Teaching Physical Science with Children’s Literature: Who Sank the Boat?


Who Sank the Boat? by Pamela Allen is a short, repetitive, and slightly rhyming story that helps children learn about sinking and floating, as well as making assumptions and hypotheses.  Who Sank the Boat? begins with several barnyard animals who decide that they would like to go for a short row in a boat, and follows them as they try to fit all the animals in the boat without it tipping over.

“Was it the cow who almost fell in, when she tilted the boat and made such a din?  No, it wasn’t the cow who almost fell in.  Do you know who sank the boat?

The story continues as the smaller animals begin to enter the boat, and the it gets lower in the water.

“Was it the pig as fat as butter, who stepped in at the side and caused a great flutter?  No, it wasn’t the pig as fat as butter.  Do you know who sank the boat?

The end has a surprise twist, that very few readers are likely to predict.

“Was it the little mouse, the last to get in, who was the lightest of all?  Could it be him? You DO know who sank the boat.”

This book teaches that something’s ability to float or sink can depend on the removal or addition of even a very small item, such as a mouse, as well as where items are placed inside a boat to keep the weight evenly distributed to help balance the boat.

Curriculum Connections:

This book can help children become familiar with water and its properties, and is able to support some materials, ie: allowing them to float, and its inability to support others, ie: sinking.  Through follow up lessons and assignments this book also assists students in understanding that water and its properties can be observed, tested, and recorded, as is reflected in VA Science SOL K.5c.

Additional Resources:

The Science NetLinks site has a good lesson plan involving an online sinking and floating activity as well as using aluminum foil to make miniature boats to practice making them float and sink.

The Athens State University website reccommends using this book to connect to measuring scales and units such as a pound, and figuring out which things are likely to weigh more and less than a pound.

The SEDL website has a good lesson plan for helping students make predictions about which objects will float or sink, as well as help them record data in graphic organizers.

General Resources:
Who Sank the Boat?
Author/Illustrator: Pamela Allen
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publication Date: 
April 16, 1996
Pages: 32 pages
Grade Range: Kindergarten1st

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