Prior Knowledge: The Three Little Pigs

Grade Levels: 1 - 3


This lesson is designed to expand primary students' skills in activating prior knowledge before they begin reading. The lesson teaches how to connect text to text, using the book, The Three Little Pigs by James Marshall. In this lesson, students make connections to another event, setting, or character from another text that reminds them of the story they are reading. Students help complete a comparison chart and create their own text. This lesson is the last of a set of activating prior knowledge lessons designed for primary grades.


  • The Three Little Pigs by James Marshall

  • Comparison chart

  • Chart paper

  • Drawing paper


  1. Planning and Diagnostics

    For students to be able to use prior knowledge and participate in this lesson, they need to be able to understand how this text and other texts can be connected. They should have completed the previous two lessons, connecting the text to themselves and to the world, and have experience making those connections.

  2. Hook/Engagement

    Guide students to activate their prior knowledge about this story and prepare them to make some text-to-text connections by drawing this three-column chart (without answers) on the blackboard:

    Characters Setting Events
    Mom pig Outside Wolf eats pigs in straw and stick house.
    Three pigs Inside straw, stick, and brick houses Pig in brick house tricks wolf.
    A wolf Wolf is eaten.

    Ask students to think about a version of The Three Little Pigs story that they know and have read before. Ask volunteers to tell you the characters in the story. Then, ask them to describe the setting of the story. Finally, have them briefly tell the events in the story that they remember. (See sample answers in chart above.) At this point, students may only remember very general details of the story, but as you read James Marshall's version of the story to them, they will likely remember more details about a previous version they read or heard. Once students have activated their prior knowledge about this version of The Three Little Pigs, explain that they are now going to read another version of the same story.

  3. Vocabulary "Here are some words you should know."

    • Sow-an adult female pig

    • Gobble-to eat greedily

  4. Measurable Objectives

    Explain to students that they are going to make text-to-text connections by thinking about a version of The Three Little Pigs story they know and comparing it to the James Marshall's version that you are going to read aloud to them. They will complete a comparison chart that compares and contrasts the two stories, draw a picture that tells how the two stories are the same and different, and then "write" their own story.

  5. Focused Instruction

    Explain that the author of this The Three Little Pigs has included many of the details that they remember from the version of the story they have already read or heard, but he's also included some new details as well. Tell them that they are going to make text-to-text connections by comparing the two stories.

    Explain that text-to-text connections are how one story is alike or reminds them of another story in some way. For example, two stories may have the same setting-a mountain, a forest, or a jungle. Making a text-to-text connection means connecting an event, character, or setting in two different texts.

    Draw a comparison chart. Activate students' prior knowledge about this story by briefly reviewing the "Events" column of the chart they completed in the "Hook/Engagement" activity. Tell students that you are going to read this story aloud, stopping at certain points, and having them make text-to-text connections. Read the first page of The Three Little Pigs and then stop and model a text-to-text connection.

    "This story tells that the mother pig sent her children out to seek their fortune. The version that I read before tells that the mother pig sent her children out of her house because she could not fit them in her house any longer."

    Write this information in the comparison chart. Continue reading the story aloud, stopping at certain points to let students give you information.

    Suggested stopping points include:

    • After the wolf gobbles up the first pig who built his house of straw

    • After the wolf gobbles up the second pig who built his house of sticks

    • After the wolf tries to blow down the third pig's house of bricks

    • The end of the story, when the third pig gobbles up the wolf

    Discuss students' comparisons between James Marshall's version of the story and the version of the story they know. Listen to make sure that they are making text-to-text comparisons in each example that they give. Note that some students may remember different details about each version of the story. For examples, some students might comment on the difference in illustrations or that the wolf looked meaner in the version they read.

  6. Comparison chart:

    New Story: Mother pig sends children to find fortune; Mother pig doesn't warn children about wolf

    Old Story: Mother pig sends children out because her house is too small; Mother pig warns children about wolf

    Same: Children pigs make houses out of straws, sticks, and bricks; wolf eats the pig who makes house of straw and house of sticks; third pig is clever and tricks the wolf.

  7. Guided Practice

    Ask students to pick out one event, setting, or character to compare in the two stories. Tell them that they can take an example from the chart, or they can think back to the chart they filled out in the "Hook/Engagement." Ask students to draw a line down the middle of their paper and draw one picture from the new story on one side and one picture from the old story on the other side. Allow students to be as creative as possible. Sketch two pictures on the blackboard or on a piece of chart paper once students have finished their drawings. Then, model a text-to-text connection for students, such as:

    "These pictures show one way that I remember how the two stories are the same. In the new story, the mean wolf blows down the first pig's house that is made of straw. In the old story, the mean wolf does the same thing."

    Ask students to share their drawings and to follow your model as they tell about their drawing and make a text-to-text connection. Once students finish this activity, ask them which version of The Three Little Pigs they prefer and have them explain why.

  8. Independent Practice

    Challenge students to make their own text-to-text connections by rewriting one part of The Three Little Pigs story. Group students and have each group talk about one way that they are going to change The Three Little Pigs story. They can choose to change the characters, setting, or event. For example, one group may decide to change the wolf into a tiger.

    For a shared writing activity, ask students to write or draw the part of the James Marshall's story that they changed. For example, groups might draw three little hippos and then three little pigs. Ask groups to "read" the part of the new story that they changed and to make a new text-to-text connection. Have them talk about how students who read their new story would understand it better if they had already activated their prior knowledge about James Marshall's The Three Little Pigs.

  9. Assessment

    To assess whether students have learned how to make text-to-text connections, listen to their shared reading and writing activities from the "Independent Practice" activities. Be sure that they correctly make text-to-text connections by asking them to identify the ways that their "books" are the same as James Marshall's The Three Little Pigs story and the ways their "books" are different.

    To further assess students' understanding of activating prior knowledge by making text-to-text connections, ask them to think of a book that they have already read that is similar in some way to The Three Little Pigs. For example, they may know of another book that has a pig as a character or a wolf (Little Red Riding Hood) as a character. Or, they may know another book that has a villain who is mean to the main characters. The text-to-text connections can be fairly general as long as they are clear. Ask students to write or draw about the connection and then explain. Ask them to tell you how knowing about this story helped them activate their prior knowledge and prepare them to read The Three Little Pigs.

  10. Reflection and Planning

    Determine which students understand how to activate prior knowledge by making text-to-text connections and which students need help. For students who need more help, talk about two other stories that you have read aloud to them in class and model some text-to-text connections. Continue to have students practice activating their prior knowledge by making text-to-text connections with new stories that you read to them.

For more information on teaching your students to connect texts to themselves, see Activating Prior Knowledge. Other lesson plans include Prior Knowledge: The Popcorn Book and Prior Knowledge: A House is a House for Me.

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