an illustration of kids thinking of popsicle bridges
Art by Sophie Eves

The Popsicle Stick Bridge

A school project helps Jen see her partner in a new light.

By Marlane Kennedy
From the September 2020 Issue
Lexiles: 480L
Guided Reading Level: J
DRA Level: 16-18
Vocabulary: weight, crusty, base, trust
Think and Read

As you read the story, think about how Billy is a good friend to Jen.

Mr. Ray is my teacher. He just told us to pair up. We have a new project. We are going to build bridges out of Popsicle sticks.

“Try to make the bridge strong,” says Mr. Ray.

“Tomorrow we will have a contest. We will see which bridge can hold the most weight without breaking.”

Art by Sophie Eves

Finding a Partner

I need to find a partner fast. I look around. Last year, I would have paired up with Jane. But she moved away. We were a good team.

I want to ask Kim to be my partner. But Dan asks her first.

Everyone finds a partner. Everyone but Billy Wilson and me. Mr. Ray says, “Billy, will you pair up with Jen? She needs a partner.”

Billy has something crusty on his mouth. Yuck. It’s purple. I think it’s grape jelly from his lunch.

I don’t want to be his partner. I wanted to be partners with Jane or Kim.

I don’t even know Billy. And why doesn’t he wipe the jelly off his mouth? It’s gross.

Building a Bridge

Mr. Ray passes out Popsicle sticks and a bottle of glue to each team.

Billy pushes some Popsicle sticks to me. “Glue them together like this.” He makes triangles. ”These will be the sides of our bridge,” he says.

I don’t trust Billy. I don’t know him very well. But I don’t have a better idea. I glue my sticks into triangles too.

“Now we can make the base of our bridge,” he says.

We glue a few sticks across the bottom for the base. Then we glue our triangles to that.

We have four sticks left. We glue them across the top.

I see Kim and Dan’s bridge. It is so much taller than ours. I look at another team’s bridge. It is so much longer than ours.

I knew I shouldn’t have trusted Billy. I have the worst partner in the world.

Art by Sophie Eves

Saving Worms

I walk around the playground alone. It rained this morning, and I see worms wiggling on the ground.

It’s sunny now. If the worms are left on the playground, they will dry up and die.

I pick up a few worms and drop them in the grass.

Billy walks up to me. “What are you doing?” he asks.

“Saving worms,” I say.

Billy helps. He smiles his crusty purple grin.

It’s nice to not be alone.

Maybe Billy isn’t so bad.

When I get home from school, I see myself in the hall mirror. There is a crusty patch beside my mouth. It’s pudding from lunch.

Maybe I’m not so different from Billy after all.

Art by Sophie Eves

Testing the Bridge

The next morning, Mr. Ray says we are going to test our bridges. I know ours will fall apart!

Mr. Ray starts with Dan and Kim’s bridge.

He sets a small weight on top of their bridge. Nothing happens. Then he puts a second weight on it.

He puts a third weight on. Crack! Snap! Crash!

Mr. Ray tests all the other bridges. The best one holds 11 silver weights.

The Best Partner

Billy and I are last. Mr. Ray puts one weight on it. Our bridge is still standing. He puts another weight on it. Still standing! I’m feeling hopeful.

After 11 weights, I cover my eyes. I can’t watch. If it can hold one more, Billy and I will break the record.

All of a sudden, I hear clapping. I open my eyes. We broke the class record!

“Great job!” says Mr. Ray. He tells us that our bridge has a good base.

“It was Billy’s idea,” I say.

“But Jen was a really good gluer,” Billy says.

Now I know. I don’t just have the best Popsicle stick bridge partner in the world. I also have the nicest.

Art by Sophie Eves

video (1)
Slideshows (1)
Activities (4)
video (1)
Slideshows (1)
Activities (4) Download All Quizzes and Activities

About the Story

Social-emotional Learning Focus


Step-by-Step Lesson Plan


The essential question of this issue of Storyworks 2 is: What makes a good friend?

  • Reading and discussing “The Popsicle Stick Bridge,” along with the other friendship-themed texts in the magazine (the nonfiction article “How to Save a Cheetah’s Life,” the mini graphic novel “Our BFF Is a Monster” and the poem “Shy”), should give kids great insight into what it means to be a good friend.
  • Through the above genres, students will discuss: How do friends behave with each other? Do friends have to be the same? Or can they be different? What does it mean to be a good friend?
  • “The Popsicle Stick Bridge” also stands on its own. It deals with social-emotional concerns that matter deeply to second-graders.


Watch a Video (10 minutes)

  • We created a video, “What Makes a Good Friend?” that also goes with other the other friendship-themed stories in this month’s Storyworks 2.
  • Tell your students they are going to watch a video about friends. As they watch, ask them to think about: “Do friends have to be the same? Or can they be different?”
  • Watch the video “What Makes a Good Friend?”
  • After watching, ask the questions again. Write students’ ideas on chart paper.

Preview Vocabulary (3-15 minutes)

Play the online vocabulary slideshow. This issue’s featured words are weight, crusty, base, and trust

Preview the First Page/ Set a Purpose for Reading (5-10 minutes)

  • Now tell students they are going to read a fictional story. Tell them it connects to the video they watched about friends.
  • Open your magazines to “The Popsicle Stick Bridge.” Preview the art on the opening pages.
  • Ask: What could be going on in this picture? The title of the story can give us a clue. (Answers will vary.)
  • Next, read the Think and Read prompt on page 24: “As you read, think about how Billy is a good friend to Jen.” Encourage children to think about this prompt as they read.


  • Kids can read this story individually, in small groups, or as a whole class.
  • Check comprehension as you read the story with the Pause and Think questions. These help check basic comprehension as you go along.



ELA Focus: Vocabulary (15 minutes)

  • Use the Word Work printable to deepen students’ understanding of the story’s vocabulary word.

Assessment: Quiz (10 minutes)

Extension Activity: Key details/Personal connections (15 minutes)

  • Pass out our “Good Friends” graphic organizer. Kids draw and write how Billy was a good friend to Jen, and do the same for how they can be a good friend.

Enrich the Learning: Paired Text Opportunities (time amount varies)

  • Making text-to-text connections builds knowledge and comprehension. We layer Storyworks 2 with many ways for you and your students to make connections and enrich the lesson.

Paired Texts 1 and 2 Nonfiction: How to Save a Cheetah’s Life and Mini Graphic Novel: Our BFF Is a Monster

  • These stories ask a similar question to that of “The Popsicle Stick Bridge.”
  • Who are the friends in these stories? How do they act as good friends to each other?
  • Kids can compare the actions of Jen and Billy in “The Popsicle Stick Bridge” with those of Kris and Remus in “How to Save a Cheetah’s Life” and the kids in “Our BFF Is a Monster” using our “Fill in the Friendship Chart” printable. How are the friends alike and different?
  • Making these comparisons can deepen kids’ understanding of what it means to be a friend.