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The Boxcar Children Curriculum Guide -Discussion Guide and Writing Prompts

The Boxcar Children Curriculum Guide -Discussion Guide and Writing Prompts

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Teachers and parents will love utilizing this curriculum and discussion guide for The Boxcar Children. I’ve included discussion questions for each chapter, as well as a variety of writing prompts. Children will use critical thinking and deepen their comprehension as they connect their own life and experiences to the story and work to better understand the characters and events within the book.

 Boxcar Children Guide

boxcarBook: The Boxcar Children 

Author: Gertrude Chandler Warner

Independent Reading Level: Third Grade

Read-Aloud Interest Level: K-5


When I was younger, I used to sit and daydream about what life would be like in a boxcar. I was intrigued with the Alden children, and longed for their sense of adventure. Now as an adult and former educator, I applaud the author for creating children who were strong, independent, and self-reliant. The children were industrious eager workers, full of spirit and optimism. They exude contentment and consistently remain positive. Henry, Violet, Jessie, and Benny are perhaps four of the strongest literary role models for children.

The Boxcar Children   is a classic story that will continue to captivate young readers for decades to come.


Chapter 1

1. Why did Jessie choose to buy the bread, when the children had been thinking about the cake and cookies?

  • Think of a time when you had to choose something you needed over something you wanted? Write about the situation, and how you felt.
  • What is the difference between wanting something, and needing something? Make a list of 5-10 of your wants, and 5-10 of your needs.

2. The children said that their grandfather and the baker’s wife didn’t like them. Why did they feel that way?

  • Without using words, how can you show someone how you feel about them? Make a list sharing your ideas.

3. The children left the bakery in the middle of the night to protect Benny. What would you do to protect a sibling or a friend? Think of a time you’ve kept someone safe, or something you would do, and write about it.

Chapter 2

  • The children in the story were so thankful for simple things, like a water fountain and beds made of pine needles. What are some things that you use every day that you forget to be thankful for? Make a list, and then hang it up somewhere you will see it. Remember to be thankful each day.

Chapter 3

1. Can you imagine what life would be like if you lived in a boxcar? How would it be different than the home you live in now?

  • Create a Venn diagram showing the similarities and differences between your home, and the boxcar home the children lived in.

2. The story told us that Henry only had $4.00. He needed to buy food to feed four children for several days. If you had only $4, what would you buy if you had to feed four people?

Chapter 4

1. The children had two surprises for Henry. What were they?

  • Write or draw about a time you were surprised.

2. When the children picked blueberries, Benny had a hard time estimating the number of blueberries on the bush. An estimate is your “best guess” that you make based on what you know and can observe.

  • Practice doing some estimation. Have a friend or grown-up fill several different containers with various objects. Try to estimate how many are in each container. Once you’ve made your estimate, check your answer by counting up the objects. Were you close?

3. The children had to do their chores much differently than you do.

  • Write or draw about the way the boxcar children would have to do the following chores: laundry, dishes, floors, making the bed, cooking

Chapter 5

1. When you hear the word “treasure” what do you think about? What images come to mind? What did the children consider to be treasures? Why?

  • Think of some things that you waste or throw away that other people might treasure. Make a list.
  • Do you have anything that you could donate to someone?

Chapter 6

1.Henry  worked hard to provide for his family.

  • How do the people in your family provide for you?
  • Write a note of thanks to someone in your family. Thank them for the things they do for you.

2. The children had an attitude of gratitude. They were thankful for the little they had. Simple things like a cookie and a spoon made their whole day.

  • List ten small things you are thankful for.

Chapter 7

1. Each of the children enjoyed their work. They were eager to work and help.

  • What are some jobs/chores you enjoy doing now?
  • What type of work do you think you’d like to do as an adult?

2. The Boxcar Children were resourceful. That means they made good use out of what they had. They used the supplies they had in an efficient and creative way.

  • Write about a time you were resourceful.

Chapter 8

1. We see the theme of hard work repeated throughout The Boxcar Children. In this chapter, the children worked hard to create a swimming pool.

  • Write or draw about a time you worked hard to create something, then answer the following questions:
  1. Did you enjoy the process?
  2. What problems did you need to solve as you worked?
  3. Did you enjoy the result more because you worked hard for it?

Chapter 9

1. The doctor told the children, “You are better than most workers, because you are so happy.” Do you agree with him? Does a happy attitude make someone a better worker? Would you rather work with someone who was happy or upset?

  • List some ways you can work to improve your attitude during tasks/jobs you may not like.

2. Why do you think the doctor decided not to report the missing children?

Chapter 10

1. Henry wanted to run in the race, even though he didn’t think he could win. Do you choose activities because you are good at them, or because they make you happy?

2. During the race, Henry began to think about what the $25 could do for his family. The thought of earning the money to help his sisters and brother helped him to run faster. What motivates you?

3. The older children decided to help Benny learn to read. Think of something you can teach someone to do.

  • Write a “How-To” guide explaining the steps needed to do something. Write as if your audience had never done it before. Make sure to include all the steps and information.

Chapter 11

1. Dr. Moore knew exactly where the children lived. How do you think he knew where they had been staying?

2. In this chapter, we learn more about the children’s grandfather. Do you think the children are right to be afraid of him?

Chapter 12

1. The doctor knew the truth about Mr. Alden, but waited to tell Henry. He also waited to tell Mr. Alden about his grandchildren. Can you think of a time when you needed to share information right away and another when it was better to wait? How do you know when the right time to share information is?

2. The children had wrongly believed their grandfather was a mean man. Have you ever judged someone without getting to know them?

Chapter 13

1. The Alden children had a happy ending to their story. What makes a happy ending?

  • Write a few sentences about how each of the main characters contributed to a happy ending.

2. Write or draw about what the children and their grandfather might have been doing a year after this story ended.



Bekki Lindner

Writer, speaker,ministry leader, pastor's wife,mom of 4,lover of imagination,children's literature fanatic, and champion of mothers everywhere. Writer for Scholastic. #DisneySMMoms Also blog at:

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  1. Thank you for posting this. I am looking for a chapter by chapter questionnaire for the entire series. I am working with my second grader on reading comprehension and we are going through the box car children series at the moment. I want to be sure he is understanding what he is reading but every questionnaire I have found costs money. Do you know of one and preferably one that is free? Thank you again for posting this.

  2. Thank You!!!! I just found your site and I can’t wait for more 🙂 I have twin boys who are on very different reading levels. This would be a wonderful study for my more independent reader while I’m working with his brother.

  3. Do you have a discussion guide or writing prompts for the other books in the series? Thanks!

    • Not yet, but I hope to continue to add these for additional chapter books this year.

  4. Oh! these questions are so wonderful. I started reading the first book on a whim to my out of school care children (k/1’s) and they absolutely loved it. we just finished it on friday and I wish I had seen these questions while we were reading it.

    • Thank you!

  5. Thank you! I’m starting at 3rd grade book club for my daughter and this is the book that she chose. Now I have questions to ask. We are providing the book and reading the first two chapters as a group at our first meeting. Then meeting again in 3 weeks to discuss the book and read the last chapter together. (My daughters plan). But now my engineering brain – has a better summary of how to engage the kids.

    I’ve only read the first two chapters but I’m so in love that I want to create a STEAM exercise for them for the end of the for our last meeting with this book. I hope they pick another Boxcar Children book to read!

    • I’m so glad you found these questions helpful! This is one of my all-time favorite reads! If you do come up with a STEAM activity, I’d love to hear all about it. =)

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