Brian’s Winter tells the story of what would have happened to Brian Robeson if the rescue plane had not come at the end of the book Hatchet. Author Gary Paulsen received hundreds of letters from readers who thought Brian had been rescued too soon. He should experience living in the Canadian wilderness during the winter months. Brian’s Winter is Paulsen’s alternate ending to Hatchet.
8 Teaching Activities for Brian’s Winter
Activity #1 – Using Gary Paulsen’s Writing as a Figurative Language Mentor Text
Gary Paulsen’s writing is a gold mine when it comes to teaching students how to enhance their narrative writings. Paulsen uses a lot of detail to take the reader into the character’s world. Rich descriptions, backstories, and character motives weave together pulling the reader into the story.
By the time readers reach the end of one of the books from the Hatchet Series, they have an excess of how-to-knowledge. Imagine being lost in the woods after reading the novel. You would have the basic understanding of starting a fire without matches, constructing a bow and arrow, or even making a fishing spear.
In Hatchet and Brian’s Winter, sensory details and sentence structure enhance the story. Run-on sentences and fragments fill the book. This writing style often gives the reader a sense of urgency causing excitement to build. By incorporating unrest with frequent cliffhangers, Paulsen’s novels are simply difficult to put down. This style also makes readers feel like they are sitting around the campfire having a chat with Brian instead of reading a book.
While each one of these style details is a great lesson, this post is going to focus on another feature of Paulsen’s writing – figurative language. Paulsen uses a lot of it. This activity uses examples from Brian’s Winter to help students identify similes, metaphors, personification, and idioms. In a second activity, students will learn the meanings of the idioms found in Brian’s Winter.
Free Printable and Digitial Activities
Activity #2 – Free Samples from Brian’s Winter Book Unit
If you would like to try out the Brian’s Winter Book Unit before you buy it, this download contains the following free samples:
- Vocabulary Practice for Chapters 1-2
- Comprehension Questions for Chapters 1-2
- Constructed Response Question – Course of Action
- Photos to Show What the Rest of the Unit Looks Like
Activity #3 – The Chemistry of Skunk Spray
Students will love this video that explains how skunks spray predators.
Activity #4 – Diorama of Brian’s Home
Students built dioramas in cardboard flats from a case of soft drinks. We asked the delivery guy to save them for us. Natural materials, plastic figures, clay, and other materials were used to build Brian’s home. Some students included the lake with the plane; others focused on Brian’s shelter like the one pictured here.
Activity #5 – Dreaming of Food
After retrieving the survival kit from the Cessna, Brian dreamed of food.
In truth, he felt relieved when the food was gone. It had softened him, made him want more and more, and he could tell that he was moving mentally away from the woods, his situation. He started to think in terms of the city again, of hamburgers and malts, and his dreams changed.
In the days, weeks, and months since the plane had crashed he had dreamed many times. At first, all the dreams had been of food—food he had eaten, the food he wished he had eaten, and food he wanted to eat.
Write about the foods you would dream about if you were in Brian’s situation. Use Paulsen’s style of writing by including many sensory details. What the food would smell, taste, feel, look, and sound like?
Activity #6 – “How did Brian Survive?” Graphic Organizer
In this activity, students select nine things Brian did that saved his life. They must be able to support each of their opinions with textual evidence by listing two examples of evidence from the text to support their ideas.
Activity #7 – Learn about the Animals Brian Encountered
Brian ate fish, foolbirds (ruffed grouse), and rabbits before he learned he could hunt bigger game. Later he ate deer and moose. Brian also had encounters with a skunk he fondly named Betty and wolves that he thought he had an understanding of property boundaries.
Complete a small research project to learn more about these animals.
Activity #8 – How cold do you think it got in Brian’s Winter?
Check out this video from YouTube and then compare it to the descriptions that Brian gave.
This would be a fun class activity. Watch the video to see how to make an instant Slurpee from a soft drink in three seconds.
Links to FREE Resources
Click each cover to download a free teaching resource to go with Brian’s Winter.