Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen is a survival novel classic. The main character Brian is stranded in the Canadian wilderness after the small plane he is riding in to go visit his father crashes when the pilot has a heart attack. Brian is forced to learn to survive on what the forest offers him and manages to pick berries, start fire, fish and hunt. He also finds ways to make shelter and tools. Brian's story has the reader on the edge of their seat wondering what misfortune will come upon Brian next, and forces you to ask the same question every chapter, will Brian be rescued? If you love this children's novel (or if your students do) lucky for you, Paulsen has 4 more books that further Brian's adventures.
Teachers: Here are some resources and ideas to help you create a lesson or extension on Hatchet:
- Extension Activities This website has great extension activities for every couple chapters. A lot of the activities have interesting information for students, but a modification for these activities would be to have the students do research on the different topics, for example have students research what causes a heart attack or what protection strategies different animals Brian encountered use rather than simply reading about it on this site. This website also has questions related to the chapter, however, I would not use these as a test being that they are multiple choice and true false. I would suggest turning some of the questions into more open ended questions so that the students can show true understanding rather than simply regurgitating facts. Finally, this site has a link to vocabulary words from each chapter, all of which are important for students to understand before reading.
- Journal Ideas & More This article from Bright Hub provides 2 pages of extension ideas to go with Hatchet. Ideas include journal entries for during/after reading, a vocabulary activity, and using multiple intelligences to help students who learn in different ways also have successful extension activities that aide comprehension.
Top 15 Words (that I picked out from the above list): drone, slewed, rudder, hummocks, welted, dormant, butane, incessant, sulfurous, altimeter, turbulence, cowling, exasperation, streamline, fuselage
During Reading: Ask students to keep a journal (similar to one of the extension activities from first link) that keeps track of any information they believe would be helpful if they were in Brian's situation. This journal may include types of animals and plants, survival techniques, etc. Students may finalize this journal after reading making it into a type of survival journal which may require extra research in addition to having read the entire novel.
After Reading/Writing: Ask the students to write an alternate ending to Hatchet. The alternate ending should be in the same style as Hatchet (3rd person) and students should predict what they think would happen if Brian was not rescued when he was. Students may write a different style rescue or even choose to write an extension of the epilogue to explain what they think returning home was like for Brian. Students who really enjoy this activity and enjoyed Hatchet should be recommended the sequels: The River, Brian's Winter, Brian's Return and Brian's Hunt.
Across the Curriculum:
Social Studies: Students can learn about the wilderness as well as survival techniques as a social studies extension to this novel.
Paulsen, G. (1987). Hatchet. New York: Bradbury Press.
1988 Newbery Honor Book
Happy Reading (& Running) =)