Blood On The River Essay

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These theme writing activities (part of my Blood on the River novel unit) go along with Elisa Carbone's Jamestown novel Blood on the River. The resource contains a theme graphic organizer with two pre-filled lessons that are prominent central ideas in the story (working together/interdependence and choosing love over fear and anger). Students must then read carefully to find supporting details - such as character quotes, descriptions, and novel events - for each. There is a paragraph-writing page as well as a two-page essay outline that will guide students to write an analysis of one of the themes.

Finally, for more advanced students, there is a blank graphic organizer for students to use for determining theme on their own and finding textual evidence to support their ideas.

This is a great way to draw students' attention to the messages that connect events in the novel as well as the important lessons that modern readers can learn from history, all through the skills of thoughtful reading, finding textual evidence, and planning organized writing!

**Teaching Blood on the River? This resource is part of the Blood on the River Novel Bundle. Save 20% by purchasing all my BotR products together!

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1. The settlers were not allowed to write letters saying anything bad about what it was like living in the New World. Yet, as we know from reading this historical novel, the settlers had many problems trying to start a new life in James Town. Imagine that you are a settler and your brother has sent word that he is coming to join you in James Town. Write him a truthful letter about your experiences in the New World and convince him to stay in England.
Encourage students to cite actual problems that occurred in James Town. For example, students can write about how they have to build a fortressaround their settlement because the natives threaten their safety. Or they can write about how they lack the know-how and proper weaponry for hunting, and therefore are concerned about food, or about how fire destroystheir houses and storehouse.

2. Because the settlers and the natives speak different languages, they often use body language to communicate with one another. For example, on page 71, Samuel uses body language to tell the native he is hungry, and the native uses body language to tell Samuel that he can eat some of their bread. Pair up with a classmate and try to communicate using body language. You can start off by communicating something simple, such as "I am sleepy" or "I am strong," and then move on to something more difficult, such as "I would like to trade my pencil for your notebook." Keep a log of your experiences communicating with body language. To do this, first write down what it is you would like to communicate to your classmate. Then, after you use body language to communicate it, write down what body language you used and whether or not your classmate was able to understand you. Once you have tried to use body language to communicate a few times, allow your classmate to do the same.
Encourage students to be creative with the body language they use to communicate. When their partners aren't able to understand their body language, encourage them to try other body language to get their pointacross. When students have completed the activity, ask them to review their log and make observations about which efforts to communicate worked best.

3. Samuel Collier had a difficult life. But his life also included some good experiences and some people who helped him become a better person. Make a list of the pros (the good experiences and the good people) and the cons (the bad experiences and the bad people) of Samuel's life. For example, one pro is that his mother taught him to read, and one con is that his father beat him. Create your list by writing "Pros" on one side of your paper and "Cons" on the other side. Under "Pros," list all of the positive events of Samuel's life. Under "Cons," list all of the negative aspects of Samuel's life. Then count the number of pros you listed and the number of cons you listed. Which is greater, the number of pros in Samuel's life or the number of cons in Samuel's life?
Ask students to use the whole novel when assembling their pros and cons. Following is a sample of possible pros and cons the students might write:


  • Samuels' Mother taught him how to read.
  • Samuel is released from the gallows by the judge.
  • Samuel meets Reverend Hunt, who takes care of him and teaches him how to be kind to others.
  • Samuel learns who to channel his anger.
  • Samuel becesom friends with the natiaves and learns a lot about surviving at James Town.
  • Samuel becomes the page of captain Smith after he is made President.
  • The Laydons become like family to Samuel.


  • Samuel's father beat him.
  • Samuel lost both of his parents.
  • Samuel is sent to an orphanage.
  • Samuel goes on a difficult voyage to the new World.
  • Samuel endures many losses at James Tosn, including a fire the destroys some of the settler's shelters and their food supply.
  • Reverend Hunt dies.
  • Captain Smith is badly wounded and must sail back to England.


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