Region 8 Curriculum Unit
5th Grade Social Studies
Johnny Tremain
6 weeks

Enduring Understandings
Essential Questions
State Standards
Key Knowledge and Skills
Performance Tasks
Other Evidence of Learning
Learning Activities
Teaching Materials & Technology


This unit presents an integrated language arts/history unit for high ability 5th grade readers. Using the novel Johnny Tremain as a vehicle, students will discuss the historic fiction genre, analyze character development, write creatively from a character’s perspective using first person voice, examine personal and historical perspectives on the American Revolution, analyze the 1st amendment and why it was adopted, and examine primary resources as a historic tool. .........back

Enduring Understandings: Essential Questions:
Freedom is not free, it is achieved through struggle and carries responsibilities. • What do you mean when you say you want to be free?
• What are the responsibilities of freedom?
• Who is responsible for bringing about change?
A revolution is not always political or violent. • What is a “revolution”?
It is usually the minority, not the majority who initiate change • Why do revolutions happen?
Freedom of expression can bring about revolution How do people achieve political freedom?
• How do people achieve personal freedom?
• Can you be free without freedom of expression?

State Standards Learned:

1.2 LA: Answers literal and inferential questions about grade-appropriate books read aloud by the teacher and about own reading in context (at instructional level)
1.3 LA: Interprets text according to such features as character development, conflict/theme, and supports with data from the text.
3.3 LA: With some guidance, uses all aspects of a writing process in producing fluent compositions and reports, including taking responsibility for editing of spelling and mechanics
3.3 LA: Writes in complete and varied sentences
1.1 LA: Applies comprehension strategies when reading grade appropriate text (narrative, expository, poetry) and text structures (1.1)
1,2,4,SS: Read or locate primary sources of historical data, identify main ideas, and analyze their quality and meaning (1,2,4)
5.5 SS: Outline and detail the relationship between rights and responsibilities and the role of citizens and citizenship in that system
5 SS: Identify and explain the key documents that guide and outline our system of state and national government.
7 SS: Describe the role the Constitution plays in limiting the power of the government. . .........back

Key Knowledge and Skills Learned:


• The underlying causes of the American Revolution, including prior events that helped to bring about revolution.
• The Boston Tea Party did not cause the American Revolution
• The definition of revolution.
• That there have been a variety of revolutions, including in industry, technology and the arts.
• We have personal revolutions.
• Opposing views of Whigs and Tories.
• Meaning and intent of the 1st amendment to the U.S. Constitution
• Who the “framers” were of the U.S. Constitution.
• Why the Bill of Rights was added to the U.S. Constitution.


• Discuss the personal responsibilities of freedom.
• Read critically, and interpret, diverse points of view.
• Empathize with and defend both the Whig and Tory viewpoints.
• Identify Johnny Tremain’s character traits.
• Identify and describe personal revolution
• Empathize with Johnny.
• Integrate new vocabulary into their writing.
• Locate primary resources in print and on-line. .........back

Performance Tasks/Authentic Assessments:

Over the years, historians have learned quite a bit of history from personal journals left behind in attics, old trunks, and dresser drawers. These primary resources give us a firsthand look at the lives and history of people during other historical times. You are going to recreate such a journal.

You are Johnny Tremain. Throughout your reading of the novel you will keep a journal of your (Johnny’s) experiences. The experiences that you describe should include those that are related to your personal life and those that are related to the political environment of pre-revolution Boston. Sometimes your personal experiences will be caused by the political environment. You should write these journal entries as if you are in Johnny’s shoes – write from your heart and show Johnny’s reactions to his experiences. Do not simply summarize events. Your journal entries should include specific examples of Johnny’s struggles for both personal and political freedom.

You may include illustrations if they enhance Johnny’s sharing of his feelings. Once all of your journal entries are written, a classmate, friend, or other person who reads your journal should be able to understand the struggles that Johnny endured to become the person he is at the end of the book. Your journal should also reflect the historic period in which Johnny lived. You may use any font or style of presentation, but you must meet the guidelines of this assignment. If you type, please double space. If you hand write, please skip lines.

Always keep the image in your mind of your journal being discovered in the dusty corner of an old colonial home. Perhaps in the attic, perhaps on a bookcase. What would you like the child who discovers your words on the yellowed and brittle pages to know about you/Johnny?

Save all of your journal entries as they are returned to you. We will review them as a whole at the end of the unit. When you read them as a whole you will get to see the full picture of how you have interpreted Johnny’s development and the historical period.

Your journal will be scored according to this rubric.

Task #2 Final Essay Assignment: Select one of the essay assignments below.

This essay assignment is an opportunity for you to reflect upon the Johnny Tremain novel as a whole. You should approach this assignment with much thought. Your essay should show that you understand Johnny and/or the historical period well. If you type this assignment, please double space. If you handwrite the assignment, please skip lines.

Choice #1:

We have spent time in class discussing Johnny’s personal struggle for freedom from the negative influences of personal pride. In chapter VII, scene 4, Johnny realizes that “the bright little silversmith’s apprentice was no more”. How do you think Johnny has changed by the end of the book? Has he achieved the personal freedom for which he struggled? Be sure to show how events and people in the novel contributed to the changes in Johnny. For instance, how does the injury to his hand help him to change? How does Rab help him to change? How does the political climate affect Johnny? You should look back through your journal entries to help you with this essay.

Once again, take on the character of Johnny Tremain and write in the first person narrative. Use a friendly letter format and have Johnny write to one of the following people for the reason listed:
• Priscilla: trying to convince her to marry him.
• Paul Revere: trying to convince him to hire him.
• His diary: as a final, reflective journal entry


Choice #2:

During class we discussed Sam Adams’ comment that “. . . without you printers the cause of liberty would be lost.” Please explain what you think Sam Adams means by this. How do you think beliefs such as his influenced the writing of the first amendment to the United States Constitution? Use specific examples from the book and from history. Please end your essay by describing two issues about which you feel very strongly and would be willing to speak out about despite obstacle or difficult consequences that might result. You should look back at the assignment called “That A Man Can Stand Up” to help you with ideas for this essay. Make sure that your essay reflects your feelings about free speech. You might want to write a letter to the editor of one of our local papers as a follow up to this assignment!Choice #3: We have talked in class about the conflict Johnny feels between his support for the Sons of Liberty and his ability to see the British soldiers as individuals, not just as targets. On page 201 is the following paragraph:

That night, for one horrible moment he was glad his hand was crippled.
He would never have to face the round eye of death at the end of a musket. For days he felt his own inadequacy. Was the ‘bold Johnny Tremain’ really a coward at heart?

Please answer the question, was Johnny Tremain “really a coward at heart?”. When you write this essay, use a friendly letter format. Write either from your own perspective or from the perspective of one of the characters in the novel. Make sure you use examples from the book to support your ideas..........back

Other Evidence of Learning:

Vocabulary worksheets
Letter to the Editor (perspective)
Class discussions
Oral and written responses to essential questions
Worksheets e.g. That a Man Can Stand Up. .........back

Learning Activities:

- Have tea served for each student upon arrival for first class. Pose question: What caused the American Revolution?

- Have the essential questions mounted on colorful paper and posted on bulletin board.

- Work in small groups to brainstorm definition of “revolution” and types of revolutions. Have Beatles’ song “Revolution 1” playing. As a whole group, discuss responses. Ask, “Why do we have revolutions?”

- Distribute the performance task assessments (journal, final essay) and rubrics. Review program expectations.

- Review extra credit project choices, including researching and planning a Colonial Era tea party for the class.

- Vocabulary worksheets for each weekly assignment. This is for purpose of expanding ability to communicate effectively ideas and feelings in journal entries.

- Brainstorm pros and cons of personal pride. Discuss within small groups. Relate to Johnny Tremain and to personal experiences.

- Literary elements worksheet discussion of character development.

- Use literature circle format for some chapter discussions

- Students write Letter to the Editor about the Boston Tea Party. Must write from either the Tory or the Whig perspective, as assigned by the teacher. Discuss tea party and its place in pre-revolution events. Ask, did you ever stop to consider yourself as a taxpayer? What can you do to have a say in the taxes you pay?

- Mount a few words about contributing factors to the American Revolution on oak tag. Have students work in small groups to find out what each event was, put them in chronological order, and explain the event’s role in spurring the Revolution. (Seven Years’ War/French & Indian War; expulsion of French from N. America and India; political instability of King George III coupled with British debt; Stamp Act; establishment of colonial assemblies; Townshend Acts; Naviagation Acts/American Board of Customs; riot on June 21, 1768 in Boston; Boston Massacre; Tea Act; Coercive Acts – Boston Port Act, Quartering Act; alteration of colony’s charter; - enforced by Lt. Gage; Boston Tea Party; 1st Continental Congress;

- Assign worksheet “That A Man Can Stand Up”, interpretation of quote by James Otis (historical character) in the novel. During class discussion, use to introduce reading and interpretation of the first amendment.

- Use of primary resources and local history: role of Hebron native, Benjamin Trumbull during Revolutionary time; excerpt on American Revolution from Noah Webster’s 1797 publication, American Selection of Lessons in Reading and Speaking. Ninth Edition. (Chapter XXV, “A Sketch of the History of the late War in America); George Hewes’ first person description of the Boston Tea Party events and his involvement with it; In The Path of War: Children of the American Revolution and their Stories.

- Have each student make a list of up to 4 things from which he or she would like to be free. Share within a small group and get ideas for “freeing yourself”.. .........back

Teaching materials/Technology Integration:

- In The Path of War: Children of the American Revolution and their Stories.
- 5th grade Social Studies Text, including annotated copy of U.S. Constitution in back
- Primary Documents: primary resources and local history: role of Hebron native, Benjamin Trumbull during Revolutionary time; excerpt on American Revolution from Noah Webster’s 1797 publication, American Selection of Lessons in Reading and Speaking. Ninth Edition. (Chapter XXV, “A Sketch of the History of the late War in America); George Hewes’ first person description of the Boston Tea Party events and his involvement with it; In The Path of War: Children of the American Revolution and their Stories.Journals or Magazines:

Internet Sources with addresses and names:
- (the “way back” machine)
- Use alta vista to search “Revolutionary War +host:k12
- (U.S. National Archives)
- (teaching unit on Johnny Tremain, including research web sites, from San Diego County Office of Education)
- (web quest using primary resources for Johnny Tremain)
- (web quest that has students examine Esther Forbe’s historical accuracy in Johnny Trmeain by taking 1 of 4 perspectives: U.S., British, geographer, sociologist)
- (a “cliff notes”, and then some, on Johnny Tremain