Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Teacher Guide by Elizabeth Pedro

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

Bridge to Terabithia Lesson Plans

Student Activities for Bridge to Terabithia Include:

Bridge to Terabithia is the story of Jess, a boy whose life revolves around doing chores on the farm and becoming the fastest runner at school. His new neighbor, Leslie, teaches him about the beauty of the world through their friendship and their secret hideaway in the woods, Terabithia.

Bridge to Terabithia Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Plot Diagram - Bridge to Terabithia Summary

Copy Assignment

A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a story. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and help students develop greater understanding of literary structures. Sometimes students will really have to think carefully about which events are major turning points in the plot.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a work with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the book in sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.

Example Bridge to Terabithia Plot Diagram


A new family moves in next to Jess Aaron's house. Jess takes little notice at first, focusing on his goal of being the fastest runner at recess. The daughter of the new family, Leslie, is in Jess' class in school.


Jess doesn't like Leslie at first because she seems so strange. Other kids don’t like her either. All the same, he stands up for her when she wants to race the other boys. Leslie takes the title of fastest kid away from Jess.

Rising Action

Despite her strangeness and despite her winning every race, Jess and Leslie become close. They create a new imaginary land together in the woods called Terabithia. They become fast friends and rule as king and queen of Terabithia. At school, the two band together against the bully, Janice Avery.


Jess goes on an outing with Miss Edmunds and leaves Leslie and Terabithia behind for the day. After heavy rainfall, the water level rises and it becomes very dangerous to cross. Leslie tries to cross the water into Terabithia, but the rope breaks beneath her. Leslie dies. Jess only finds out after he has returned from his trip.

Falling Action

Jess grieves for his lost friend. Her parents thank him for being Leslie’s friend. He realizes that Leslie has changed him in many ways. It is hard for him to adjust to life after her death, but he wants to go on living for Leslie, and for himself.


Jess builds a new, safer bridge to Terabithia out of lumber from the Burke’s house. After he has finished his secret mission, Terabithia welcomes a new queen, his sister, May Belle.

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

Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of Bridge to Terabithia.

  1. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  2. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  3. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.

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

Copy Assignment

Start My Free Trial

Bridge to Terabithia Character Map

Copy Assignment

In this activity, students should depict the characters of the story, paying close attention to the physical and character traits of both major and minor characters. Students should provide detailed information regarding the character’s actions and how they influence other characters. In addition, students can identify how the main character changed over time.

Characters included in the character map are:

  • Jess
  • Leslie Burke
  • May Belle
  • Miss Edmunds
  • Janice Avery
  • Gary Fulcher
  • Brenda
  • Ellie
  • Mom
  • Dad
  • Bill and Judy Burke
  • Mrs. Myers
  • Joyce Ann
  • Miss Bessie
  • Prince Terrain

(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 the major characters.

  1. Identify the major characters in Bridge to Terabithia and type their names into the different title boxes.
  2. Choose a character 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. Fill in the Textables for Physical/Character Traits, How Does This Character Change over Time, and What Challenges Does This Character Face.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.

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

Copy Assignment

Start My Free Trial

Bridge to Terabithia Vocabulary

Copy Assignment

In this activity, students demonstrate their understanding of vocabulary words using a Frayer Model. After choosing a word, students provide a definition, characteristics, examples (synonyms), and non-examples (antonyms) of the word. Students may be provided the vocabulary words, or they can use words that they have discovered through their reading of the text.

This example uses the word “obedient”.

  • Definition: obeying or willing to obey
  • Characteristics: Shoulders sagged, but the little boys backed away obediently.
  • Examples: law-abiding, loyal, respectful, compliant
  • Non-examples: disloyal, disobedient, inconsiderate, misbehaving, rebellious

(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 Bridge to Terabithia.

  1. Choose a vocabulary word and type it into the center title box.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary and enter it into the description box under Definition.
  3. 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.
  4. Think of at least three characteristics that help expand the meaning beyond the definition.
  5. Provide written and visual examples of the word.
  6. Provide written and visual non-examples of the word.

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

Copy Assignment

Start My Free Trial

Figurative Language in Bridge to Terabithia

Copy Assignment

Bridge to Terabithia is full of figurative language, especially similes. In this activity, students can display their understanding of figurative language by identifying examples and creating a literal or portrayal of the figurative language.

Examples of Similes

  • “Momma would be as mad as flies in a fruit jar if they woke her up at this time of day”, shows how angry Jess’ mother would be.

  • “They would follow him around like a country-music star. And May Belle would pop her buttons”, describes how famous Jess would become if he won the race at school.

  • “She had left him stranded there - like an astronaut wandering about on the moon. Alone.” This shows how lonely Jess feels after Leslie’s death.

(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 three examples of figurative language in Bridge to Terabithia.

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify use of figurative language in the text.
  3. Put the type of figurative language (such as simile or metaphor) in the title box.
  4. Give an example from the text in the description box.
  5. Illustrate the example using using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.

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

Copy Assignment

Start My Free Trial

Identifying Themes in Bridge to Terabithia

Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify one or more themes and support them with evidence from the text.

Example Themes from Bridge to Terabithia


The characters either experience true friendship, or desire it.

  • May Belle hopes the new neighbors have a girl her age.
  • Jess and Leslie become the best of friends, spending much of their time in Terabithia.
  • Janice Avery's “friends” blab to everyone in the seventh grade that her father beats her.


Leslie inspires Jess to be more courageous.

  • Jess insists that Gary Fulcher let Leslie race even though she is a girl.
  • Jess and Leslie prank Janice Avery, sneaking into the classroom to leave the note.
  • Jess is afraid of many things and wishes to become fearless, like Leslie.
Start My Free Trial

Comparing and Contrasting

In this activity students will compare and contrast characters within the text. In this example, Jess is compared to Leslie. The two characters are both caring and motivated people; however, their interests and desires for adventure are much different.

Example Character Compare and Contrast Response

Jess has many fears: he panics at the thought of scuba diving, and lays in bed worrying about jumping the creek. Leslie doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything.
Jess tries to avoid his family as much as possible, really only caring for his younger sister, May Belle. Leslie enjoys spending time with her dad, helping him fix up the house, and listening to his stories.
Jess doesn't have self-confidence; he thinks he is stupid and hides his drawing talents from people in fear that he will be made fun of. Leslie is well-read and bright; she also has quite the imagination and encourages creativity.

Start My Free Trial

Text Evidence

Copy Assignment

In this activity, students will be provided a question or prompt to answer using text evidence. Students need to identify three examples from the text that answer the question, and depict it in a storyboard.

The prompt here is, “Identify moments where a character takes a risk and explain how they benefit or lose from it.”

The three examples provided include:

  • Jess standing up to Janice Avery on the bus. As a result, Jess and Leslie become best friends.
  • Leslie uses a rope to cross the creek, which eventually is the cause of her death.
  • Jess accepts Miss Edmunds offer to visit the Smithsonian. Jess enjoys the experience and avoids witnessing Leslie’s death, or falling to his own death.

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

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that answers the prompt using at least three examples from Bridge to Terabithia. Click on "Add Cells" to change the number of examples.

  1. Type the question into the central black box.
  2. Type an answer in your own words in the title box. Think about examples from the text that support your answer.
  3. Type the text evidence in the description boxes. Paraphrase or quote directly from the text.
  4. Illustrate each example using scenes, characters, items, etc.

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

Copy Assignment

Start My Free Trial

Essential Questions for Bridge to Terabithia Book

  1. What do people gain from friendships?
  2. Should people take risks? Why or why not?
  3. How is imagination useful in childhood and adulthood?
  4. How can you gain from a loss?
Bridge to Terabithia Summary

Jessie Oliver Aarons, Jr., “Jess”, wakes up early each day to practice running; he is determined to be the fastest runner in all the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades. One day, a U-Haul is parked next door. Jess shrugs it off; he doesn’t realize that he is dismissing one of the most important moments of his life.

Jess goes to his room and begins to draw. Nobody at home or school supports his drawing hobby, except Miss Edmunds, the music teacher. Miss Edmunds is considered a hippy and is not liked by the teachers at school, but she has told Jess that he has a gift and is “a diamond in the rough”.

The next morning Jess doesn’t feel like running, but he pushes himself. In the middle of his run, he is stopped by a voice. At first he cannot tell whether she is a boy or girl, but eventually figures out it belong to a girl, Leslie Burke. He avoids talking to her and goes home to do his chores.

When school starts the following week, Leslie is in Jess’s class. Jess continues to avoid her and waits impatiently for recess, eager to be the fastest boy and beat Gary Fulcher. At recess, Leslie joins the boys to race too. Gary tells her that she can’t race, but for some reason, Jess insists that she does. Leslie beats Jess in the first heat and beats the rest of the boys in the finals; everyone is stunned. For the next few days the boys continue to race, and Leslie wins every time. By Friday, nobody wants to race anymore.

Leslie is not like other girls: she doesn’t wear the same kinds of clothes, she has different hobbies, and she doesn’t own a television, even though her parents are rich. After some kids give Leslie a hard time, Jess sticks up for her and they become closer friends, not caring when people pick on them. They decide to build their own world, Terabithia, in the woods near their homes; here they are the King and Queen of their land and go on many adventures.

Janice Avery,a seventh grade bully, picks on anyone smaller than her, including Jess’s younger sister, May Belle. May Belle insists that Jess beat Janice up, but Leslie convinces her that it is a bad idea. Instead, Leslie and Jess come up with another plan: Jess forges a letter, pretending to be Janice’s crush, Willard Hughes, and claiming to be in love with her. The two sneak into Janice’s classroom and place the note in her desk. Janice waits after school for Willard to walk her home as promised in the note, but when he doesn’t show, she is beyond angry. Jess feels bad for what they had done, but Leslie believes Janice deserved it.

At Christmas Jess wants to get Leslie a gift, but is unsure of what because he doesn’t have a lot of money. He decides to get her a puppy, which she names Prince Terrien and includes in their Terabithia adventures. Jess is equally thrilled with the paint set he receives from her!

At school, Janice Avery begins crying in the bathroom and Leslie tells Jess about it. He convinces her to go back into the bathroom and help Janice. Janice is upset that her best friends told the seventh grade about how her father beats her. Leslie is happy to have helped Janice and even calls her half of a friend. Jess is thrilled that Leslie calls him one whole friend, because he knows that she is his only true friend too.

Jess’s dad gets laid off from his job in Washington, and his sisters are upset about not getting new clothes for church on Easter. However, they finagle a way to get new clothes and Jess receives nothing. He asks permission to bring Leslie to church with them because she has never been to church before. His mother agrees and Leslie wears a dress and nice shoes for the first time. She believes that the story of Jesus is beautiful, but May Belle insists that it is scary to have holes nailed into your hands. She tells Leslie that those who do not believe in God will go to Hell. Leslie doesn’t believe in God, and Jess and May Belle feel uncomfortable about what will happen to her.

In the spring, it rains for several days, and after many days of not visiting Terabithia, Jess and Leslie decide to go to their “castle”. The water in the creek has risen high, and Jess is very afraid of crossing it, but continues because Leslie is fearless. Jess is cold and miserable and is thankful that Leslie suggests going home to watch television. That night, Jess awakens thinking about crossing the creek and decides to tell Leslie that he doesn’t want to go there anymore; he hates the feeling of being afraid and he won’t cross the creek again.

Jess gets a phone call from Miss Edmunds. She asks if he will be able to go with her to Washington to visit the Smithsonian. He spends the day with her exploring the art and enjoying Miss Edmund’s company. Returning home, he is giddy, until he realizes that something is wrong his family are not eating dinner, or watching television. His sister blurts out that Leslie has died, and they thought Jess was dead too.

Jess runs down the road until his father catches up with him in the pickup truck and puts him to bed. In the morning Jess remembers having a bad dream, but can’t remember the details. He replays his day with Miss Edmunds, but has an inexplicable feeling of dread. Jess eats pancakes for breakfast, not seeming to be affected by Leslie’s death. Jess’ dad suggests they go pay the family respects and they walk over to the Perkins place. Jess is confused and almost annoyed that everyone is crying. However, after hearing about Leslie’s cremated body being sent to Pennsylvania, he runs from the house in tears, punches May Belle in the face, takes the paint set Leslie gave him, and throws it in the creek. His father sits and consoles him, easing his worries about Leslie going to Hell.

Jess uses a branch as a bridge to cross the creek to visit Terabithia and pay his respects to Leslie in some way. He decides to make a wreath for her. He hears a scream coming from the creek. May Belle had followed him, but couldn’t make it across the bridge. Although his heart was pounding, he calmly helps her back to the house. Thinking of Leslie going into the bathroom after Janice Avery, she tells May Belle that everyone, even Leslie, gets scared sometimes.

At school Jess is miserable, hearing all the whispers from other kids and having Leslie’s desk already removed from the classroom. Mrs. Myers pulls Jess into the hallway, and with tears in her eyes, tells him how sorry she is. Jess sees Mrs. Myers in a new light and is appreciative of her kind words. Jess realizes how Leslie has helped him change from a weird kid to a King in Terabithia and how his eyes have opened to the beauty of the world.

Leslie’s parents move back to Pennsylvania. They give Jess all of Leslie’s books and her paint set. Jess asks to have some lumber and he builds a bridge across the creek. May Belle follows him and asks what he is doing. He tells her it is a secret until it is done. As she crosses the bridge Jess imagines that all the people of Terabithia are standing on tiptoe to watch the new queen, May Belle, approaching.

Help Share Storyboard That!

Looking for More?

Check out the rest of our Teacher Guides and Lesson Plans!

All Teacher Guides and Lesson Plans Ed Tech BlogElementary SchoolMiddle School ELAHigh School ELAForeign LanguageSpecial EdUS History and Social StudiesWorld History

Our Posters on ZazzleOur Lessons on Teachers Pay Teachers
© 2018 - Clever Prototypes, LLC - All rights reserved.
Start My Free Trial
Explore Our Articles and Examples

Try Our Other Websites!

Photos for Class – Search for School-Safe, Creative Commons Photos (It Even Cites for You!)
Quick Rubric – Easily Make and Share Great-Looking Rubrics
abcBABYart – Create Custom Nursery Art
Prefer a different language?

•   (English) Bridge to Terabithia   •   (Español) Puente a Terabithia   •   (Français) Pont à Terabithia   •   (Deutsch) Brücke Nach Terabithia   •   (Italiana) Ponte per Terabithia   •   (Nederlands) Brug Naar Terabithia   •   (Português) Ponte Para Terabithia   •   (עברית) גשר כדי Terabithia   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) جسر الى تيرابيثيا   •   (हिन्दी) टेराबीथिया का पुल   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Мост в Терабитию   •   (Dansk) Bridge to Terabithia   •   (Svenska) Bro Till Terabithia   •   (Suomi) Silta Salaiseen Maahan   •   (Norsk) Broen til Terabithia   •   (Türkçe) Terabithia Köprüsü   •   (Polski) Most do Terabithii   •   (Româna) Podul Catre Terabithia   •   (Ceština) Most do Země Terabithia   •   (Slovenský) Most na Terabithiu   •   (Magyar) híd Terabithiába   •   (Hrvatski) Most na Terabithia   •   (български) Мост към Терабития   •   (Lietuvos) Tiltas į Terabithia   •   (Slovenščina) Bridge to Terabithia   •   (Latvijas) Tilts uz Terabithia   •   (eesti) Sild Terabithia