CommonLit Elementary Classrooms Bridge the Gap in Reading Comprehension with Lesson Plans for Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia

CommonLit’s digital library offers over 3,000 lessons to support your reading curriculum. Our online reading program also offers over 100 Book Pairings, which are sets of texts that support high-quality novel instruction. These supplemental texts are a great way to increase rigor and boost reading comprehension skills as students make cross-textual connections. For each pairing, we share information about the texts, suggestions for how to introduce them to your students, and questions to promote class discussions.

In this post, we will highlight Book Pairings for Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. In this children's book, Jess and Leslie become best friends after Leslie moves to town. Together, they create an imaginary kingdom in the woods near their homes. After a fatal accident in the woods, Jess struggles to come to terms with Leslie’s untimely death.

Analyze Character Development Across Texts

In Bridge to Terabithia, Jess takes a while to warm up to Leslie. However, after she beats him in a race and introduces him to her favorite spot in the woods, they become inseparable. These text pairings will challenge students to analyze how characters change and grow throughout a text.

The Challenge” by Gary Soto

In this short story by Gary Soto, José tries a variety of tactics to impress his crush, Stinger. Jose learns that Stinger is interested in racquetball and challenges her to a game. After an embarrassing loss, Jose returns home and works on his skills to prepare for the next time they play.

Have students read this short story after they finish Chapter 3, when Leslie beats the boys in a race. Use these guiding questions to generate a discussion on how boys expect girls to perform in sports. Ask students to discuss why the boys aren’t worried about Leslie racing with them, and how this compares to José’s expectations of Stinger. How do the boys in both texts respond to being bested by girls? Why do they react this way?

The Terror” by Junot Díaz

In this memoir, Junot Díaz describes the bullying he experienced as a Latino growing up in a predominantly  white community. After getting jumped by a group of boys, Díaz is embarrassed and constantly fears how they might terrorize him next. Years later, Díaz finally stands up to his bullies.

Have students read this memoir after they finish Chapter 9, when Jess develops a fear of crossing the creek to Terabithia, to explore the effects of fear. How do both Jess and Díaz attempt to avoid the things that scare them? In what ways are their attempts to deal with their fear successful or unsuccessful?

Make Connections to Poetry In Your Classroom

In Bridge to Terabithia, Jess and Leslie are happiest when living in their imaginary world. After Leslie’s death, Jess struggles to find happiness and use his imagination again. Focusing on themes of imaginative play, identity, and coping with the death of a loved one, these poems will enhance your ELA curriculum and help you lead cross-textual discussions about the complex emotions experienced in the novel.

Holly Trees” by Emma Bartly

In this poem, Emma is playing pretend under a holly tree with her friend, Maggie. While pretending to hunt and cook food, the two friends stop their game when an adult interrupts their imaginary play.

Introduce this poem after students finish Chapter 4, when Jess and Leslie become the rulers of Terabithia, in order to explore the power of imagination. How does Emma and Maggie’s imaginary play in “Holly Trees” compare to the imaginary play that Jess and Leslie take part in? What do the imaginary forts provide the characters in the two texts?

Extend your lesson by checking out the Bridge to Terabithia trailer in the Related Media tab!

Underface” by Shel Silverstein

In Shel Silverstein’s “Underface,” the speaker describes how below their “outside face” is a face that is less smiley but is more like their true self.

Have students read this poem after they finish Chapter 5, when Jess and Leslie become friends, to analyze how the characters simultaneously hide and reveal different parts of themselves. How do Leslie and Jess show each other their “underfaces” and let each other see parts of themselves that they hide from the rest of the world? Why do you think they hide certain parts of their identity? How does being open and honest with each other contribute to their friendship?

ICU” by Grace Chua

While trying to cope with the death of a loved one, the speaker in this poem plays peek-a-boo and tries to understand why her loved one is slipping away.

Enhance reading comprehension by having students read this poem after Chapter 11, when Jess learns that Leslie has died, to explore how people try to come to terms with death. How do both texts emphasize how difficult it is for people to accept that their loved ones are dead or dying? How do the approaches to death that the speaker in “ICU” and Jess’ take represent an attempt to protect themselves from loss or the thought of loss?

Eating Together” by Li-Young Lee

In this emotional poem, the speaker describes eating a meal with their mother and siblings after their father passed away.

Have students read this poem after they finish Chapter 12, when Jess is struggling with Leslie’s death, to explore how a family can offer support during difficult times. How does Jess’ family attempt to help ease his pain after Leslie dies? How do their methods compare to the actions of the family in “Eating Together”? How do Jess and the speaker in the poem “Eating Together” respond to the presence of their family during a tragedy?

Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allen Poe

After the death of his one true love, Annabel Lee, the narrator grapples with his loss. He claims the angels were jealous and that's why they took Annabel Lee away. In an effort to remain close to Annabel Lee, the narrator lays by her grave each night.

Have students read this poem after they finish the book. The novel ends with Jess beginning an emotional process of healing after Leslie’s abrupt death. Use this text to explore the idea that childhood love never truly leaves you. Ask students to discuss how the speaker in the poem and Jess work to keep the memories of Annabel Lee and Leslie alive. Why is it important to the conclusion of the story that Jess builds a bridge over the creek to Terabithia?

Next Steps

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