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Hatchet Book by Gary Paulsen

Teacher Guide by Becky Harvey

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our Middle School ELA Category!

Student Activities for Hatchet Include:

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen tells the story of Brian, a young boy who survives a plane crash that leaves him alone in the wilderness in Canada. Through internal conflict, external forces working against him, and with the help of his hatchet (a recent present from his mother), Brian learns to survive on his own. Paulsen breaks down the different types of conflict and helps his readers better understand how small event can affect the larger plot of a story.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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A Quick Synopsis of Hatchet

Thirteen-year-old Brian is flying to see his dad, following his parents’ stressful divorce and split custody agreement. He has been living with his mom in New York, and is flying in a small airplane to visit his dad. When his pilot (the only other person in the plane) has a heart attack, Brian survives the ensuing crash-landing and has to learn how to survive alone in the woods of Canada. Banged up and without gear, Brian faces wild animals, brutal weather, and his own doubts and fears. He also spends a lot of time thinking about his “big secret”.

Time passes, and Brian becomes more adept at surviving. Luckily, as a going-away gift, his mom had given him a hatchet to take with him. Brian is able to create fire with the hatchet, a surprising turn of events that winds up helping with much of his survival efforts. He also learns to fish with a spear that he whittles with the hatchet. Eventually, he figures out how to catch meat, a huge accomplishment in his eyes. Some of his more memorable struggles include being pierced by porcupine quills, being blinded by skunk spray when he attempts to keep it from eating his foraged turtle eggs, having a run-in with a bear, and being brutally attacked by a moose. Brian also survives hordes of mosquitoes, near starvation, and a massive tornado.

His character grows stronger throughout the book, physically and mentally. After much toil and fearful happenings, Brian is finally rescued - alive, and with a better outlook on his life.


Essential Questions for Hatchet

  1. How can a single event change the direction of a plot?
  2. What is conflict, and how does the author use it in this work of literature?
  3. What qualities/skills (both mental and physical) are required to survive alone and without resources?

Hatchet Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Hatchet Book Vocabulary


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Using the Frayer Model is a great way for students to examine a specific vocabulary word. To start, students choose a word and put that word in the center title box.

In the upper left box, students include the definition and part of speech in the description box (I suggest having students use a dictionary, online or in print, to complete this part). Using Photos For Class, our website for safe, auto-cited Creative Commons images, students can find corresponding images to use as examples.


  • Upper left box: students write definition.
  • Upper right box: students include the sentence in which the word is found in the text and re-create the scene.
  • Lower left box: students show how the word could be used/found in a real-life example.
  • Lower right hand box: they give an example of where/how the word would NOT be used.

  • There are a number of words in Hatchet that your students may be unfamiliar with. Below is a list of suggested vocabulary words that students will come across in their reading.


    Example Hatchet Vocabulary Words

    • antiseptic
    • asset
    • crude
    • exasperation
    • flailing
    • frantic
    • gorge
    • grimacing
    • hefted
    • massively
    • pulverized
    • stable
    • transmitter
    • turbulence
    • unduly
    Hatchet - Frayer Model - Vocabulary

    Example

    (These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


    Student Instructions

    Create a Frayer Model for one of the vocabulary words from Hatchet.


    1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
    2. Choose a vocabulary word and type it into the center title box.
    3. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary and enter it into the description box under Definition.
    4. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the Definition cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
      • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
    5. Quote the use of the word from the book, and recreate the scene.
    6. Provide written and visual examples of the word.
    7. Provide written and visual non-examples of the word.
    8. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



    Frayer Model Template

    Example

    (Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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    Hatchet Sequence of Events


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    In literature, readers need to understand that the sequence of events can play a very important role in the overall plot. There are varying ways to show sequencing. In Hatchet, one could choose to show the plane crash, Brian tending to his porcupine injuries, or his rescue.

    In this example, we show how Brian goes from starving, with nothing to eat, to foraging, hunting, and fishing for his survival. Whether students decide to show a big picture, or a more focused view, it is important to show how order affects the story. Without proper sequencing of important events, plots don't really come together.

    Have students think of a series of events with a discernible connection, and create a storyboard that shows something that develops in the sequence. Perhaps the events will show Brian's evolution of his survival skills, how he copes with loneliness, or his ability to be patient.

    Hatchet Sequencing the story

    Example

    (These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


    Student Instructions

    Create a storyboard with a sequence of events in Hatchet that shows a development over time.


    1. Choose an aspect of the story that develops over the course of the book, such as Brian's survival skills.
    2. Select three events that show how the aspect develops over time.
    3. Illustrate each event in three separate cells.
    4. Below each cell, type in a description about the importance of that part of the story.



    Sequence of Events Template

    Example

    (Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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    Hatchet Character Map


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    Though there are only a few characters in the Hatchet book, and each one has a very powerful impact on the protagonist, Brian. In this character map, students should think about the impact each character has on Brian and his ability to survive after the crash.


    Hatchet - Character Map

    Example

    (These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


    Student Instructions

    Create a character map for Brian and the other characters.


    1. Identify characters in Hatcher and type their names into the different title boxes.
    2. Choose a character from one of the character tabs to represent each of the literary characters.
      • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
    3. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
    4. Use Textables to fill in Traits, Impact on Brian's Survival, and a Quote.
    5. Save and submit the assignment.


    Blank Character Map

    Example

    (Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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    Hatchet Literary Elements


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    A great lesson idea for after you have read the book, is to ask your students to complete a literary element scavenger hunt using the Storyboard Creator. Give them a list of elements or devices to find and have them create a storyboard that depicts and explains the use of each in the story! They will have an absolute blast and earn mastery of the words when they are completed.

    Possible literary elements include:

    • simile
    • metaphor
    • personification
    • hyperbole
    • allusion
    • alliteration
    • foreshadowing
    • flashback
    • analogy
    • irony
    • mood

    Hatchet - Literary Devices

    Example

    (These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


    Student Instructions

    Create a storyboard that shows different literary elements from Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.


    1. Review your list of literary elements.
    2. Look for three examples of literary elements from the text.
    3. Illustrate each example using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    4. Type in a description of what the literary element does to enhance Hatchet.



    Literary Element Scavenger Hunt

    Example

    (Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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    Hatchet - Conflict


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    One of the things that make stories interesting and captivating enough for us to read and enjoy is conflict. Even if we don't want it in our own lives, without conflict, a story can be boring. It is what keeps us guessing at possible outcomes.

    Man vs. Nature is the most prevalent in Hatchet. In this exercise, students should think of the different types of conflict and where they arise in the story. In addition to recreating the scene, students should include a description with an identification of the type of conflict and the impact it had on the plot.

    An alternate activity would be to depict several instances of Brian vs. Nature in the same format as below. Recreate the scene with a description and show how Brian comes to handle these conflicts over time. How does Brian's attitude and actions change due to these conflicts?

    Examples of Literary Conflict in Hatchet

    MAN vs. NATURE

    The pilot and Brian are helpless in the fight against nature when the pilot suffers a heart attack.


    MAN vs. SELF

    Brian doubts that he will survive alone in the woods. This is an internal conflict where his doubts threaten his survival.


    MAN vs. MAN and MAN vs. SELF

    When Brian realizes his mom is cheating on his dad, he has conflicting feelings toward both his mom and her "friend". He also has an internal conflict about keeping this awful "secret" to himself.


    Hatchet Literary Conflict

    Example

    (These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


    Student Instructions

    Create a storyboard that shows at least three forms of literary conflict in Hatchet.


    1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
    2. Identify three conflicts in Hatchet.
    3. Categorize each conflict as Character vs. Character, Character vs. Self, Character vs. Society, Character vs. Nature, or Character vs. Technology.
    4. Illustrate conflicts in the cells, using characters from the story.
    5. Write a short description of the conflict below the cell.
    6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



    Literary Conflict Template

    Example

    (Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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    •   (English) Hatchet   •   (Español) Hacha   •   (Français) Hachette   •   (Deutsch) Beil   •   (Italiana) Accetta   •   (Nederlands) Bijl   •   (Português) Machadinha   •   (עברית) גַרזֶן   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) فأس صغيرة