Survival Stories

Lesson 12


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

Readings and Materials

  • Book: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (pp. 113–120, 161–170)  pp. 161 – 170

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Target Task


Multiple Choice

What is the purpose of the phrase “bone tired” as used in paragraph 3 of p. 169? 


To emphasize how emotionally exhausted Brian was from being in the water all day 


To emphasize Brian’s fear that he had hurt himself while he was in the airplane 


To emphasize how physically exhausted Brian was 


To emphasize Brian’s confusion over why his body hurt the way it did

Writing Prompt

How does the author build suspense?  How does it contribute to the structure of the story?

Mastery Response


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Key Questions


  • Read the sentence from p. 162. “The hatchet cut through the aluminum as if it were soft cheese.” What type of figurative language is this? What effect does it have on a reader’s understanding of Brian’s actions? Why? 

  • What does the author mean by the statement “the hatchet was, had been him”? 

  • Read the sentence from p. 163. “He exploded out of the surface, bumping his head on the side of the elevator when he came up and took air like a whale, pushing the stale air out until he wheezed, taking new in.” What description does the author include? How does it help a reader understand Brian’s situation? 

  • Describe the steps Brian takes to retrieve the survival bag. Do his actions make him courageous? Defend why or why not. 

  • Why does the author repeat the phrase “He had done it?” 



frenzied     (adj.)

to be very excited or upset

visibility     (n.)

the ability to see or be seen

substantial     (adj.)

a large amount, size, or number

instinctive     (adj.)

based on feelings or desires that do not come from thinking or learning



Background information: After nearly two months of surviving on his own with nothing but his hatchet, Brian is determined to retrieve the survival pack from the plane. The only problem is the plane is floating upside down in the middle of the pond. Brian creates a raft in order to reach the plane. Read to find out what happens when Brian tries to enter the airplane and retrieve the survival pack.

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Common Core Standards

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

Sprial Standards