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Lesson Plan

Exploring Friendship With Bridge to Terabithia

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Exploring Friendship With Bridge to Terabithia

Grades 4 – 6
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Six 45- to 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lisa L. Owens

Lisa L. Owens

Issaquah, Washington

Publisher

International Reading Association

 

Student Objectives

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Session 4

Session 5

Session 6

Extensions

Student Assessment/Reflections

 

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

Students will

  • Access prior knowledge by making predictions about Bridge to Terabithia

  • Improve comprehension by reading and discussing the story, focusing on the main characters' relationship

  • Apply what they have learned about character development by completing character studies of the main characters

  • Extend and analyze what they have learned from looking at the main characters by discussing what it means to be a friend

  • Apply and connect this knowledge to their own lives by brainstorming ways to make and keep friends

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Session 1

1. Introduce the book Bridge to Terabithia. Ask students to label a sheet of notebook paper “Bridge to Terabithia Predictions.“ Then pose questions A–D below, adapting them as necessary to apply to the specific edition you have available. Make sure students know there are no right or wrong answers. Discuss student responses in class and tell each student to record his or her own predictions on the sheet. Make sure, too, that they save their sheets for use at the end of the unit.

A) Based on the book’s title alone, what do you think the story will be about? (Answers might include: crossing a bridge, making a bridge, finding a bridge, looking for a bridge, a special bridge, a make-believe land.)

B) Do you think that the children pictured on the cover are friends? Why or why not? (Answers might include: they look like they’re having fun, they look like they like each other, they seem comfortable, it’s a boy and a girl so they’re probably brother and sister, they don’t look like they’re having fun.)

C) After examining the cover art, what additional predictions about the story might you make? (Answers might include: the kids live in the woods, the kids are lost in the woods, the kids find a magical place, the kids swing from a tree, the kids have an adventure, the kids hide from someone, “bridge” has more than one meaning.)

D) What are your thoughts after reading the dedication page? Why do you think the author’s son wanted her to add Lisa Hill’s name? (Answers might include: Lisa was her son’s friend, the book might be about Lisa.) What do you think the word banzai is at the bottom of the dedication? (Answers might include: it means something funny, it’s a cheer, the author’s son says it, someone in the book says it, the author says it for good luck.)

2. Have students respond to these questions to help introduce some of the themes they will encounter in the book:
  • What do you like about spending time with a good friend? How would you feel if you ever lost touch with that friend?

  • How do you think you would feel if you ever lost a loved one, such as a family member, a friend, or a pet?

  • What do you think you might do if you lost a good friend — how might you react?
3. Next, talk a little bit about the book and its author, drawing from information found on Terabithia.com: The Official Site of Author Katherine Paterson. Share that Katherine Paterson wrote the book, in part, to help her make sense of the tragic death of one of her young son’s friends. Tell students that Paterson wanted the book to explore a similar tragedy and that to do so she needed to portray two very close friends. Drawing on her own experiences with and observations of friendship helped her do that.

Explain that you will be examining the friendship between the two main characters in the book, Jess and Leslie. Tell students that the strength of this relationship — which includes one character’s reaction to losing the other — is a great “bridge” to understanding the power and value of friendship in real life. Explain that much can be learned from the characters about the art of making and keeping friends.


Homework: Students should read Chapters 1 to 4 before Session 2.

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Session 2

Note: The discussions here and in the two sessions that follow are meant to check in with students to make sure they understand what they are reading and that they continue to view the characters of Jess and Leslie in the context of a friendship. These discussions will also help you prepare students for reading about Leslie’s death and Jess’s grief at the end of the book.

1. Begin this session by giving students a chance to ask questions about what they have read in Chapters 1 to 4.

2. Ask students to talk briefly about Jess and Leslie, sharing their initial impressions of these two characters.

3. Have students look at the following passage near the end of Chapter 4: “;For the first time in his life, [Jess] got up with something to look forward to. Leslie was more than his friend. She was his other, more exciting self — his way to Terabithia and all the worlds beyond.” Ask them the following questions:
  • Why do you think Jess feels this way?

  • Why do you think Jess and Leslie become friends?

  • Can you think of things that might make it difficult for Jess and Leslie to be friends? What are they?

  • Do these things affect their friendship? Why or why not?
4. Ask students to think about their own friendships. Questions for discussion include:
  • Do you think it’s possible — in real life — for a boy and a girl to be best friends? Why or why not?

  • Do you find the close friendship between Jess and Leslie believable? Why or why not?

  • Have you ever been friends with someone who is different than you are? How were you different from your friend? Did this make your friendship harder?

  • How have your friends made you feel good?

  • How have your friends made you see things in a different way?

Homework: Students should read Chapters 5 to 9 before Session 3.

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Session 3

1. Begin this session by giving students a chance to ask questions about what they have read in Chapters 5 to 9.

2. Encourage students to briefly recount the main events from the reading.

3. Invite students to discuss the following questions:
  • What did Jess and Leslie give each other for Christmas?

  • Why did the gifts they exchanged mean so much to each of them?

  • In the book, it says that Jess needed to give Leslie a Christmas present “as much as he needed to eat when he was hungry.” Have you ever felt that way about a friend? How do you think Jess would feel if his friendship with Leslie ended?
4. Have students recall Jess’s thoughts in the final passage of Chapter 9. Ask them to discuss the following:
  • Why was Jess worried about crossing the creek the next day? (Encourage student responses until you hear all of the following: the weather, his fear, letting Leslie down, Leslie’s opinion of him.)

  • Have you ever worried because you didn’t want to do something a friend did? What did that feel like? What worried you most about the situation? (Guide the discussion so that students talk about not wanting to look bad to a friend, not wanting to lose a friend, not feeling as courageous as a friend does.)

  • In your opinion, was Jess right to worry about crossing the creek?

Homework: Students should read Chapters 10 to 13 before Session 4.

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Session 4

1. Begin this session by giving students a chance to ask questions about what they have read in Chapters 10 to 13.

2. Ask students to discuss the questions below. Be sure to allow plenty of time for this discussion and to make students feel comfortable expressing their thoughts about Leslie’s death, how Jess handles the loss, and how students think they might act if one of their friends died.
  • Were you surprised that Leslie died? Why or why not?

  • How do you think you would have felt if you were Jess?

  • How do you think you would feel if you lost a friend this way in real life?

  • Were you surprised by Jess’s initial reaction to Leslie’s death? How did you expect him to act?

  • In what ways did Jess’s friendship with Leslie change him?

  • Do you think Leslie died knowing how Jess felt about her? What clues from the story make you think this way?

  • Why can it be important for friends to feel good about their friendships?

  • What did you learn from Jess and Leslie’s friendship that can apply to your friendships?

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Session 5

1. Introduce students to the Character Trading Cards tool using an LCD screen and a computer with Internet access, if available. (The printable Character Trading Cards Planning Sheet is a useful offline alternative.)

2. Show students how to navigate the tool and fill out the card. Ask them to recall that they have learned a lot about friendship during their reading of Bridge to Terabithia. Explain that further character exploration using the cards can help them record great reminders of what made Jess and Leslie’s friendship so special — and they can also help spark ideas that will help them foster and value the friendships they have in their own lives.

3. Have each student create a trading card for either Jess or Leslie. They should count off by twos so that half the class works on a card for one character and half works on one for the other. When filling out the card, student focus should be on capturing information that highlights each character’s search for friendship and role as a friend to the other. Walk students through each screen in the tool to create a card, adapting the questions as follows:
  • For Section 2 - Insights, ask: “What are the character’s most important thoughts about friendship?” and “What are the character’s most important feelings regarding this friendship?”

  • For Section 4 - Statements and Actions, ask: “What is the most important or memorable thing the character says about a friend?” and “What is the character’s most important action toward a friend?”
4. Have students print their completed trading cards. Encourage them to draw pictures of each character in the designated space.

5. Have students who created “Jess” cards pair up with those who created “Leslie” cards. Ask them to exchange their trading cards and briefly discuss the similarities and differences among the information they recorded for each character. Where are there differences? Do they agree or disagree about them?

6. Invite students to take back their original cards and switch partners — but this time, they should pair up with someone who created a trading card for the same character. Have them exchange their cards and briefly discuss the similarities and differences among the information they recorded. Where are there differences? Do they agree or disagree about them?

7. As you close the session, ask students to consider some of the characters’ actions specific to their friendship in the story and think about any similarities and differences they see when comparing Jess and Leslie’s friendship to their own friendships.


Homework (due at the beginning of Session 6): Students should fill out the What Is Friendship? Worksheet, writing the first several things that come into their minds for each question.

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Session 6

1. Discuss the What Is Friendship? Worksheet. Invite volunteers to share a few responses to each question and write their answers on the chart paper you have prepared. Assure students that all responses are valid and important to the discussion.

Examples of responses might include:
  • Friendship means: people like each other, people support each other, people care about each other, people enjoy each other’s company, two people spend time together

  • A good friend always: makes you laugh, looks out for you, helps you with problems, makes you feel good about yourself, has your best interests in mind, sticks up for you, tells you the truth, lets you be yourself, keeps your secrets, cheers you up when you need it

  • A good friend never: lies, acts mean to you, spreads rumors about you, talks down to you, tells your secrets, makes you feel bad about yourself, tries to change you

  • It’s good to have friends because: friends have fun together, everyone needs someone to talk to, you can hang out, you can learn about others, friends won’t let you down, sometimes you need help

  • In Bridge to Terabithia, Jess and Leslie become friends because: they were neighbors, they were misfits, they understood each other, they liked the same things, they needed an escape from their everyday lives, they made each other laugh, they told each other the truth, they trusted each other

  • Jess and Leslie’s friendship is: special, unusual, real, strong, fun, unique, honest, forever
2. Show student the blank Ways to Make and Keep a Friend Chart. Ask them to think about the responses they have just shared and brainstorm ideas for each topic. List their ideas on the chart as they go.

Examples of responses might include:
  • Ways to Make a Friend: smile, say hi, introduce yourself, start a conversation, ask questions, be nice, be yourself, tell a joke, give someone a compliment, offer to help, find someone who shares your interests

  • Ways to Keep a Friend: be a good listener, tell the truth, treat people the way you want to be treated, accept differences, resolve conflicts, “play fair,” make each other laugh, keep secrets, don’t gossip, do fun things together, give good advice
3. Discuss with students which strategies from the chart Jess and Leslie used as they first got to know each other. Which ones did they use as their friendship developed over time?

4. Have students apply what they have been discussing to their own lives and experiences by reflecting on the following questions either as a whole class or in small groups:
  • How is Jess and Leslie’s friendship the same as or different from friendships you have had in your lifetime? Do you think their friendship is realistic?

  • What strategies for making a friend will you use the next time you meet someone interesting?

  • What strategies for keeping a friend would you like to try in one of your current friendships?

  • Have you ever lost a friend or a family member? If so, how did your experience compare to Jess’s experience losing Leslie?

  • What have you learned from the characters in Bridge to Terabithia about the value of friendship?

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EXTENSIONS

  • Display the Ways to Make and Keep a Friend Chart in your classroom. Periodically prompt students to look at it and think about the things it says (for example, first thing in the morning, when they are on their way out to recess, just before school gets out for the day, or whenever one of the behaviors on the list is exhibited in the classroom).

  • Have each student use the Letter Generator to write a letter to Leslie as Jess. Using the friendly letter template, Jess should write to Leslie and tell her how losing her friendship has affected him. Invite volunteers to read their letters in class.

  • Have students read and discuss the lyrics to the Simon & Garfunkel song “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in relation to the book and its characters. Ask students, “How is the bridge over troubled water in the song like the bridge to Terabithia in the book?” Have a girl volunteer read aloud the first verse, instructing the class to imagine that they are listening to Leslie speaking the words to Jess. Then have a boy read aloud the third verse, asking the class to imagine they are listening to Jess speaking to Leslie. Who else in the book besides Jess and Leslie might the song lyrics fit? Could the song lyrics apply to you and a friend of yours?

  • Encourage students to explore the It’s My Life - Friends website. Have students locate the “How to Make Friends” topic in the “You Said It” pulldown menu. They can read through other kids’ ideas and add new ones to the How to Make and Keep Friends Chart.

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STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

  • Check how well students are able to make predictions by having them refer to the “Bridge to Terabithia Predictions” sheets they made at the beginning of the unit. For each of the four predictions, ask for a show of hands from students who think they made a correct prediction in the beginning. Have volunteers from that group share their answers and determine—as a class—which predictions held up and are supported by the story. Keep this discussion open and encourage students to share any viewpoints they have or reasoning they used to arrive at their conclusions before the group selects the “right” predictions.

  • Check individual What Is Friendship? Worksheets for completeness and effort.

  • Observe student pairs as they discuss their Character Trading Card examples. Make sure students are able to identify the similarities and differences among their information sets and that they are listening to each other as they discuss the differences. Step in and help refocus partner discussions as necessary.

  • To assess students' responses on the trading cards, you could develop a checklist similar to the following:
  • Did I answer all the questions on the trading card?

  • Did I answer the adapted questions as presented?

  • Did I focus my thinking on friendship and the character’s role as a friend in the story?

  • Does my trading card accurately represent the character in the story?

  • Is this my best work?
  • Have students self-assess their cards using the checklist before you review all trading cards for completeness. You will want to use the same checklist and provide students with feedback. You may wish to share samples of students' trading cards that meet your expectations. Ask students to revise their trading cards as needed.


  • Assess how well students understand the concepts you have been discussing by asking them to write down responses to the questions you asked at the end of Session 6. You might choose to have students do this as an essay or in their journals. Review students' answers to see how well they are able to connect the ideas about friendship reflected in the book with their own experience.

 

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