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Transportation #5: Henry Hikes to Fitchburg

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Lesson Overview:

Based on the work of Henry David Thoreau and the brilliant adaptation by D.B. Johnson, this lesson asks students to consider and compare two different forms of transportation; walking vs taking a train.  Thought provoking and challenging, students must decide which mode of transport is “best” and why.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



Identify and describe two forms of transportation presented in the story.  Give at least three characteristics of each.

Suggested Time:

35-45 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each student will complete a T-Chart that will help them draw conclusions about the forms of transportation.  The T-Chart will give them material to structure their thinking.  If students can’t write the words, they can make simple sketches to remind them of the parts of the story.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Every day when I come to school I have to decide whether to come by a) car b) bicycle or c) train.  I have choices.  Sometimes my choice depends on the weather or how I am feeling.  Sometimes my choice depends on what is available.  Example: My bike has a flat tire.

In today’s story, two characters have to make a choice about how they will travel.  Listen carefully.  Keep track of what the characters do.  See if you can figure out why each character made his particular choice.

2. Main:

Show the book’s cover.  Get the kids to talk about visual clues from the cover.  Pass out the assignment.  Go over the instructions together.

Teach the story, allowing kids to fill in the T-Chart and take simple notes.  Scribe for them on a flipchart so that they do not get hung up on spellings

Down one side, list the chores done by Henry’s friend.  Down the other side, list the adventures Henry has on his hike.

3. Conclusion:

Ask the students if they think each of the friends was satisfied with his choices.  Then complete the first two questions together:  What did Henry’s friend choose?  What did Henry choose?  Talk about it and give the kids a moment to answer these questions.

Finally, as the students to think about what they would choose if faced with the same decision.  Would they work to earn money for a ticket or would they walk?  Have them write their answers (or discuss their answer with an elbow partner if you are running short on time.)  This is a great reflection/thinking question.  After the story, the children should have enough ideas and evidence to form a convincing opinion.

additional Resources:
  1. Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D.B. Johnson.
  2. Flipchart
  3. Markers
  4. Copies of the student handout
  5. Pencils
  6. Clipboards

Johnson’s book is a children’s adaptation of some of the work of Henry David Thoreau.  Johnson’s other books in the Henry series evoke the ideas in Walden beautifully and effectively.   I am a huge fan of the Henry series and find that the texts adapt for many purposes.  For example, I use Henry Hikes to Fitchburg for lessons on:

  • Beliefs and values
  • Transportation
  • Business/Economics

Also note that a lot of today’s children do not have experience completing these simple chores.  I am often shocked at how few of them have swept out a room.  Be careful with parts like “cleaning the henhouse.”  Most kids think that that means collecting eggs!

Key Terms:

Trains, Chores, Riding, Walking, Money, Nature, Values, Henry David Thoreau, Walden, Work

Amazon Link:

Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D.B. Johnson.

student handout:

Student Handout, Henry Hikes to Fitchburg

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