Ben Franklin and the Lightning Rod
Reading Comprehension Activity

Benjamin Franklin was a lot of things during his life. Some of the things he’s most remembered for was being an inventor and scientist. One of his inventions was the lightning rod. It was created to protect homes and buildings from fires resulting from direct lightning strikes. Students will read this fictional account of Franklin’s discovery and answer questions on story details and character traits.

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Ben Franklin raced from his house. A nearby home burst into flames during a lightning storm.

Ben put his hand on his neighbor shoulder. “Thomas, there’s got to be a way to prevent homes from going on fire when hit by lightning.”

Thomas burrowed his brows. “Don’t think it’s possible. How do you control lightning? But, you’re a scientist and inventor, if anyone can figure it out, you can. “

Ben put his hands in his pockets and went back into his home. He knew lightning was a form of electricity from his experiment with the kite. Ben tied a key to the kite and sent it up during a thunderstorm. The lightning struck the key which confirmed that lightning was electrical.

“Hmm. If the metal key attracts the lightning, maybe something can be made to attract it and divert it from harming homes.” He sat at his desk and started writing notes.

The next morning, Ben went to this office. “Good morning, William. We have work to do. Take these notes. Let me know what you think.”

William took the notes from Ben and sat at his desk. After a while, he scratched his head. “Ben, I think you have something here. We just have to figure out how to divert the lightning through the rod safely to the ground.”

“Yes, yes. That’s the dilemma.” Ben began to jot down more notes. “What if . . . no, that won’t work.” He jotted down some more notes then got up and paced the floor.

Ben stopped short and threw his arms in the air. “I’ve got it! We’ll divert the electrical current with a wire. The lightning will strike the rod then the current will travel through the wire right into the ground. This will prevent the sparks from the lightning causing a fire.

Ben and his assistant began drafting images of rods and wires to be put on top of buildings. When they felt their design was perfected, they went to work building it. Ben took it home to test it out.

Each day, Ben looked for a brewing storm. He decided to test it out on his own home before making it available to others.

Finally, a thunderstorm brought heavy winds, torrential rain, and lots of thunder. Ben stood inside the tool shed watching and hoping for a direct hit.


A strong lightning bolt hit the rod. Ben held his breath and watched. Then he breathed a sigh of relief. It worked! The house was safe.

After that night, Ben started producing lightning rods and wires. Soon, they could be seen atop many buildings and homes. They were so effective that a very large one was constructed on the dome of the State House in Maryland.

Comprehension Questions

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