Blood on the River Novel Study Ideas

Blood on the River Novel Teaching Activities

Are you searching for captivating novel study ideas centered around the historical narrative of Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone? It’s a thrilling story about the first years of the Jamestown Colony in Virginia, told from the perspective of Samuel Collier, a boy who works for Captain John Smith. The book is full of adventure and history and is perfect for students who love historical fiction.

Blood on the River takes you back to 1607, when Samuel and Captain Smith join a group of settlers who sail to the New World. Along the way, they face storms, sickness, attacks, and conflicts, both with the Native Americans and among themselves. The book gives you a glimpse of what life was like for the early colonists and how they struggled and succeeded in creating a new home in America.

Here are some activities you can do with your students while reading this fantastic book. Start by downloading the PDF that includes novel study samples and materials for the activities mentioned in the post.

Blood On The River: James Town, 1607 Novel Teaching Ideas

Teaching Idea #1 – Novel Study Samples

Blood on the River Novel Study Samples

This PDF contains novel study samples, including Chapters 1–2 vocabulary and comprehension questions.

This handout also contains the activities mentioned in the blog post.

Teaching Idea #2: Crafting History: Design a James Town 1607 Flag!

Comparing Stories

Use the information in the handout to explain the significance of the James Town flag. Then, have students design unique flags full of symbols representing James Town 1607.

Here are some steps to help you do this activity:

Color Choice:

Talk about what each color means and how it relates to James Town. For example, you could use blue for the water, green for the land, or gold for the dreams.

Picture Choice:

Talk with your students about pictures that show the early settlers, their goals, and their problems. Discuss why these pictures are important. For example,  ships for the trip, tools for the work that they did, or images of Native Americans for the friends that they met

Flag Design:

Help your students plan how to make their flags. Tell them to use shapes, lines, or patterns to make the flags interesting.

Flag Writing:

Ask your students to write a paragraph about their flags. Tell them to explain why they chose the colors and pictures.

Teaching Idea #3: Jamestown Navigation Quest Game

Jamestown Trivia Game

Are you looking for a fun and engaging way to teach your students about Jamestown? If so, you will love this free game activity I created! Jamestown Navigation Quest contains a board game with questions that challenge students to use their knowledge and skills to reach America’s first permanent English settlement.

Jamestown Navigation Quest can be played in small groups or as a whole class. It is suitable for upper elementary students learning about the history and geography of Jamestown. It is a fun supplemental activity to add to your novel Blood on the River study.

You will need to print the board game and the game cards to play the game. There are four categories of game cards: trivia, challenge, joke, and fact. Each one has a different task type that the students must complete when they land on a space. Questions about Jamestown are on the trivia cards, and the students must answer them correctly. The challenge cards affect the students’ movement or position on the board with various instructions. Students read aloud the funny jokes and interesting facts. 

You will find the printable board game, the game cards, and the answer key in the handout.

Teaching Idea #4: Create a Character Diary

Writing a Character Diary Entry with a DIY Quill Pen

DIY Quill Pens

Have students make quill pens from feathers and use them to write in calligraphy. It’s a hands-on way to connect with the daily lives of Jamestown’s settlers. 

One way for students to use the quill pens is to create a diary entry.

Diary Entry

Ask your students to choose a character from the novel and create a diary entry from their perspective. Encourage them to include details about the character’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences. This activity will help students develop empathy and a deeper understanding of the characters.

This activity is a great way to help students develop empathy and a deeper understanding of the characters in the novel. By putting themselves in the character’s shoes, students can gain a new perspective on the story and the challenges the characters face.


Dear Diary,

Another long day on the ship has passed. I’m so tired of being cooped up in this small space with all these people. My old life is gone, and I know I can’t return. I have to make the best of what I have now.

Captain John Smith is a strange man. He’s always talking about the New World and how we will make a new life there. I don’t know if I believe him. It all seems so far away and impossible.

Richard, one of the other boys on the ship, has been keeping me company. He’s nice enough, but he doesn’t understand me. I don’t think anyone does. This makes me feel so alone sometimes.

I hope things will be different when we get to the New World. Maybe I’ll finally find a place where I belong.

Until tomorrow,


Teaching Idea #5: Create a Timeline

Blood on the River Novel Teaching Ideas

Create a Timeline

Have your students create a timeline of the events in the novel. Encourage them to include important dates, events, and characters. This activity will help students understand the sequence of events and how they relate to each other.

Teaching Idea #6: Reenactments

Blood on the River Novel Teaching Ideas

Historical Costume Day

Transform your classroom into a time machine with a historical costume day. Students can dress up as characters from Blood on the River, bringing the novel to life. This activity encourages them to step into the settlers’ shoes and experience history firsthand.

Colonial Trades Fair

Create a classroom trades fair where students showcase skills and crafts from various colonial trades. From candle making to weaving, this hands-on fair provides a tangible connection to Jamestown’s settlers’ daily lives and trades.

See the product that inspired this post.

Blood On The River: James Town, 1607 Novel Study includes vocabulary practice, comprehension questions, constructed response writing, and skill practice. We

Gay Miller

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