Gary Paulsen's "Hatchet" Activities to Better Understand the Novel

Gary Paulsen's "Hatchet" Activities to Better Understand the Novel
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Hatchet Activities

After reading Hatchet, you may want some activities you can perform to help deepen your understanding of this popular novel.


These activities can be done in conjunction with reading and will aid you when the book is over to write assignments, participate in class discussion or pass a test. [caption id=“attachment_131364” align=“aligncenter” width=“640”]Use these Hatchet activities to better understand Gary Paulsen’s popular novel Use these activities to better understand Gary Paulsen’s novel[/caption]

  • Write two letters to Brian’s dad, pretending to be Brian. Brian’s character changes throughout the novel during his experience after the plane crash. At the beginning of his novel, a letter to his father about his parents' divorce would be very different than a letter to his father when he is rescued. Think about how Brian changes during his experiences and make sure that is apparent in each letter. What is most important to Brian while he is on the plane? What is most important to Brian once he survives in the wilderness? These are the types of questions to focus on when you are writing these two letters.
  • While reading the book, write daily entries about Brian’s successes and failures in the wilderness. Make a note about what each taught him. Brian struggles to survive, and some days, he is successful and some days he is not. One example is when he is trying to make fire. He has a hard time remembering how to make fire, but eventually he does succeed. With these journal assignments, you would write about a few pages or a chapter at a time. In your journal entry, you would write down any success (small or large) that Brian had during Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. You would also write down what you feel he learned from this success. You would do the same thing for a failure. Which one does he learn the most from: success or failure? Does Brian ever use his failures to eventually have success?
  • Write about each theme of the novel and record scenes that exemplify this theme. Writing about themes when reading Hatchet helps you comprehend the overall message the author is trying to relay with his novel.

Notecards and Sticky Notes

These Hatchet activities are meant to help you understand vocabulary and characters' actions. You can use notecards, sticky notes, or even paper cut into notecard size for this activity. While reading, use notecards or sticky notes to write down any vocabulary words that are new to you. Also write down any questions that you have or questions that you think would be interesting to explore. If you know what the vocabulary words mean based on context, then go ahead and write the definition on the back of the card. When you are finished, you can work with a peer and your copy of Hatchet to find the meaning of new words and answer any questions.

Activities Engaging Your Whole Brain

These different activities will help you remember main events and characters by engaging different types of intelligence or different areas of the brain.

  • Spatial intelligence: Create a cartoon about Brian’s most challenging day. Spatial intelligence has to do with pictures. You can explore the novel Hatchet by making a story chart or cartoon. You could show Brian learning to make a fire through pictures.
  • Intrapersonal intelligence: When using multiple intelligences, this one is about self-reflection. One common comprehension skill is being able to make a personal connection to people and events in a novel. Since Brian is the only character in most of the novel Hatchet, he does a lot of self-reflection. Some of the Hatchet themes revolve around this self-reflection. An activity you can do is create a Venn Diagram comparing yourself to Brian in the novel. Maybe you have had family problems like Brian. Maybe you know how to do many things in the wilderness like he does. Think about external and internal ways to compare yourself to Brian when creating a Venn Diagram.
  • Interpersonal intelligence: Discuss Hatchet themes, problems, and events with other people. Maybe even create a debate–should Brian tell his father about his mother’s relationship? What do you think? Does he do the right thing? What other issues should be discussed throughout the novel? Do people have differing opinions? Discuss these and use events from the novel Hatchet to back up your opinion.
  • Naturalist intelligence: When using multiple intelligences, this one is often overlooked. However, Hatchet themes definitely explore the natural world and survival in it, so this is a great time to focus on this intelligence. How does Brian use his natural world to survive? Can you think of any other things he could have done with nature to make his life easiser? How does his experience in the wilderness compare with one that you have had while camping? Can you do an experiment outside in building a shelter or finding edible plants?

Image by Jan Steiner from Pixabay

This post is part of the series: Studying Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen is a captivating novel about a boy’s survival in the wilderness while he deals with his parents' divorce. This series will help you better understand the novel and give you practice with reading skills at home.

  1. Understanding Novels: Free Activities For the Novel Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  2. Hatchet Quotes and Explanations
  3. Questions and Summary for Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  4. Hatchet Review for Theme and Author’s Purpose