.

Amos and Boris Vocabulary

  • necessities
  • immense
  • loomed
  • navigation
  • iodine
  • savage
  • phosphorescent
  • marvel
  • luminous
  • vast
  • akin
  • ambitions
  • evaded
  • immensely

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of the vocabulary words in Amos and Boris by creating visualizations.

  1. Choose three vocabulary words from the story and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary.
  3. Write a sentence that uses the vocabulary word.
  4. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Amos and Boris Character Map

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In this activity, students can create a character map for the characters in Amos and Boris. This should be rather simple since there are only two main characters in the story, Boris and Amos, and then two characters with supporting roles: the elephants. Students can describe their physical appearance, list character traits, and include evidence from the text to support their traits.

Here is an example for Amos:

Physical Appearance

  • a mouse
  • very tiny
  • covered in fur

Character Traits

  • loves the ocean
  • a good friend


  • "Boris admired the delicacy, the quivering daintiness, the light touch, the small voice, the gemlike radiance of the mouse."

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Create a character map for the major characters.

  1. Identify the major characters in Amos and Boris and type their names into the different title boxes.
  2. Choose a character from the "Animals" tab to represent each of the literary characters.
    • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
  3. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
  4. Fill in Textables for Physical Appearance, Character Traits, and Evidence.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Key Theme in Amos and Boris

In this activity, students will identify a common theme in the story and support that theme with evidence from the text. One of the themes that is very evident in Amos and Boris is friendship. Amos and Boris are an unlikely pair yet they become the best of friends.

Steig conveys to the readers that even despite their drastic differences, Amos and Boris, became the best of friends. This asks the reader, what makes a good friend and why is friendship so special? Students could brainstorm a list of qualities they hope to find in a friend and then compare that to the qualities found in Boris and Amos’ friendship.

Other themes that students could choose are:

  • helping others
  • courage
  • similarities and differences.

Students can create a storyboard to visually show the theme of friendship.

Here is an example for friendship:

Example 1:

Boris shows friendship to Amos by saving him and offering to take him to shore before meeting with the other whales. During the long journey, they talk and become the best of friends. Amos told Boris that he was grateful and that if Boris ever needed his help he would be happy to give it.

Example 2:

Amos shows friendship to Boris by saving his life. A hurricane forced Boris up on the shore and the quick thinking mouse ran to get elephants to push Boris back to the sea.

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Amos and Boris Plot Diagram

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Students will decide on what they think are the important parts in the text are and categorize them into the beginning, middle, and end of the story. Having students decide on the beginning, middle and end will help them break the text up and make it easier to choose one or two main events to create. Students can plan their ideas with a partner or individually and decide what main parts they would like to add to their storyboard.

The storyboard below shows two examples for the beginning, middle and end, but you could set a number of frames for the students to use depending on the ability of the student or the length of the text.


  • We learn about Amos, a mouse, who lives on land but loves the ocean
  • Amos builds a ship and packs it with all the necessities he would need on his journey. He sets off into the sea.


  • Amos is so amazed by the beauty of his surroundings that he falls off his ship and cannot get back to it. He treads water for a long time and thinks about his options.
  • Boris, the whale, comes up from the water and greets Amos. Boris said he would love to help Amos get back to land. They talk and talk on their journey and quickly become the best of friends.


  • Boris drops Amos off at the shore. They promise to be friends forever even though they may not get to see each other often because of their living situations.
  • A hurricane washes Boris up on shore and he cannot get back into the water. Boris sees Amos and cries for help. Amos runs away and comes back with two elephants that help push Boris back in the ocean.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Make a storyboard summary of Amos and Boris.

  1. Click the "Use This Template" button to open the storyboard.
  2. Make pictures that show two main events from the beginning of the story.
  3. Make pictures that show two main events from the middle of the story.
  4. Make pictures that show two main events from the end of the story.
  5. Write a sentence under each picture.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Amos and Boris Text Connections Graphic Organizer

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Text Connections
Text to Text Connection that reminds you of something in another book or story
Text to Self Connection that reminds you of something in your life.
Text to World Connection that reminds you of something happening in the world.

Making connections is a very important skill to acquire and perfect. Amos and Boris is a great story for students to connect to on many different levels. In this activity, students will be making text to text, text to self, and text to world connections. Students should choose which connection they want to make first and work to write a narrative for that. Once all three connections have been made, students can work on their illustrations.


Text 1: Amos and Boris Amos claims that if Boris ever needs his help that he would be glad to give it. Boris does not believe that the little mouse would ever be able to help him because he is so tiny but he loved him anyway.

Text 2: "The Lion and the Mouse" In the Aesop fable, "The Lion and the Mouse", a mouse gets captured by a lion. The mouse pleads to be let go and tells the lion he will help him one day. The lion laughs so hard that the mouse escapes. The next day the lion is captured in a net and the mouse nibbles the net to free the lion. The lion realizes he was foolish for ridiculing the mouse for being small.


Text: Amos becomes so overwhelmed by the beauty of the sea and his surroundings that he forgets he is on his boat and he rolls off into the ocean!

Self: One time, I was relaxing on a float in my pool. I was so comfortable with my surroundings that I dozed off. I was awoken when my sister jumped into the pool causing me to fall off my float!


Text: Amos gets beached on to the shore by a storm called, Hurricane Yetta.

World: I saw on the news that a whale was beached on the shore near Cape Cod. There were marine biologists and volunteers trying to help it get back into the ocean.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows connections you have made with Amos and Boris. Include a connection for text to text, text to world, and text to self.

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify parts of Amos and Boris that you connect with.
  3. Parts from the Amos and Boris go on the left side. The connections you make go on the right side.
  4. Create an image for each connection using scenes, characters, items, and text boxes.
  5. Write a description of how the text relates to another text, the world, and you.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Marine Mammals and Fish Comparison T-Chart

In the story, Amos is surprised that Boris, a whale, is considered a mammal. He even asks, “Are you sure you’re a mammal? You smell more like a fish.” A great way to incorporate science into a reading lesson is by having students research the differences between marine mammals and fish. Students will find out what characteristics a marine mammal has and how they are different from the characteristics of a fish.

First, as a whole class, brainstorm a list of everything you know about marine mammals and everything you know about fish. Then, to compile more evidence, students should work in partners or small groups. You could designate a particular topic to each group. For example, one group could focus on marine mammals and how they breathe. Another group could work on fish and how they breathe. After, the two groups could compare their findings.

The example storyboard is specifically about the differences between whales and fish, but you could create a broader category and add all types of marine mammals.



Whales are warm-blooded. They stay warm by layers of insulated blubber. Fish are cold-blooded. Their bodies can naturally adjust to the changes of the temperature.
Whales breathe air like land mammals. They have a blowhole connected to their lungs to allow them to breathe in the air. Fish have gills to breathe. The gills take oxygen from the water so fish can live underwater their whole lives.
Whales give birth to live young. They also produce milk to feed their newborns. Whales nurture their young to make sure they grow up healthy and able to survive on their own. Fish lay eggs. Baby fish are fed nutrients through a sack that they carry around. Typically baby fish are left to fend for themselves.
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Character Comparison: Amos and Boris

Amos and Boris does not have many characters in the story. A fun way to get your students to connect with and understand the two main characters is to have them compare and contrast their qualities. William Steig focuses a lot on how different the giant whale and the tiny mouse are physically but how their personalities are similar.

Students can use the text to find character traits and physical traits of Boris and Amos. Students can work individually or in pairs to research and compile a list of evidence. Once students have traits for each character, they can compare/contrast. Students will describe the traits they compiled about Amos on one side and the traits they discovered of Boris on the other. The traits that they both share will go in the middle. Using the T-Chart layout, students can create their version of a Venn Diagram!

Here is an example:


  • lives on land
  • small voice


  • lives in the sea
  • rich voice


  • mammals
  • friendly to one another and can carry on a conversation even though one voice is loud and one is quiet
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A Quick Synopsis of Amos and Boris (Contains Plot Spoilers)

A mouse named Amos lives on land near the ocean. He loves the ocean and wonders about the faraway places across the water. He decides to build a boat so he can venture across the sea. Amos works extremely hard on his boat and when it is finished he loads it with all the necessities a little mouse would need to navigate the seas.

On the sixth of September, Amos decides to set sail. With all his strength he pushes the boat into the water and starts his journey on the Rodent. After only one day of seasickness, Amos, proves to be a natural sailor.

One night, little Amos, who was overwhelmed by the beauty of his surroundings, rolls right off the deck of his boat! The boat evades his grasp and he is stuck treading water alone in the big ocean. He thinks about his options and decides to just stay afloat and hope that something would save him.

The next day, Amos, who is still alone wonders what it would be like if he drown. He feels very bad for himself until a giant creature looms out of the water. It is a whale named Boris. Boris and Amos introduce themselves and Amos asks if Boris could bring him to shore. Boris, being a very nice whale, agrees to help Amos and they start off on their journey back to shore.

On their journey, Boris and Amos talk about everything. They develop a deep admiration for one another. Boris delivers Amos to shore and they discuss how they are going to miss each other and how they wish they could be friends forever. They decide that they will be friends forever but one has to live on land and one has to live in the sea. Amos is so grateful to Boris for saving his life that he tells Boris if he ever needs help that he will be there for him. Neither one knew how Amos could ever help the big whale.

Many years later, a hurricane comes and washes Boris on to the shore. Boris cannot get back into the water. He sees Amos and cries for help. Amos runs away and comes back with two elephants that push Boris back into the ocean. Amos’ quick thinking saved Boris. Amos and Boris say what could be their final goodbyes but each one knew that they would be friends forever.

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