Survival of the Fittest
TEACHER Lynne Keen
|Achievement Objective Being Assessed
|Produce a piece of comparative writing in response to the question
"How successful was the main character as a survivor?"
|Create a poster to demonstrate a comparison between the main
character as a survivor and that of a true-life survivor.
Gather, select, record, interpret and present information
on survivors and their survival strategies gained from reading the novel and
true life survival biographies.
|Supporting Achievement Objective
Interpersonal speaking and listening
|Participate in class and small discussion groups to clarify ideas,
express and justify opinions about survival; contribute and exchange information
gained through individual research and reading of texts on the theme of
|Identify, discuss and convey attitudes to and beliefs about
personal survival, gained from reading the novel and non-fiction texts.
|Students will gather information about the main character as a
survivor, and find examples to support their ideas.
| NCEA Link
AS90053 (English 1.2): Produce
AS90059 (English 1.8): Present
a media or dramatic presentation.
IntroductionThe purpose of the activities in this unit is to discuss and explore the
nature of human survival. Research findings from survivor auto/biographical texts together with the
collective ideas of the class will be used to identify and publish a Profile of an Archetypal
Survivor. This profile will then be used as a yardstick of comparison for the main character of
the novel, when students will write about the character's effectiveness as a survivor.
The intention of these activities is to generate plenty of oral discussion to guide thinking and
stimulate ideas to produce focused, quality writing.
Teacher Background Reading
TEACHING AND LEARNING ACTIVITIES Select and adapt these learning activities to best meet the needs of your students,
and to fit the time available:
- The teacher introduces this unit by outlining the
programme of learning activities (group and individual tasks) and objectives in a handout
to the class.
BrainstormingAs a class, students brainstorm:
- What are some common survival situations? List in two columns: man made and
- What are some of the features or factors that transform a situation into one
- What is a survivor? Compare dictionary definitions; write an agreed
- Who are some known, famous survivors? List, add to.
- Share any personal experiences of survival.
Teacher records responses for future/further reference and display.
- Carry out this survivor role play from the ARB resource.
Individual researchThe focus questions for research are
- What makes a person a survivor?
- What coping tactics (strategies) does/did this survivor use?
- What aspects of the survivor's personality (traits) helped him/her to cope?
Brainstorm and list ideas. The teacher could guide class discussion to consider physical
health, personality factors, attitudes, actions, available resources, environment and
external factors, eg. luck. (See a comparable list, Traits of Explorers)
Two useful, short, survival biographies for practice in close reading and to identify
evidence of survival responses are the Reader's Digest story "Stowaway", and "The Ice Man"
from Disaster and Survival by Rigby Heinemann. Add these responses to the list.
The list will form the basis of the Profile of an Archetypal Survivor.
Students then individually research a true-life story of survival, past or present.
Ideally each should research a different story, for interest and range of responses. Refer
back to the list of survivors already made, search catalogues, scour the library shelves
for biographies and encyclopedias, see Biography and the Academy of
Present day survival adventure accounts:
Students are to record their research
This general format will need to be modified for each survivor's story according to
- the survival 'problem' or situation
- the survival response categories identified through brainstorming
Research follow up in group/class discussionStudents report their individual
Research Findings on the focus questions to their group. Additional survival responses thus
identified are then shared with the class and added to the list of ideas; common responses
are highlighted and categorised as strategies and traits. A new sheet listing these traits
and strategies is drawn up as a Profile of an Archetypal Survivor. This sheet is
retained for the transactional writing task.
Reading the novel and completing the log activity
- Students are to read the novel Hatchet during one week of class time and
homework, completing the
Students log Brian's survival experiences as they read. They could already be
familiar with this novel and should find this activity relatively easy.
NB: Here is a 'survival' search that can be made at the MGPL Webrary. See also the
Adventure reviews from Read Hot
Groups discuss and compare their logs. Each group summarises and displays their
findings, as traits and strategies, outlining profile of Brian as a
survivor, sharing it with the class. Follow up with class discussion and debate
as a response to the novel:
- How credible was Brian's situation?
- How did you rate him as a survivor?
- How would you have reacted in his position? etc.
Preparation for Assessment Activity 1:
Transactional writing task
- Students will need a copy of the assessment
activity and class' profile of an Archetypal Survivor and profile of
Brian as a survivor, together with their Hatchet
- Teacher discusses with the class/elicits ideas for the process of transactional
Teacher models the
process emphasising the structure and models the format for transactional
- an introduction, explaining Brian's situation, giving his/her
opinion of Brian's success as a survivor, citing at least three reasons
- body, where each point is stated, an example from the novel is given
and explained in a separate paragraph; paragraphs are linked
- conclusion, where the student compares Brian's survival profile with
that of the Archetypal Survivor
- Teacher issues the user-friendly
rubric (an adaptation of the Level 5 key indicators from the
assessment schedule for Assessment Activity 1) as their guide and aim for this
transactional writing activity based on the teacher model. Students are encouraged to
share their writing during this process, using the user-friendly rubric as an
- Teacher gives individual help to students, who then share their drafts in their
groups for conferencing feedback, using the user-friendly
Preparation for Assessment Activity 2:
Poster and dramatic presentation
- Students will need a copy of this assessment
activity their Research
Findings and Hatchet
- Teacher models the use of a simple Venn Diagram
Organiser to show how to present the similarities and differences between Brian and
a true life survivor for poster presentations.
- Posters are then wall-displayed for peer assessment and teacher assessment (see
(See note on Assessing against the
Displayed posters are
- peer assessed - class discuss and design an assessment schedule; each student to assess
another's poster (see an example of a class
designed assessment schedule).
- Teacher assessed - each student is assessed for his/her comparison and presentation using
Student EvalutionGroups discuss the questions on the Evaluation
Sheet then individually complete it.
Assessment Resource Banks:
For Hatchet student activities and related links, try:
For author comment and biography, teaching ideas, thematic connections, links, try:
For the non-fiction version of his adventures which link him to the Brian books:
Pages of links and ideas:
- Venn Diagram Basic
Stories of Survivors:
NB: There are thousands of sites listed when any combination of the key search words
survival, survivors, adventure, true-life, fictional, biographies, autobiographies
are keyed in. Although there are a number of survival 'situations', sites relating to
sexual abuse and Holocaust survivors are often listed first in search results.
- Paulsen, Gary
Hatchet, Macmillan Children's Books (1992)
- Library resources - auto/biographies, encyclopedias, INNZ, CD ROM's,
- Reader's Digest stories
- Heinemann, Rigby. (1994) "The Ice Man" story from Disaster and Survival.
- Activity Resource Book: #2642 Hatchet, Hawker Brownlow Education
- Large sheets of paper for group work and poster work, felt markers, etc.
- The film/video of Hatchet, A Cry in the Wild, only appears to be
available in Canada and the US, in NTSC format.
These group activities could provide enrichment for the more able students or present
further opportunities for teacher assessment of students, eg. they could be asked to
justify their choices in a written response.
- Design a board game based on Brian's survival experiences, eg. a "Snakes and
Ladders" type game where his good decisions/luck lead to some kind of 'reward', and his
bad decisions/luck incur a 'penalty'.
- Take part in the Hatchet Internet Hunt
- Play The
Survival Game justifying a decision.
- Using the survival auto/biographies students have researched, set up a panel
discussion where students pose questions to A Panel of
- Students could research and produce a personal safety and survival tips pamphlet or
design a survival kit to include in their school's Outdoor Education programme.
Survival has basic, relevant information.
- Students could read the other Brian Books which follow on from Hatchet together
with Guts: the true stories behind Hatchet and the Brian Books. As a further
activity, students could identify which of Paulsen's real life survival experiences
occur in which of the Brian Books, as a cross-referencing exercise.