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Don’t Touch the Water!


The Boston Molasses Flood of 1919

This exciting story brings to life a little-known disaster, in which a huge molasses storage tank broke apart and unleashed a giant wave of molasses on a Boston neighborhood. Paired with this gripping article is a short text about the chemical spill in West Virginia last January.
Teaching Objectives:

to compare an event from history with a recent event; to write an essay about what can be learned from human-caused disasters

Featured Skill:

compare and contrast
Other Key Skills: interpreting text, cause and effect, vocabulary, author’s craft, inference, structure, literary devices, descriptive language, mood


Quizzes and Activity Sheets

You may print and copy the activity or have students complete it on their computers or tablets. Click here for instructions for using writable and interactive PDFs.

Compare Two Disasters

This graphic organizer guides students in comparing and contrasting the disasters presented in each article. Great preparation for the writing prompt on page 10.

Close Reading and Critical Thinking

For printing or projection. These questions also appear in
the lesson plan.


A list of tricky words that appear in the article. Includes definitions and example sentences as well as a practice activity to reinforce understanding. Click here to learn more about Scope Vocabulary.

Reading-Comprehension Quiz

A test-prep essential! We formed these multiple-choice and constructed-response questions based on state and PARCC assessments. Need help with interactive PDFs? Click here to visit our FAQ page.

Reading-Comprehension Quiz

A printable version of the quiz above.

Read, Think, Explain:
Identifying Nonfiction Elements

Use our teacher-vetted, scaffolded reading activity to develop your students’ nonfiction-reading skills and strategies and prepare them for higher-level-thinking questions and class discussion. Makes great homework, too. Don’t miss our nifty Glossary of Nonfiction Terms—an excellent resource that students can use all year. Note: This is a challenging activity, so we’ve provided two versions. These activities are print-only.

Contest Entry Form

Students compare and contrast the disasters in Boston and West Virginia. Click here to learn more about our contests.

Answer Keys

Answers to these activities as well as the other activities in the issue.


Download all activities
for this article.


Scope Audio

Hear the articles read aloud. Perfect for struggling readers or as listening-comprehension practice for your entire class. Find more audio articles here.

Don’t Touch the Water!


The Boston Molasses Flood of 1919


Essential Questions

Do the powerful have a responsibility to take care of the powerless?

What does it mean for history to repeat itself? Why does this happen?

Complexity Factors


Literature Connection


Skills and Standards