Pedagogy in the 21st Century
Text Sets to push the Canon.
by Alex Akins
Johnny Tremain Reading Ladder
Anderson, L. H. (2008). Chains. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Chains follows Isabel, a thirteen-year-old slave, during the American Revolution. Unlike Johnny, Isabel is female, black, and enslaved, but Isabel, too, comes to serve the patriot cause through tragic circumstances. Isabel is denied the freedom she was promised. Angry and afraid, Isabel agrees to spy on her new owners, loyalists, in pursuit of the freedom she so desperately desires. Laurie Halse Anderson tells a unique and poignant story of a young girl’s coming of age during a turning point in history.
Mead, R. (2015, February 9). All about the Hamiltons. The New Yorker. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/09/hamiltons
This article explores Hamilton’s creation and reception. The musical ingeniously portrays the events of Alexander Hamilton’s life from his childhood in a Caribbean slum to his role in the revolution and beyond. The article touches on Miranda’s background and groundbreaking lyrics, as well as diversity within the cast of the musical. In the wake of a predominantly white cast of characters in Johnny Tremain, this article reminds students of real-world diversity and paves the way for Anderson’s Chains.
Working with Lemons (2016, September 30). The Schuyler sisters music video - Hamilton Broadway musical in real life Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR5OtoUkVPo
This performance of Hamilton’s “The Schuyler Sisters” includes characters in period dress and setting. The Schuyler sisters explore the city of New York during the revolution, strongly reminiscent of Johnny’s Boston at its most turbulent. While the sisters have differing opinions about the revolution, their experience as young people in the city is similar to that of Johnny and his companions. Angelica’s boldness is resonant of Cilla’s courage. This song is a reminder of women’s roles during the revolution.
Waters, M. (Director). (2004). Mean girls [DVD]. Canada: Paramount Pictures.
Like Johnny, Cady Heron must orient herself in a new environment and adjust to the influence, good and bad, of her peers. Cady’s popularity, subsequent vanity, and fall from “Plastic” status mirrors Johnny’s struggle after his accident. Mean Girls portrays similar themes to Johnny Tremain in a comedic, contemporary setting.
Forbes, Esther. (1960). Johnny Tremain. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Esther Forbes’ novel is a compelling tale of a young man’s coming of age in Boston, Massachusetts during the incendiary years at the front of the American Revolution. Johnny Tremain is clever, vain, coddled, and arrogant before an accident that disfigures his hand. In the aftermath, he learns the price of pride and the true nature of those who pander to beauty and talent. He must learn to work through adversity and stand up for what he believes in, despite pressure from both patriots and loyalists. Johnny Tremain champions the discovery of self through the influence of pride, politics, mortality, and family.
Minute Book Reports (2015, November 16). Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (book summary) - minute book report Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gq9XPHlb6GA
This summary is fast-paced and factually accurate. Although the video only covers surface-level events of the novel, it serves as an excellent outline of the major plot points. Additionally, the video provides a rough depiction of the summary, which may help visual learners orient themselves within the novel.
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. “Paul Revere’s Ride.” Poets.org, https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/paul-reveres-ride. Accessed 29 Oct. 2016).
Paul Revere plays a significant part as Johnny’s role model—a revolutionary and another talented Silversmith—in the novel. Longfellow’s poem immortalizes Revere’s ride to warn the patriot soldiers of the arrival of the British. Students should be familiar with Paul Revere’s journey and his significance as a historical figure to properly analyze his more personal role in Forbes’ novel.
Movieclips (2012, October 25). The patriot (2/8) movie CLIP - A call for militia (2000) HD Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YdP5YLuJDc
This movie clip depicts Gabriel Martin’s attempt to raise volunteers for the patriot militia in a South Carolina church. Members of the church are reluctant until Anne addresses the men, speaking passionately about fighting for liberty and one’s beliefs. Anne and Gabriel are both close to Johnny Tremain’s age, and although they reside in the rural South, their experiences as youth involved in the early years of the revolution are similar to Johnny’s. Anne also shares similar qualities with Cilla and reminds students that patriots were not solely made of white men.
Soomo Publishing (2010, February 2). Too late to apologize: A declaration Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZfRaWAtBVg
This first production by Soomo Publishing cleverly syncs the writing of the Declaration of Independence with One Republic’s “Apologize.” The combination of catchy, contemporary song and historic events is unlikely and will grab students’ attention. The video depicts events that happened at the end or shortly after Johnny Tremain’s story, but the attitude of the founding fathers in the video correctly—if satirically—mimics that of patriots and characters in the novel. This video is smart, funny, and a great introduction to the time period and historical events.