Survival Stories

Students explore the attributes necessary for survival and the importance of physical and mental strength by reading excerpts from Julie of the Wolves, Endangered, Hatchet, and a variety of poems.

Unit Summary

In this unit, students explore the attributes necessary for survival by reading excerpts from Julie of the Wolves, Endangered, Hatchet, and a variety of poems. With each story, students will explore if one needs more physical or mental strength, or a combination of both, in order to overcome an obstacle or problem. Students will also explore how our ability to adapt and make changes impacts our lives and ability to survive. It is our hope that this unit challenges students to think about the way in which they tackle obstacles and the power and influence they have over their own lives. 

When analyzing individual stories, students will focus on explaining how scenes fit together and contribute to the overall structure of a story or poem, and summarizing a text and determining theme. After analyzing a story or poem in-depth, students will then practice comparing and contrasting across stories and analyzing the way in which different stories approach similar themes and topics. This unit places a large emphasis on the power of rereading a text in order to build deeper meaning. Over the course of the unit, students will have multiple opportunities to engage with a particular text multiple times in order to analyze and notice author’s craft and additional layers of meaning.

Subscribe to Fishtank Plus to unlock access to additional resources for this unit, including:

  • Unit Launch
  • Enhanced Lesson Plans
  • Essential Task Guides
  • Student Handout Editor
  • Google Classroom Integration
  • Vocabulary Package
  • Fluency Package
  • Data Analysis Package

Unit Launch

Prepare to teach this unit with videos and short readings that cover:

  • Key standards
  • Essential questions
  • Text complexity
  • Monitoring student progress

Texts and Materials

Core Materials

  • Book: Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George (HarperCollins; First Edition edition, 2016) (pp. 5-25)   —  860L

  • Book: Endangered by Eliot Schrefer (Scholastic Paperbacks; Reprint edition, 2014) (pp. 76–83, 90–95, 98–103)

  • Book: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2006) (pp. 113–120, 161–170)   —  1020L

Supporting Materials

See Text Selection Rationale

Unit Prep

Essential Questions


  • What steps can be taken to prepare for a wilderness emergency? 
  • What strategies are necessary for surviving a wilderness emergency? 

Writing Focus Areas


Sentence-Level Focus Areas

  • Write simple, compound, and complex sentences 

There are no new sentence focus areas in this unit. During this unit students will practice responding to daily Target Task questions using a variety of sentence constructions. ​​​​​

Paragraph-Level Focus Areas

  • Outline and draft multiple paragraph essays
  • Craft topic and concluding sentences 
  • Elaborate on details
  • Include details from multiple texts 

In this unit students continue to work on drafting multiple paragraph essays. Students review how to craft topic and concluding sentences, how to elaborate on details, and how to include details from multiple texts. ​​​​​​

Narrative Writing Focus Areas

  • Brainstorm a logical sequence of events
  • Orient the reader by introducing characters and setting
  • Use transition words and phrases to show the passing of time
  • Use description to develop experiences, events and characters
  • Use precise words and phrases to describe character actions and feelings
  • Provide a logical conclusion 

In this unit students students continue to practice writing narratives in response to a text. In particular, students focus on brainstorming a logical sequence of events, using transition words and phrases, and including vivid description.​​​​​

Related Teacher Tools:

Fluency Focus Areas

  • Read with proper intonation and expression to show understanding of a text. 
  • Read verse with rhythm and flow. 
  • Self-correct when reading difficult words and sentence structures. 
  • Read with a rate appropriate to task and purpose

While reading the short stories in this unit students should continue to practice how to read with proper intonation and expression, how to self-correct difficult words and sentence structures, and when to change reading rate. Plan additional fluency models and think-alouds based on student needs and data from the fluency check-point in Unit 3. 

An additional focus of this unit is on how to read poems with the proper intonation, expression, and flow to match the tone and theme of a particular poem. Students will also explore how reading a poem initially for comprehension and pleasure versus reading for analysis and deeper understanding lead to different reading rates. 

Teachers should plan to do fluency checkpoints at several points throughout a unit. Have students grade themselves or a friend on the Reading Fluency Rubric. If a student scores a 2 or lower on any of the sections, we offer some ideas for additional fluency instruction and support in our Fluency Assessment Package.

At the end of each unit, teachers should assess each student using the unit’s fluency assessment found in the Fluency Assessment Package. This assessment is quick. Teachers should plan to pull students one-on-one to do this while the rest of the class is independently reading or writing.

Speaking and Listening Focus Areas

  • Build on partner's ideas. Students seek to genuinely understand what their peers are saying, and then build on. 
  • Paraphrase to make meaning. Students paraphrase what others are saying in order to keep track of the key ideas in a discussion. 
  • Questioning and clarifying. Students seek to clarify a particular point a student makes by asking follow up questions. 

In unit three, students began to move beyond their own reasoning and began to respond and interact with the reasoning of others. They learned how to listen to and learn from from their peers, and began to refine and clarify their own thinking  based on others' ideas. In this unit students continue to refine and clarify their own thinking based on others' ideas. 

When building on to partner's ideas, students should seek to genuinely understand what their peers are saying and build on. Ideas should not be random, disconnected, or replace a previous idea. Rather, ideas should zoom in on a particular idea that was said, make a connection between a previous idea and a new idea, or challenge a particular part of an idea. Students should also begin to paraphrase what others are saying in order to keep track of the key ideas in a discussion. This involves listening carefully to a speaker, organizing the speaker's points, inferring which points are important, and then putting it all in one's own words. Finally, students work on seeking to clarify a particular points a student made by asking follow-up questions.

Guidance on teacher moves to support these discussion focuses can be found in our Guide to Academic Discourse (below).



Below are all of the unit vocabulary words. Prior to teaching the unit, we recommend teachers decide which words to prioritize. We also recommend that teachers decide which affixes to prioritize. See our teacher tool Prepping Unit Vocabulary (below) for more guidance on which words to pick as priority words.


adoration adrenaline agony anxiety arrogant devoted discern diverged dominance elated exulted fixated foraging frenzied grimace hierarchy impassable ineptitude infuriating instilled instinctive manner menacing monotony predicament presume recoiled submissively substantial tentative tribute versatile visibility wariness


-ness -tion im-


These assessments accompany this unit to help gauge student understanding of key unit content and skills. Additional progress monitoring suggestions are included throughout the unit.

With Fishtank Plus, you can download the Fluency Package for this unit, which includes a unit-specific fluency assessment passage and additional tools to help monitor and support students’ reading fluency. Download Sample

Lesson Map


  • “Help Me Make It...”


Explain what steps can be taken to prepare for a wilderness emergency.


  • Julie of the Wolves pp. 5 – 14

  • “Canine Communication”



Describe what makes the tundra a unique habitat, why the author includes so much description about the tundra, and how it contributes to the overall structure of the story.


  • Julie of the Wolves pp. 15 – 25



Compare and contrast Miyax’s actions with those of the wolves and analyze how Miyax was able to integrate herself into the pack.

4Essential Task

Discussion & Writing

  • Julie of the Wolves pp. 5 – 25






Write a summary of the excerpt from Julie of the Wolves that includes the theme of the excerpt.


  • “The Road Not Taken”




Identify and explain the speaker’s perspective on choices in life by analyzing how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic. 

Compare and contrast the perspective on choices of the speaker in the poem with Miyax from Julie of the Wolves


  • Bonobos Fact Sheet


Describe bonobos.


  • Endangered pp. 76 – 83




Explain how the events on pp. 80–81 contribute to the overall structure of the story.

8Essential Task

  • Endangered — pp. 90-95 (stop at "You're on your own, kid") and pp. 98-103 (stop at "And I was losing")


Analyze how each interaction between Anastasia and Sophie contributes to the overall structure of the story.


Discussion & Writing

  • Endangered — Close read pp. 76–83, 90–95, 98–103



Summarize the excerpt from Endangered by identifying a theme and explaining how the characters in the story respond to the main challenges. 

Compare and contrast the excerpts from Julie of the Wolves and Endangered by analyzing the way they both approach the theme and topic of survival. 


  • Hatchet pp. 13 – 28



Describe Brian’s current predicament and how he responds.


  • Hatchet pp. 113 – 120



Analyze how Brian’s “figuring out food” contributes to the structure of the story. 


  • Hatchet pp. 161 – 170



Analyze how the author builds suspense and how it contributes to the structure of the story. 


  • Hatchet


Summarize the excerpt from Hatchet.


  • “If You Can’t Go Over or Under, Go Around”




Identify and explain the speaker’s perspective on choices in life.

Compare and contrast the perspectives on choices of the speaker in the poem and Brian.



  • Hatchet

  • Julie of the Wolves

  • Endangered






Compare and contrast the excerpts from Hatchet, Julie of the Wolves or Endangered by analyzing the way they both approach the theme and topic of survival. 



  • Julie of the Wolves

  • Endangered

  • Hatchet






Write a multiple-paragraph essay that describes how Brian, Sophie, and/or Miyax approached survival.




4 days

Narrative Writing

  • Julie of the Wolves

  • Endangered

  • Hatchet







Write a continuation of one of the stories from the unit. 

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.5.2.d — Use underlining, quotation marks, or italics to indicate titles of works.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.5.2 — Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.

  • RL.5.3 — Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).

  • RL.5.5 — Explain how a series of chapters, scenes, or stanzas fits together to provide the overall structure of a particular story, drama, or poem.

  • RL.5.6 — Describe how a narrator's or speaker's point of view influences how events are described.

  • RL.5.9 — Compare and contrast stories in the same genre (e.g., mysteries and adventure stories) on their approaches to similar themes and topics.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.5.1 — Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 5 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

  • SL.5.3 — Summarize the points a speaker makes and explain how each claim is supported by reasons and evidence.

  • SL.5.6 — Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, using formal English when appropriate to task and situation.

Writing Standards
  • W.5.1 — Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information

  • W.5.3 — Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.

  • W.5.3.a — Orient the reader by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.

  • W.5.3.b — Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, description, and pacing, to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations.

  • W.5.3.c — Use a variety of transitional words, phrases, and clauses to manage the sequence of events.

  • W.5.3.d — Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey experiences and events precisely.

  • W.5.3.e — Provide a conclusion that follows from the narrated experiences or events.

  • W.5.9 — Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Sprial Standards