The Broken Blade

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In 1800, 13-year-old Pierre La Page never imagined he'd be leaving Montreal to paddle 2,400 miles. It was something older men, like his father, did. But when Pierre's father has an accident, Pierre quits school to become a voyageur for the North West Company, so his family can survive the winter. It's hard for Pierre as the youngest in the brigade. From the treacherous waters and cruel teasing to his aching and bloodied hands, Pierre is miserable. Still he has no choice but to endure the trip to Grand Portage and back.
Curriculet Details
34 Questions
34 Annotations
3 Quizzes

This free digital curriculum for elementary school students contains interactive videos exploring character traits and setting, as well as annotations describing key vocabulary, historical background and text to self connections. Students will explore the themes of growing up and adventure. The Common Core aligned questions, answers and quizzes in this free online unit will increase student engagement in the book while supporting reading comprehension.

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Chapter 1 - An Errant Stroke

The Broken Blade, by William Durbin, is the story of 13-year-old Pierre La Page who quits school to become a voyageur after his father is injured and can no longer work. Can you recall a time when you had to make a sacrifice to help your family?  
While Pierre is sleeping, his father is injured while he is __________.  
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently... Is there a word on this page you need to look up? 

Chapter 2 - Pierre's Plan

Why does Pierre feel that he is the cause of his father's injury? 
Read the definition for the word, "mocassins." The image below shows what moccasins look like.  (This annotation contains an image)
Explain why Pierre decides to quit school to work as a voyageur.  
The following video will explain the type of work that Pierre will be doing as a voyageur. Think about how difficult this job will be for a young boy who is not yet a man. Pierre is making a huge sacrifice to support his family.  (This annotation contains a video)
Why is Pierre feeling uneasy about his decision to work as a voyageur?  
Read the highlighted passage. Did you know that the word, "petite" means small? Are you surprised to learn that La Petite is the biggest Frenchman Pierre has ever seen?  
Why do the voyageurs give Pierre the nickname, Grandpa?   

Chapter 3 - Adieu

The highlighted passage is important because Pierre's father is giving him advice on how to conduct himself as a voyageur. Do you think Pierre will fit in with his crew? Make a prediction.  
Describe how Pierre is feeling about his upcoming adventure as a voyageur. Include details from the text to support your answer.  

Chapter 4 - Departure

Read the definitions for the following words, which may be unfamiliar to you: "breechclouts," "gunwales," and "vermilion-tipped." The following image shows what the gunwales of a canoe look like.  (This annotation contains an image)
Why must the voyageurs sit still as they paddle? .  
In Greek mythology, Aeneas was a Trojan who escaped from Troy when the Greeks captured it during the Trojan War. The image below shows a sculpture of Aeneas.  (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following words has the same meaning as the word, "portaging"?  

Chapter 5 - Massacre Island

As you read, think about the personality traits of the characters in the story. For example, which traits are revealed through a character's thoughts, words or actions? The following video will explain how to identify character traits.  (This annotation contains a video)
Describe the difficulties that Pierre faces on his first paddle as a voyageur. Include details from the text to support your answer.  
The highlighted passage is significant because it reveals the differences in Pierre's and Emile's personalities and backgrounds. Pierre is a bright student who enjoys reading and studying. His teachers feel that he has many promising career options. On the contrary, Emile has grown up working on a farm and he struggled in school. Thus, he prefers manual labor over academics. Do you think that Pierre is compromising his future by working as a voyageur instead of being in school? Do you think his priorities and personality will change now that he is doing physical labor and not focusing on his studies?  
Why does Pierre decide to drink liquor with the older voyageurs?  
The word, "hivernant" is French for "winterer." It refers to fur trade employees who winter in the wilderness.  
What does the chapter title, "Massacre Island" refer to?   

Chapter 6 - First Light

In the highlighted passage, Pierre reveals he is thinking about giving up and returning home. Can you recall a time when you were faced with a difficult task and you thought about giving up? How did you feel when you persevered and accomplished the task?  
Describe the bet that the other voyageurs place on Pierre. Include an explanation of how the winner of the bet is decided in your response.  

Chapter 7 - The Long Sault

The highlighted passage contains an example of the constant teasing Pierre faces from his fellow voyageurs. In this instance, Pierre decides to laugh along with them rather than show them that the teasing angers him. What character traits are revealed by Pierre's actions?  
Read the highlighted passage. What is the meaning of the phrase, "To paddle properly you must forget you are paddling."?  
Pay attention to the highlighted passage because it reveals a dilemma voyageurs often face: should they stay in their canoes and brave treacherous rapids, or carry their canoes on a long, tough journey? Which would you prefer if you were a voyageur?  
Why does La Londe give Pierre a fancy knife as a gift?  

Chapter 8 - Night of the Kettle Dance

As you read, pay attention to the details in the text because they will help you draw inferences from the text. The following video will explain how to make inferences.  (This annotation contains a video)
Summarize how La Londe came to be a voyaguer and why he loves the voyaguer life. Include details from the text to support your answer.   
Pierre is disgusted by the meal that is being served for dinner, and Beloit constantly taunting him is making the situation worse. However, he must eat it because he needs strength. Can you recall a time when you were forced to eat something that disgusted you? Can you relate to Pierre's feelings?  
Which of the following activities take place at a kettle dance?  
Quiz 1  

Chapter 9 - A Long Day's Paddle

Read the highlighted passage and think about the relationship between Pierre and La Londe. What acts of kindness has La Londe done for Pierre? In what ways is he a father figure to Pierre?  
Who does Pierre think about to distract himself from the pains of paddling?  

Chapter 10 - The Confluence of the Mattawa

The Mattawa River is a river in central Ontario, Canada. It flows east and enters the Ottawa River at the town of Mattawa. It is 76 km in length. The following video shows what one would see as they canoe on the Mattawa River. Think about the setting of the story as you watch the video.  (This annotation contains a video)

Chapter 11 - The French River

Which of the following words has the same meaning as the highlighted word, "overexuberant"?  
Every story has a narrator or narrators, the person or people who tell the story. Every story also has a point of view, the perspective from which a story is told. The perspective can be from different people or one person. There are two main types of point of view. First Person: The narrator uses first person pronouns such as “I”, “me”, and “my” to tell the story. The narrator is a character in the story. The following video will describe third-person point of view.  (This annotation contains a video)
Describe the setting of the French River and the challenges Pierre and his crewmembers face as they travel through it.  
Pay attention to the highlighted passage because it reveals La Londe's heroic act of saving the canoe from destruction.  

Chapter 12 - A Broken Blade

Based on the highlighted passage, you can infer that _____________.  

Chapter 13 - La Cloche Rock

For the first time in his life, Pierre is dealing with the death of someone close to him. It is also the first death he has witnessed on his journey as a voyageur. Although, Pierre is still a boy, his new life as a voyageur is forcing him to grow up fast.  
Read the highlighted sentence. Which of the following best explains the meaning of Charbonneau's words?  
The highlighted passage reveals that Beloit continues to bully Pierre. Think of a time when someone bullied you. What advice would you give to Pierre to deal with the constant bullying he faces?  
Who is the narrator of the story?  

Chapter 14 - Huron's Revenge

As you read, pay attention to the descriptive details of the story's setting. For example, what have you learned about the Northwest Territory and life in the early 1800's? The following video will explain the importance of setting in literature.  (This annotation contains a video)
How does Charbonneau save Pierre from falling out of the canoe?  

Chapter 15 - Dégradé

The highlighted word, "degrade" means that the crew is grounded until the weather changes.  
In addition to being a bully, Beloit can be described as _________.  

Chapter 16 - Prettying Up

The Ojibwa Indians are one of the largest groups of Native Americans in North America. Ojibwa women were farmers and did most of the child care and cooking. Men were hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Both genders practiced story-telling, artistic expression, and medicine. The Ojibwa Indian tribe was well-known for their birchbark canoes. The following image shows what the Ojibwa Indians looked like in the 1800's.  (This annotation contains an image)
Quiz 2  
Describe how Pierre finally stands up to Beloit and how Beloit reacts to Pierre's boldness.  

Chapter 17 - Grand Portage

Have you determined the themes in The Broken Blade? The following video will explain how to determine a theme in literature.  (This annotation contains a video)
In what way does Mukwa look different than other Native Americans Pierre has encountered?  
As you read Chapter 17, think about the setting and descriptive details of Grand Portage. Today, Grand Portage National Monument is located on the north shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. It preserves the center of fur trade activity and Ojibwa heritage. The Grand Portage is an 8.5-mile path, passing waterfalls and rapids that flow into Lake Superior. This path is part of the historic trade route of the French-Canadian voyageurs between their wintering grounds and their forts. The image below shows Grand Portage National Monument.  (This annotation contains an image)
Why is Pierre feeling embarrassed?  

Chapter 18 - Mukwa's Wigwam

Pay attention to the highlighted passage because it reveals the value of the various furs during the fur trade.  
Summarize how Charbonneau met Mukwa and explain why they are good friends.  
Pierre had a wonderful evening visiting Mukwa's wigwam and getting to know his family. The image below shows the inside of an Ojibwa wigwam.  (This annotation contains an image)

Chapter 19 - Rendezvous

What is the meaning of the Ojibwa word, "Gitchegammi?"  

Chapter 20 - Rubbaboo

Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de La Vérendrye is best known for his explorations of the northern U.S. and Canadian provinces. He is now regarded as one of the greatest explorers of the Canadian West. La Vérendrye built a series of trading posts with his two sons and pushed west, exploring surrounding territory as he went. His image is below.  (This annotation contains an image)
Pierre values education, but also longs for a life of ________.  
The voyageurs are racing their canoes to Nipigon Point on the Nipigon River, located in Northwestern Ontario, Canada. The river flows from Lake Nipigon to Lake Superior. The following video shows the Nipigon River.  (This annotation contains a video)
According to Charbonneau, the speed of a canoe is based on the type and quality of the canoe as well as the ________ of the paddlers.  

Chapter 21 - Homeward Bound

In the highlighted passage, Pierre reveals that he is still haunted by the senseless death of La Londe. Pierre has faced many changes, challenges and grown up experiences on his journey as a voyageur. Have you identified the themes of growing up and facing new experiences in the story?  
Think about the highlighted passage where Charbonneau describes his thoughts about rivers. Describe the shifts and changes in Pierre's life since he left home for his adventure as a voyaguer.  

Chapter 22 - The Last Portage

Pierre is feeling very homesick and can't wait to return home to his family after months of adventure as a voyageur. Can you recall a time when you were feeling homesick?  
Why does Pierre decide not to warn Nolin about the trick?  

Chapter 23 - The Woodpile

The highlighted passage is significant because it reveals the central theme of the story. Have you identified the main theme?  
Describe an example of how the theme of adventure is evident in the story.  

Homework #32

Quiz 3