Film Study of Johnny Tremain

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TSWBAT complete the Historical Fiction film study worksheet as they view the movie, Johnny Tremain.

Big Idea

Enjoy 80 minutes with Johnny Tremain and the Sons of Liberty.

Integration of Historical Fiction

The Fighting Ground by Avi, is the literature study I integrate during our Revolutionary War Unit, but I feel compelled to introduce the wonderful book, Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes, as well.  The ELA Common Core really prompts the idea of pairing texts- especially using primary sources and historical fiction novels. Through story excerpts, the students learn the gist of the novel and are able to relate it to the lessons and simulations learned in social studies class.  Both are quality books Revolutionary War Literature Integration. I wish there was enough class time for each, but I choose to conduct a study on The Fighting Ground due to its realistic portrayal of war and focus on a single character. Johnny Tremain is a classic novel that leads the reader through an engaging storyline full of the famous people the students have learned about and numerous main events leading up to the American Revolution.

The integration of a historical fiction literature study with our social studies unit is very important.  When the students can connect what they've learned with an engaging work of fiction it reinforces the subject.  I love coming to specific events or milestones in a novel and hearing the excitement in my students voices as they recognize it as something we learned in social studies.  It increases the quality of our discussion. 

Just because there are historical fiction novels to fit nearly every social studies topic, doesn't mean it should be done.  I went through a phase of trying to integrate a literature novel with each of my main social studies units.  What I found is that a substandard novel, though it may fit the bill, is boring for the kids - and to have your students disengaged is a terrible thing.  To sum it doesn't matter if the novel supplements your information.  When you dread "literature study time" because you have to spend time with, The Book, it's not worth it. 

Warm Up

10 minutes

With Boston, MA as the setting of Johnny Tremain it's a lively one for my students.  In our Colonist Journals, they moved to Boston in 1770, witnessing both the Boston Massacre, and the Boston Tea Party.  When either are mentioned, it's a cool moment of recognition for them.

I begin by Reviewing Protagonist/Antagonist on Smart Board.  Setting is very important and I put it out in front, as Boston is such a star of this film.  Understanding setting- both the time and the place, helps promote comprehension and engagement with the text.  The activity begins with a simple graphic organizer, "Setting the Scene" Setting is Important! to get the students thinking about Boston, MA in the 1770s.  Up to this point, they have seen a few documentary type video shorts of this revolutionary city, but nothing prolonged.  With the graphic organizer, they will begin by noting the time of the story and the place.  They must sketch their impression Students Setting the Scene in Boston of Boston and then make mention of if they'd like to visit someday.  They support their work What She Found Interesting... when they share with the class. Describing the Boston Scene  Explaining Her Setting Paper

This activity varies from the typcial because there isn't a whole lot of writing, but they enjoy the opportunity to sketch the setting, as something different.  In the application section, they will be writing throughout, so it complements it nicely.

Student examples: Not Visiting Boston

Boston Massacre Made an Impact

Finally...He Wants to See the Setting


30 minutes

For the duration of the movie Johnny Tremain, the students will have a "Historical Fiction Film Study Worksheet" in front of them. This worksheet will help them focus on important and relative themes of the movie as well as keep their concentration where it should be.  Although this is an excellent movie, it came out in 1957, Johnny Tremain Begins! and definitely shows it's age.  With the speed today's films move at, an older one can sometimes drag, and I heard a few complaints in the middle of the film.  Even so, they're looking forward to seeing it. Very Interested to See it on Screen By giving the kids an assignment as they watch, Working on the Film Study Worksheet they will pay attention Watching Intently even during the slower sections.

Students must be able to fluidly cite evidence from video and audio clips just as they do in books or with text.  In a tech savvy world, these 21st century skills are even more significant than they've been in the past.

The film study worksheet was sufficient in presenting the students the opportunity to gather appropriate data without overwhelming them.  Although they'd prefer to watch the movie free and clear of a worksheet, that wasn't the purpose because this just wasn't that kind of movie.  I was pleased with their responses, although we did have a bit of an issue with lighting...our Smart Board light bulb seemed dim, and to see the movie, the room had to be made as dark as possible.  I'm surprised the kids were able to write Finishing Pg. 1 of Film Study Worksheet as well as they did.

Fingers "Seared Together" like Johnny Tremain's.  They tried to imagine what it would be like not to have the full use of their hand.

Film Study Worksheet Ex #1 pg 1...Film Study Worksheet Ex #1 pg 2

Film Study Worksheet Ex #2 pg 1...Film Study Worksheet Ex #2 pg 2

Student Example 2



20 minutes

At the conclusion of the film, we have a critical discussion about what they just saw.  For instance, did the main events seem to be portrayed accurately?  Were the characters the way the students imagined them in the excerpts we read, or was a there a discrepancy?  After the kids have a chance to give their opinion about the film, I take it to the a different level.

As stated at the beginning of this lesson plan, I integrate the novel, The Fighting Ground as our literature connection, in addition to the excerpts of Johnny Tremain, they've also heard.  Now that the kids have a more complete picture of who and what Johnny is about, it's beneficial for them to do an activity Comparing and Contrasting Independently between the two boys.

Although a Venn Diagram is my "go to" compare and contrast organizer, I probably overuse it.  This time I chose to use the Double Bubble Thinking Map in order to show the similarities and differences Thinking About the Double Bubble between Jonathan from The Fighting Ground and Jonathan "Johnny" from Johnny Tremain.  In the book, Johnny is always Johnny, but early on in the movie he is referred to as "Jonathan Tremain."  This caused an immediate reaction from my class because I'd told them we'd be comparing the two boys after the movie.  It was seemingly easy for the kids to independently come up with similarities and differences, and they were eager to help me fill out the class double bubble map on the Smart Board to display their ideas Class ContributionsStudent Example Double Bubble Map.  Here a student shares her double bubble map Sharing Double Bubble Map with the class.

All three activities in this lesson blended together perfectly.  I'm eager to teach this lesson again, although I will make sure it's not so close to the beginning of Winter Break next time around!

Picture of our "Colonists in Crisis" simulation ending with our own version of fireworks! Colonists in Crisis Ends!