Into The Wild (I)

“Adventure is a state of mind and spirit” Jacqueline Cochran


Project focused on the book Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer and the film directed by Sean Penn

Skills involved: listening comprehension, vocabulary, geography, critical thinking and speaking


This film itself is a real challenge. The plot, the content, everything has a meaning. A boy with excellent grades and everything to succeed, decides to give up everything and start a journey around the United States to finally settle down in Alaska and live like people used to do, to live from the land. In fact, this is the real story of Christopher McCandless who reinvented himself as Alexander Supertramp, a journey that still nowadays, arise some many unanswered questions.

The feature itself is very enjoyable to watch because of the landscapes but the story goes back and forth and some technical vocabulary and slang are used so to make our students understand the story, some warming-up activities are highly recommended to do previous to the viewing.

Warm-up activity

Let’s start with a warm-up activity in order to know your students better and how adventurous they are. Tell them they are on an organiser canoeing trip in Colorado. Neither them, nor their friends have much experience canoeing. Will they make it to the end?

Here the quiz:

1. At the start, the instructions are being given out. Do you…

A.listen attentively?

B.hear about half of it; most of the time you were chatting with your friend?

C.keep your MP3 on and forget about the world?

2. You realise that everyone else is canoeing faster than you and your friend. Do you…

A.suggest it would be better to get out of the canoe and walk?

B.look at what they are doing and trying to copy them?

C.not worry about it, you are enjoying the view anyway.

3. You see your first rapids ahead, do you…

A.go for it?


C.suggest stopping to look and discuss how to go down it?

4. While going down the rapids, do you…

A.try to stop the boat turning over?



5. You stop to eat lunch in a nice place. Do you…

A.relax and enjoy the view?

B.decide it is a good place to stop and camp for a few days?

C.stay standing because you read there are some snakes in the area?

After doing the quiz, ask your students to share the answers to one another and make them decide who the most adventurous, the least, the inbetweeners. Tell them to stand up and mingle around the class to do this activity and finally gather in those those three groups. To the most adventurous, you’ll say: ‘if you’re not in hospital you have a lucky escape. Try recreational canoeing next time.To least adventurous: ‘you haven’t made to the end and you’re not worried about it. You are probably still enjoying the view somewhere along the river. Don’t try a marathon canoeing – you’ll never get to the end‘. Finally, to the inbetweeners you’ll announce: ‘ well done. You have made it to the end and you have enjoyed yourself’

Then, ask in turns if they agree to the quiz and what do they think it makes someone to be more or less adventurous, you may need to write words and collocations on the board like ‘take risks‘, ‘lose patience‘, ‘swallow your pride’,’reveal my true character‘ etc.

Vocabulary activity:

When you see that the debate is losing some intensity, project on the board four pictures and tell them to describe them without saying the name of the activity. Later, write the words whitewater rafting, sea kayaying, hiking and backpacking. Ask you students to match the words with the pictures. Repeat the activity but with materials like binoculars, compass (false friends for Spanish speakers), hiking boots, water-proof clothing.

Now, announce that the film they are going to watch is in English with subtitles in English and they might not understand all the words. Therefore, you’re going to give to them and they’ll write the different definitions and at the end of each session of watching the film, you’ll give 5 minutes to underline the most accurate meaning in the context of the film. Here the list: a tramp, rambling, aesthetic, flash flood, to stroll out, irksome, to get over, embolden, dumb, journey, insight, the apple of my eye, footloose, to summon, caution, edible, pricks, warmth, workshop, to tease, borders, to paddle down, to hitchhike, to share, to shut down, supply, staggering, tank, sewer, grain elevator, to vault, fence, aesthetic voyageur, to reach out, to grab, to lay down, secluded life, mate, to conceal, wisdom, flesh, to wound, to heal, ceiling, to trap, scared, destitute, dirt, that’s a shame, it is not my cup of tea, steep, halfway, to engrave, malleable, to harden, rapid, to stand for, stubborn, core, pinhead, starvation, grizzly.
While watching the film: geography & culture

Ask your students to list the 14 places where Alexander Supertramp stopped by:

expected answers: Atlanta (Georgia),Great Salt Lake (Utah), Carthage (South Dakota), Reno (Nevada), Pacific Crest Trail (Oregon and California), San Francisco and Los Angeles (California), Lake Mead (Nevada and Arizona), Grand Canyon (Colorado and Utah), Colorado River (Utah, Arizona and Mexico), Slab City (California), Yukon Territory (Canada)Fairbanks (Alaska) and Mont McKinley (Alaska).

grand canyon

After this, they must explain how much time did he spend in each place. This exercise will increase their awareness on American geography due to the fact that they will trace in chronological order Alexander’s journey on a map.

Some research about some outstanding places in the United States should be done by the students. Make it clear that they mustn’t copy anything from the internet, they should rephrase and summarise the information given: the Pacific Crest Trail, the Slab City, the Mont McKinley, the Lake Mead, the Colorado River, Carthage and Fairbanks. It would be very interesting to relate those places to feelings and states of mind that the main character.

The story behind the myth:

The life of Christopher McCandless was premiered in cinemas in 2007, its success was quite controversial as well as the main character considered a hero by some people and a fool by others. Why is that?

After graduating from Emory University, top student and athlete Christopher abandons his possessions, gives his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters that shape his life.

Post-watching activities:

Comprehension questions

In order to check that our students have understood the film, ask your student to write in pairs the answer of the following questions

  1. Why does he change his name to Alexander Supertramp?
  2. Explain his relationship with his parents.
  3. How does his sister feel during his disappearance?
  4. What is the final goal of his journey?

Describe his relationship with:

  1. Jan Burres & Rainey.
  2. Wayne Westerberg
  3. Tracy Tatro
  4. Ron Franz


Krakauer, J ; Into the Wild , Villar Publisher, 1996

Penn, S; Into the Wild DVD, Paramount Vantage, 2007


If you’re interesd in the paper worksheets and answers, please contact me.

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