Read Chapter One aloud. By that I mean: bait your hook, cast your line, wait as your students eye the bait and wonder if it looks tasty, wait...gently...eeeaaasy, and when students realize that, yes, this does look awfully tasty and take a big bite, set the hook, reel them in, and assign Chapter Two. And be sure they have time to read immediately.
Do two character sketches of Brian focusing on physical and character traits. Make them life size. Trace the outline of a student, and draw Brian when he arrives in the woods. Include his supplies, clothing, and appearance. Around the outside of the picture write short descriptions of his "city boy" ways and beliefs. Be sure to mention all he doesn't know. The second sketch should show Brian's changes, both in physical appearance and knowledge. Brian truly is two different characters, one at the beginning and one at the end.
Research lists of "Top 10 Items Needed to Survive in the Wilderness" or have students develop their own list. Be sure to explain the reasons behind each item. Compare this list to Brian's supplies, and as you read, search for items Brian has that could be used to accomplish the same tasks.
Go online to a camping website like REI or Gander Mountain. Fill a shopping cart with necessary camping items. Students could be divided into groups. One group shops with no consideration to cost. A second group shops for high quality items, but under a given budget. A third group is totally budget shopping. Which group will do best? Sure, the first group has the best stuff, but can it all be carried into the woods? Is everything necessary? Maybe the third group found one item with multiple uses that can replace three other items and cut costs. Which group more closely will match Brian's experience?
Research Gary Paulsen's actual experiences. Read Guts: The True Stories Behind Hatchet and the Brian Books. Compare and contrast Paulsen's experiences to Brian's. (A great example is when Paulsen tried eating turtle eggs. Nauseating. Boys will love it. The groans will make the class next door wonder what you're teaching.)
Hatchet: 20th Anniversary Edition contains a new introduction and commentary throughout the book offering additional insight into Brian's story.
Split the class in two - boys and girls works well - and have half the class read Island of the Blue Dolphins. As students read, have them share what Brian and Karana face. The setting is completely different, as are their foods, clothing, and knowledge. But similar lessons are learned. Possibly, when one group shares insight into their character, the other group can use that knowledge to predict what will happen in their book. Despite the many differences in their circumstances, the lessons Brian and Karana learn are universal.
Feeling adventurous? Take kids out to the woods. Within reason, try to recreate situations faced by Brian. (Like the fishing or the fire making...not taunting a skunk or going between a mama bear and her cubs.)