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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Teacher Guide by Bridget Baudinet

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Student Activities for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Include:

Mark Twain’s classic story of a mischievous small-town boy, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer has entertained readers for nearly 150 years. Though set in a bygone era, Tom’s desires for fun and freedom still resonate with young readers today. Twain’s witty prose and the story’s exciting climax help explain why this novel remains a staple in today’s classrooms.

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




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Although published in 1876, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is set before the Civil War, sometime in the 1840s. While Twain certainly does not view this period as faultless, he depicts boyhood in this simpler time with an idyllic sort of freedom. Tom Sawyer lives in a rural community with easy access to woods, water, and caves - the perfect ingredients for an adventure. No factories, railroads, or mail-order-catalogues sully the quiet pleasures of the St. Petersburg community, a place where an old doorknob is enchanting enough to win the heart of the prettiest girl in school. The country setting also provides an ideal locale for Twain to showcase his criticism of the ignorance and hypocrisy of small-town America.

Twain’s social criticism makes his novel a satire, a form of writing that uses humor to criticize something. At various points, Twain employs hyperbole, understatement, irony, and comic juxtaposition to build humor. The result of these comic episodes is often a subtle critique of respected social institutions, including church communities, schools, temperance societies, and the courtroom. Younger students often struggle to pick up on this humor. Providing them with background on the characteristics of satire may help them more readily recognize this device in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.


Essential Questions for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

  1. How does Twain portray adults in the novel? Do you think he is accurate?
  2. What social institutions does Twain criticize in the novel?
  3. How does Tom mature throughout the novel?
  4. Is Tom “bad” or “good”? How does your opinion compare with the opinion of the St. Petersburg community?
  5. In what ways can society’s expectations both help and hurt people?

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer 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 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Plot Diagram

Exposition

Tom Sawyer lives in St. Petersburg, Missouri with his Aunt Polly, cousin Mary, and brother Sid. Tom is a mischievous twelve-year-old with a vivid imagination. He routinely skips school and chores in favor of playing pirates, robbers, and other adventures with his friends.


Conflict

During one of Tom’s midnight adventures with his friend Huck, the two witness Injun Joe murder Dr. Robinson. When they discover that Muff Potter has been arrested for the murder, they are too afraid to reveal the truth.


Rising Action

When Injun Joe disappears, Tom returns to his old ways. He and his friends run away to Jackson’s Island and return days later to attend their own funeral. Later, they spy Injun Joe returned in disguise with a secret treasure. Fascinated, Huck stays in town to watch Joe, while Tom goes on an outing with Becky Thatcher to McDougal’s cave.


Climax

Huck overhears Injun Joe’s plans to kill the Widow Douglas. He runs for help just in time to save her. Shortly afterward, Tom spots Injun Joe in the cave.


Falling Action

The Widow Douglas takes in Huck and cares for him while he is sick. Tom and Becky escape from the cave, and Judge Thatcher seals it up, unwittingly trapping Injun Joe and causing his death by starvation.


Resolution

Tom and Huck uncover Injun Joe’s treasure in the cave. Between their adventures, heroism, and newfound wealth, the two have become a celebrated pair in St. Petersburg.



The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Plot Diagram
Create your own at Storyboard That EXPOSITION CONFLICT RISING ACTION CLIMAX FALLING ACTION RESOLUTION Tom Sawyer lives in St. Petersburg, Missouri with his Aunt Polly, cousin Mary, and brother Sid. Tom is a mischievous twelve-year-old with a vivid imagination. He routinely skips school and chores in favor of playing pirates, robbers, and other adventures with his friends. During one of Tom’s midnight adventures with his friend Huck, the two witness Injun Joe murder Dr. Robinson. When they discover that Muff Potter has been arrested for the murder, they are too afraid to reveal the truth. When Injun Joe disappears, Tom returns to his old ways. He and his friends run away to Jackson’s Island and return days later to attend their own funeral. Later, they spy Injun Joe returned in disguise with a secret treasure. Fascinated, Huck stays in town to watch Joe, while Tom goes on an outing with Becky to McDougal’s cave. He and Becky separate from the group and become hopelessly lost in the cave. In town, Huck overhears Injun Joe’s plans to kill the Widow Douglas and risks his neck to send help. Back in the cave, Tom is desperately looking for a way out of the cave when he spots Injun Joe in the cave. Safe from Injun Joe, Widow Douglas takes in Huck and cares for him while he is sick. Tom and Becky escape from the cave, and Judge Thatcher seals it up, unwittingly trapping Injun Joe and causing his death by starvation. Tom and Huck uncover Injun Joe’s treasure in the cave. Between their adventures, heroism, and newfound wealth, the two become a celebrated pair in St. Petersburg. Y-o-u-u- Tom!!