The White Fox / Before Reading / /

Seattle to Alaska

Building background knowledge about the setting of the story.

Lesson length: 1 session

Lesson from The White Fox series

Text potential

  • Background knowledge: USA geography

Strategies used

  • Compare and Contrast Thinking
  • Background Knowledge


Children living in the United Kingdom may not be familiar with the American city of Seattle or the state of Alaska in the USA, which provides the setting of the story. Some children may live near a dock or have visited it. This lesson provides background knowledge about all three. Comprehension is built upon existing knowledge. A  lack of background knowledge and experience can inhibit understanding. If a subject is unfamiliar, building background knowledge before reading will increase understanding and help to minimise miscomprehension.


One sheet with an image of Alaska and one of Seattle either printed (one per pair) or displayed on the Interactive Whiteboard. 

  • Slideshow of Seattle and Alaska (with images but not including the docks)
  • Atlases or maps of the world
  • Google Maps (satellite view)
  • Double Bubble maps, one per child


Distribute the images of Seattle and Alaska or share them on the Interactive Whiteboard. Ask the children to talk to their partner about the places they see. Invite contributions from the children and annotate the images. Introduce new vocabulary if the children do not offer it such as vast, remote, skyscraper,

Specific tier 3 vocabulary includes Seattle Space Needle, Inuit; these are used less frequently but are essential for this particular story.


  • Which place would you prefer to visit and why? 
  • Do you recognise these places?
  • Where in the world do you think these places are?   

Write the names Seattle and Alaska on the board. Ask groups of 3-4 children to discuss:

  • What do you know about these two places?
  • Have you ever visited either place?  

Share initial ideas. Distribute atlases for the children to search for the two places. Explain that Alaska is an American State (region), and Seattle is a city in the state of Washington. There is a significant distance between the two. It could appear from location alone that Alaska should be part of Canada.   

Share the slideshow, which contains more images of the two places. Again, draw attention to any features that are unfamiliar to the children. Be sure to talk about the dockyard and explain that this is an area for building and repairing ships.

Distribute Double Bubble maps to each child. The children need to write Seattle in the centre of one circle and Alaska in the other. They will then write words and phrases that describe each place in bubbles around the centre. If there are features that the two sites share, draw two lines to connect the features to the two areas. The children will only have visual clues from the images, and there may not be any apparent similarities between the two locations.

Final reflection

  • Were there more differences than similarities? 
  • Do you have any questions about these two places now? 

Key vocabulary

state, vast, remote, skyscraper, docks, Inuit

Additional vocabulary

Seattle Space Needle,  Seattle, Alaska


Seattle and Alaska slideshow

Seattle and Alaska

Double Bubble Map

_Double Bubble Map


Sam Keeley

Formerly a teacher and local authority advisory teacher, Sam now works with Just Imagine as an English consultant and manager of the year 6 Reading Gladiators programme.

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