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Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

Teacher Guide by Bridget Baudinet

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our Middle School ELA Category!

Student Activities for Johnny Tremain Include:

Johnny Tremain has long been a staple in the classroom. Winner of the 1943 Newbery Medal, the novel is an outstanding example of historical fiction. So successful is author Esther Forbes at bringing to life the people, places, and events leading up to the American Revolution, that the novel is often read in conjunction with the study of the American Revolution in history classes. Some students will derive more lasting knowledge from the vivid adventures of the fictional Johnny Tremain than from any history textbook! Published during WWII, Johnny Tremain shows the way young people are caught up in and shaped by war and the forces of change that it brings. The novel invokes patriotism without glamorizing war and gives a balanced portrayal of the humanity of both sides engaged in the conflict.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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Introduction

Much of Johnny Tremain’s enduring popularity rests in its meticulous attention to historical detail. The world of 18th century Boston comes to life in Forbes’s story, as do a number of famous historical events and figures. The novel includes minute details about the Boston Tea party, Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride, and the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Historical figures include Sam Adams, Paul Revere, Robert Newman, James Otis, Dr. Joseph Warren, Dr. Benjamin Church, Josiah Quincy, John Hancock, William (Billy) Dawes, the Reverend Samuel Cooper, Governor Hutchinson, General Gage, and General Earl Percy. Students should be aware that Johnny, the Laphams, the Lytes, and the Silsbees/Lornes are fictional, but that most other characters with both first and last names are based on real people. For this reason, Johnny Tremain pairs nicely with history classes and/or research assignments. Students may benefit from learning a little background on the pivotal players and events. Check out some helpful storyboard background at Storyboard That’s history teacher guides: Events and Causes Leading up to the American Revolution (1607-1776) and The American Revolution.

The various trades depicted in Johnny Tremain also add historical realism to the novel. When the novel opens, Johnny is a silversmith. Because this profession is little known today, students will benefit from a little background on it. Youtube includes several helpful videos on blacksmiths, though not silversmiths. Teachers might also preview the following trade-specific vocabulary used in the novel: smith, crucible, ingot, anvil, hood, cast, annealing furnace. Historically, Paul Revere was a famous silversmith, and additional information can be found in researching him. The Paul Revere Memorial Association provides helpful information, including photos of Revere’s surviving silver work.

The importance of printers in fomenting revolutionary fervor is also clearly conveyed in Johnny Tremain. The Observer’s Club, which meets in the loft above Uncle Lorne's print shop, is based upon the real historical Long Room Club which met above the print shop of the Boston Gazette. The following link contains interesting background information on the Long Room Club and its members (many of which were included in Forbes’s Observer’s Club) along with a number of related primary documents: http://www.masshist.org/education/resources/blackington/blackington_complete.pdf

The print shop in which the meetings took place also has a useful website, which can be accessed at http://bostongazette.org/about.


Essential Questions for Johnny Tremain

  1. What were some of the events and causes that led up to the American Revolution?
  2. What role do our friends and the people around us play in shaping our characters?
  3. What kinds of ideals are worth killing and dying for?
  4. Can both sides in a war be both good and bad?
  5. How does Johnny Tremain’s character change over the course of the book?
  6. What role did the printing press play in the Revolution?


Johnny Tremain Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Johnny Tremain Summary


Copy Assignment



A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a story. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and help students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a work with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the story in sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.



Example Johnny Tremain Plot Diagram

Exposition

Johnny Tremain is an apprentice to Mr. Lapham, a Boston silversmith. The whole Lapham family admires Johnny for his talents and intelligence. Johnny is proud of his abilities and confidently plans to take over his master's shop and marry Cilla Lapham in a few years.


Conflict

When Johnny burns his hand in a silversmithing accident, his life falls apart. His future as a silversmith is over, his betrothal to Cilla is canceled, and his position in the Lapham household sinks rapidly.


Rising Action

Johnny begins a new life living with the Lornes and working with the Sons of Liberty. He participates in the Boston Tea Party and supports the Patriots' cause as a paperboy and messenger.


Climax

The first battle of the Revolutionary War is fought at Lexington and Concord. There is no turning back.


Falling Action

After the battle, Johnny searches all over for Rab. Shortly after Johnny locates him, Rab dies of a battle wound.


Resolution

Johnny takes Rab's gun and learns from Dr. Warren that his hand can be fixed. Johnny is ready to take Rab's place and fight for a new nation.



Johnny Tremain Plot Diagram
Create your own at Storyboard That EXPOSITION CONFLICT RISING ACTION CLIMAX FALLING ACTION RESOLUTION Johnny Tremain is an apprentice to Mr. Lapham, a Boston silversmith. The whole Lapham family admires Johnny for his talents & intelligence. Johnny is proud of his abilities and confidently plans to take over his master's shop and marry Cilla Lapham in a few years. When Johnny burns his hand in a silversmithing accident, his life falls apart. His future as a silversmith is over, his betrothal to Cilla is canceled, and his position in the Lapham household sinks rapidly. Johnny begins a new life living with the Lornes and working with the Sons of Liberty. He participates in the Boston Tea Party and supports the Patriots' cause as a paper boy and messenger. The first battle of the Revolutionary War is fought at Lexington and Concord. There is no turning back. After the battle, Johnny searches all over for Rab. Shortly after Johnny locates him, Rab dies of a battle wound. Johnny takes Rab's gun and learns from Dr. Warren that his hand can be fixed. Johnny is ready to take Rab's place and fight for a new nation.