Theme: The Revolutionary War
Grades: Grades 7-8
Johnny Tremain is a historical novel about a young boy in colonial
Boston. Johnny is a talented but arrogant silversmith's apprentice whose
life is turned upside-down when he injures his hand. In time he becomes
a messenger boy on horseback for the Sons of Liberty and meets most
of the famous founding fathers: John Adams, Sam Adams, James Otis, Paul
Revere, and John Hancock. He becomes a spy for the Sons of Liberty,
takes part in the Boston Tea Party, and struggles with loss at the battles
of Lexington and Concord.
- Tapping Prior Knowledge: The Revolutionary War.
Ask students to work in small groups to discuss what they know about
the American Revolution. Have them make notes of their discussion
so they can share their information with other groups. Encourage students
to consider the causes of the war, the attitudes of the colonists,
and the position of the British. After the groups have prepared their
notes, have a volunteer in each group summarize their discussion so
that groups can compare their conclusions. Point out different opinions
among the groups on the cause of the war and the attitudes of the
colonists and the Crown. Have students consider what accounts for
different views about a historic event.
- When is a War Justified?
Have students explore American involvement in wars since the country's
inception. They can do some research or simply work from their own
knowledge. Have students compare American attitudes toward various
wars: World War II, Vietnam, the Korean Conflict, Operation Desert
Storm, and so forth. After students finish their discussion, have
everyone make a list of conditions under which Americans believe war
is justified. You can use students' feedback to facilitate a debate,
or simply have students read their lists and note that people will
always have differing opinions about the circumstances under which
war is justified.
Suggest that students make a map based on locations and routes mentioned
in the novel. For example, they might map Boston locations, such
as the Common, Paul Revere's house, Old North Church, and Hancock's
wharf; the route that Johnny took when delivering papers; or the
British troop movements toward Lexington.
- Revolutionary Scenes.
Invite students with artistic ability to draw battle scenes at Lexington
and Concord, using in part the descriptions in the novel as a guide.
They can alternatively take different scenes of Boston described by
Forbes and draw them.
- Tell Us More.
Have students choose one historical figure who plays a part in the
novel about whom they would like to know more. Instruct them to research
that person and write a biographical sketch about him.
- History, In-Depth.
Have students research to find out more about one of the historical
events mentioned in the novel. Have them write a research paper about