American Revolution Literature Circles

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American Revolutionary War Literature Circles

Ever wonder how to differentiate instruction, teach leveled reading, have differentiated assessments and do it in a classroom with mixed learning abilities?  Literature Circles may be the answer.  

My specialty is historical fiction.  My husband is a social studies teacher, so it is just fun for my to find ways to teach cross curricular, while meeting rigorous state standards and differentiating instruction.  I have a literature circle assignment that is AWESOME.

lit circle tntn

This literature circle unit is focusing on the American Revolution and deeper thinking question skills.  The unit, in its entirety, will take four weeks.  Each historical fiction book is differentiated with specific, leveled questions and vocabulary.  Each book is divided into four sections and follow the same objectives for each assignment.  It is over 50 individual pages and slides.  Each novel is separated in a zip file for planning organization.  All of these books can be used, or they can be used individually.  


Johnny Tremain, by Ester Forbes

My Brother Sam is Dead, by James Lincoln and Christopher Collier

Guns for General Washington, by Seymour Reit

The Fighting Ground, by Avi

Dear America:  Diary of Abigail Jane Stewart; The Winter of Red Snow, by Kristina Gregory

Each novel has a packet (10 pages) to follow along with the reading as well as ten tier two vocabulary words (two pages). The book assignments are divided into quarters.  Johnny Tremain, a higher leveled reading book, has a packet with a much more demanding and rigorous work load.  I use this novel to differentiate instruction with my “Honors” level students attempting this novel.  I encourage my struggling readers to try Guns for General Washington or The Fighting Ground.

lit circle bin
Make a bin for each novel.

Please see the detailed description below:

Literature Circle Materials:

All you need to conduct literature circles are in this unit as well.  Groups of 3-5 students, per book, work the best.  Ideally, the groups would all be four students.  There are pdf files for the Book Sign Out Sheet, Book selection form (student can rate books 1-5 of what they would like to read after a quick novel presentation), an activity worksheet (creative assignment) and exit ticket.  There is also an editable calendar to correspond with the tasks.  A PowerPoint presentation gives you role definitions and task cards to print and use to set up your literature circles.  Also included are sheets for “Literature circle Notes” and “Literature Circle Checklist” to use in each individual literature circle for accountability.  Students are responsible to obtaining roles, keep notes of their meetings, discussing passages and questions, and a clear description of who does what.  All students have an active role in each discussion.

Deeper Thinking Questions:

In addition, this unit comes with tools for teaching question types and deeper thinking.  Knowledge, Comprehension, Synthesis, Analysis, Application and Evaluation questions are defined, practiced and then student created.  These are broken into six mini lessons, or bell work.  There are task cards in a PowerPoint which have the question types for the literature circle.  There is also a chatterbox included to use for differing questions during literature circles.  Instructions for making the chatterbox are also included.

Lit cirlce daily work
Learn about questions and create your own!


There is a final presentation assignment for each group.  The assignment is broken into five equal parts, aligning to the social studies frameworks.  Each student in a group will write three paragraphs in an individual document and create 4 slides in a show in a shared Google Slideshow.   There is a two-page pdf explaining the project in its entirety with a one-page rubric.  In addition, there are five individual instructions with graphic organizers and specifications for each slide.

Final Presentation topics include: 

  • cause an effect,
  • noting differing political afflictions
  • key stakeholders and interesting issues
  • evaluating courses of action
  • defining and explaining historical fiction.

Vocabulary Assessment:

There are also 5 Google Forms vocabulary quizzes, one for each book.  (Please note – a Google account and valid email address for ALL students will be needed to assign the quizzes)

Teacher Directions

American Revolutionary War Literature Circles

Book Talk:  Distribute “Book Selections” pdf file.

Introduce each book by reading the summary, giving any outside information, and reading level.  I allow students to browse the books, then make their selection.  They can choose from 1-5 (1 being the book they’d most like to read and 5 being the book they’d like least to read).

I encourage my higher level students to attempt Johnny Tremain.  The book is a higher reading level and the corresponding packet is much more demanding.  Then, I recommend My Brother Sam is Dead.  I recommend Dear America for girls not necessarily interested in historical fiction because usually they really like the book and it changes their mind.  I recommend The Fighting Ground and Guns for General Washington for my struggling readers.

Then, assign books.  I try to keep four students per group.  However, with 5 students, I just divide the role of “Materials Manager”; one student writing and one student organizing materials in their literature circle roles.

Assign literature circle groups.



Johnny Tremain, by Ester Forbes

My Brother Sam is Dead, by James Lincoln and Christopher Collier

Guns for General Washington, by Seymour Reit

The Fighting Ground, by Avi

Dear America:  Diary of Abigail Jane Stewart; The Winter of Red Snow, by Kristina Gregory

Distribute books, Literature circle text packets and text vocabulary lists.  Each novel (except Johnny Tremain) has a packet (10 pages) to follow along with the reading as well as ten tier two vocabulary words (two pages). The book assignments are divided into quarters.  Have the students fill in due dates.  Go over expectations for literature circle days.

lit circle tables
Print and laminate task card for each group.

Use the “Book sign out” to keep track of your books and create a bin or box for each book in the classroom to keep materials handy.  In the beginning, I print out the PowerPoint with all the task cards out.  I laminate them all and make one envelope for each table.  I staple the roles and responsibilities on the front of the envelope and keep the task cards, checklist and chatterbox inside the envelope.  I keep the Literature Circle Notes, extra copies of novel materials and exit slips in each novel’s individual box/bin.  However, you can organize this as is most convenient for you.
Then, I begin using the “Question Types” worksheet to teach different question types.  I start with the basic knowledge questions.  Here, I define this type of question then give some knowledge type questions for the students to answer.  Then, I use the online fruit machine to assign a topic for students to create their own questions.  Then, they can write their questions and ask other students for responses.  At the end, we all share our questions and responses.

I repeat this lesson five more times, using the leveled questions and examples.  Then, all of these question types are used in their literature circles.

Literature Circle Days:

Focused team leader will assign everyone in their group a role on the “Literature Circle Checklist” sheet.  The material manager will fill in the “Literature Circle Notes” to be collected at their end of class.   The Energizer will be the first to answer and call on other students.  The Inspirer will check work for completion and choose questions.
After roles are assigned, the Inspirer will note students prepared in the group.  Materials Manager will write down the group’s progress.  Everyone will take out their packets and focused Leader will go through the packets reading all the questions and leading discussion.  Then, Inspirer will choose the task cards needed for the day and chatterbox (as determined by the teacher).  Materials Manager will write each question discussed, as not to repeat.  Students will then “Look forward” and set their goals for next literature circle.  Exit slips will be distributed and collected to use on future lessons.  This will be repeated each day where literature circles take place.
I also give students one computer day a week to work on their final presentations.  These should be discussed and assigned during the first week of reading so students are able to work on this simultaneously.  After each group decides on “who’s doing what role” for the final presentation, I work with each group completing Part One and go over the specific task.  I repeat this for each part of the final project.

As the month moves along, I will have completed introducing the six question types, students will have finished their books and final projects.  Then, the projects can be presented at the end.  There is a final 20 question quiz on Google Forms for each book.  Please note, you and ALL students will have to have Google accounts to access these quizzes.


Please see the detailed description below from website:

Part 1:

Two vocabulary words

Vocabulary enrichment

“Before reading” question

Close reading text excerpt with questions

TDQ (text dependent question)

Figurative language activities

Deep thinking discussion stem

Part 2:

Two vocabulary words

Passage – close read with questions

Partner questions

Part 3:

Three vocabulary words

Comprehension questions

Objective summary

Partner questions

Part 4:

Three vocabulary words

Six think/pair/share questions


Johnny Tremain

Johnny Tremain is a class novel teaching the events leading up to the American Revolution in a historical fiction novel.  Character, Johnny Tremain, faces obstacles and matures in this coming of age novel where he interacts with historical characters and plays a believable role in these events.


Pre-Reading Activities and Webquest:

First is a 7 page PDF file to use as a pre-reading activity to correspond with the novel, “Johnny Tremain” by Esther Forbes. It includes 2 pages of teacher instructions and ideas, 3 printable pages for student use and 2 rubrics for grading.

There are two classroom activities to complete, which are teacher directed. Then, there is an assignment for students to complete. The assignment is a deep study on Boston’s Freedom Trail to prepare for the setting of the novel. Directions for each slide and two grading rubrics are included.

The activities will probably take one class period and the PowerPoint presentation could be done in class with a partner or assigned as a project. The instructions are clear to the students. I have used these lessons with my seventh grade students in preparation for reading “Johnny Tremain”. I hope you find this helpful.


2 Reader’s Theaters:

The next is two reader’s theaters to correspond with Chapters 6 & 8 in “Johnny Tremain” by Esther Forbes. Each reader’s theater uses the exact dialogue from the chapters to present the events in the novel. These are ready to print and use.

Chapter 6 – The Boston Tea Party. This read aloud goes through the events leading up to and including Johnny’s role in the Boston Tea Party.

Chapter 8 – So A Man Can Stand Up. This read aloud goes through a secret Sons of Liberty meeting where James Otis explains the purpose of gaining independence from Great Britain.

Each theater comes with the roles of the characters and a narrator. I usually make a class copy then print one copy for each of the parts to use. I highlight the character’s lines in these scripts so the reader’s theater will move more easily. The students really enjoy participating in these types of interactive role plays. It is a unique way to close read or re-read text.

Chapter Printables:

This product is a 35 page printable packet to coincide with each chapter in the novel “Johnny Tremain” by Esther Forbes.  It includes a full key.  The printables come in a zip file with the files broken down into four sections with the appropriate keys.  They are all PDF files.

The printable break down the novel into reading chunks to fit into 27 class dates.  Each day has a literature based vocabulary word and activities to correspond with the reading.  The activities are varied throughout the course of the novel, thus corresponding with most of the common core learning standards.  Reading Strategies are varied and guided reading continues throughout the novel.  The implementation of the literature based vocabulary adds to increased student reading comprehension and is offered with practice activities for each word.  There are text based examples for each chapter.  Literary elements are introduced and explored.  There are numerous opportunities to inference and explain rationale.  Visual interpretations and prediction are other skills used to master comprehension.  There are also varied reading strategies to use as a class for discussion purposes.

As the genre of this novel is Historical Fiction, there is a section devoted entirely to this genre.  In addition, students must determine between history and fiction with both characters and events.  The historical aspect of the Pre-Revolutionary War is closely followed and taught using the combination of history and fiction.  Characterization, theme and symbolism are thoroughly explored within this unit.  In addition to cause and effect, expectation vs. reality, and chronological order development.  This printable bundle would be sufficient to teach the entire novel in 27 classes of about 40 minute classes.

Chapters 1-3:

Words of the day, literature based vocabulary development and practice

Literary elements:  personification, setting, foreshadowing, symbolism, irony

Text examples

Visual interpretations, predicting

Reading Strategies:  Back to Back and Front to Front; Cause and Effect

History:  Paul Revere – historical account

Responsive writing

Comprehension questions

Chapters 4-6:

Words of the day, literature based vocabulary development and practice

Reading Strategies:  Reality vs. Expectation; Back to Back, Front to Front, Kagan Mat

History:  Whig vs. Tory

Comprehension and application questions

Guided Reading questions

Reviewing Literary Elements

Writing Strategies Choices:  Informational, literary, argumentative, expressive

Historical Fiction

Theme of Maturity

Chapters 7-9

Words of the day, literature based vocabulary development and practice


Reading Strategies:  Jigsaw Learning, Fish Bowl Discussion, guided reading

Writing Strategies:  reflection/expressive writing, Acrostic Poetry

Cause and Effect, Historical Fiction


“Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Chapters 10-12

Words of the day, literature based vocabulary development and practice

Chronological order/historical timeline

Writing Strategies:  responding to history; reflection/expressive writing


Visual interpretation

**Available ONLY in this BUNDLE:  Activities for Chapters 1-4:

Included is a 2 page PDF file with three creative activities to correspond with Chapters 1-4 in the novel.  Students will be able to choose one, or complete all the activities, using creative means.  Students can be an architect, an author or an artist.  A fun way to review reading!


Independent Reading Assignment:

This is a 4 page PDF file that gives instructions for students to independently read “Johnny Tremain” by Esther Forbes and assess their comprehension through a PowerPoint Presentation. The project has clear objectives and two grading rubrics. There is a graphic organizer for slide material.

This activity would allow students to read the novel independently and present their understanding of the text upon completing the book.


50 Reading Comprehension Questions:

Lastly, a PDF with 50 multiple choice type questions for the young adult novel, “Johnny Tremain”. “Johnny Tremain” is a historical fiction novel written by Esther Forbes highlighting the events leading up to the American Revolution. Half of all the questions are “right there” type of questions and the other half of “inferential” type questions. The inferential questions are higher level thinking and deal with the figurative language, vocabulary and themes presented within the novel. These questions would be most useful for middle school aged children. The questions have four possible choices with the correct answer highlighted for each.

Reading literature and/or informational text and being able to answer questions based from text is central in today’s Common Core Learning Standards.  Although the idea of formal testing can be intimidating, there are some benefits in improving measurable reading comprehension.  There are even some fun ways to create better readers!

Reading Comprehension Questions in Education Island.

What skills are being mastered by answering questions?

Reading Comprehension:

One of the primary standards that needs to be addressed in the 21st century is teaching students to become efficient rigor.  Reading comprehension is the foundation in developing literacy.  Guided reading levels, or Lexile levels, have been created to meet a student’s individual need and build reading at their appropriate speed.  This product is for comprehension questions to assess a student’s understanding of a piece literature at their specific reading level.

In addition, by answering the “right there” type of questions, students will need to recall information and use close reading skills to go back into the reading to find the details to answer the question.  “Inferential” type of questions require students to read the material, arrive at a response, analyze their response, and draw a conclusion based from this multi-level thinking.

Close reading techniques are best to use when reading a piece of text for the first time.  Close ( or sometimes Cloze reading) follows three basic steps:
Look over the text (book or article).  Look at the title, any bold words or heading.  Glance at the pictures, charts, graphs, etc.  Make a prediction!
Read the text.
Re-read the text looking for specific details and mastery.
Complete the assessment task.
Assessment Strategies

By answering a variety of questions based from a piece of literature, student’s knowledge in finding answers by using close reading strategies will dramatically increase!

How can you use these questions in your classroom?
Upload questions into Powerpoint presentations or internet classroom games sites like com, to create interactive classroom games.
Print out questions to use as a formal assessment for students when completing the book individually or as a class.
Send questions home as reading reinforcement when completing nightly reading assignments.
Print out questions and cut into individual pieces for differentiated instruction and use in many different classroom strategies to increase lesson rigor.
What are some instructional ideas to implement the use of these questions in my classroom?
 Jigsaw – this is a strategy where students study chunks of content in expert groups, then teach their content to each other.

Divide students into groups of 4-6 people.  These are called Jigsaw Groups.  Jigsaw works best when you have the same number of students in each team; although this is rarely possible, try to get as close as you can.

Divide the questions into equal piles for each group.  (If you have 4 students per group, give each student in their Jigsaw Group the SAME five questions).  Then, give the students time to read and answer their five questions together.  When the class seems finished, give each group the answers to their questions.  Have the students discuss how they decided on their answers, where they found the answers, and how they will teach the questions.

Next, create new groups where there is one “expert” from each Jigsaw Group.  Each Expert Group should have one student from each of the Jigsaw Groups.  Distribute ALL the questions to each student.  As the new groups go over the questions, each student will have the opportunity to be the “expert”.  The reason this works:  Cooperative learning has been identified as one of the nine instructional methods proven by research to make a significant difference in student performance (Marzano, Pickering & Pollock, 2001)

     2.  Reciprocal Learning is one of the driving instructional means.  These are activities where students coach each other through exercises that apply to the content.

There are two types of Reciprocal Learning that could be used.  The first is a “Think, Pair, Share” and the second is a “Back to Back and Front to Front”.  In a “Think, Pair, Share”, students in pairs or small groups are given a question or topic.  Then, they are given time to think about their response.  Then, the partners share their thoughts with each other.  Finally, they share their responses with the class.  In the “Back to Back and Front to Front” method, students stand back to back with a partner.  The same procedure is followed.  Partners continually change throughout the unit.

The reason this works:  Students who work in peer partnerships make measurable academic gains, develop more positive attitudes toward subject matter, become less dependent on the teacher, and spend more time on a task when working with a partner than when working independently (King-Sears & Bradley, 1995).

3.  Flipped Learning is a strategy where the students complete the traditional instructional work at home and class time is used for reinforcement, clarifying and challenging learners.

Students will take home the book and questions.  For “homework”, the students will read and answer the questions at an individual pace.  Students will answer the questions.

During the next class period, class time can be used to dig further into the concepts for each question.   The text can be reviewed and deeper connections made.  With the shift to more learning outside of the classroom, the content moves from playing a “supporting” role to playing a central role.

The reason this works:  “Class time is now maximized in order to adopt various methods of instruction such as active learning strategies, peer instruction, problem-based learning, or mastery or Socratic methods, depending on grade level and subject matter.”  ( 2014)

4.  Mind’s Eye is a fourth strategy which could be implemented, however, it would require additional preparation by the classroom teacher.

How it works is that the teacher would choose 10-30 words from the text that evoke strong feelings or images in students’ minds.

Before starting the lesson, teachers give students a very limited overview of what they are about to read, so they have some content to build on.

Read the words slowly and dramatically.  Instruct students to create movies in their minds of what they think will happen in the text.  As each new word is read, students should try to incorporate it into their mental picture.  Students can then draw a picture, write a questions, make a prediction, or describe a feeling the mental picture gives them.

Then, students will read the book and compare it with their initial thoughts.  The questions will then serve as a formative assessment on the text.

The reason this works:  The impact of Mind’e Eye is based on the principle of dual coding, the idea that storing information in two ways (through language and images) makes learning stick better.  This has been shown to be especially true for reading (Sadoski and Paivio, 2001).

I have numerous reading comprehension bundles in my store.  Here is a free sample of the quality of my work:  The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses, by Paul Goble.  This is a Guided Reading Level N.

Here is a link to all the products I currently have available in my store:  Reading Comprehension Questions in Education Island.

Please follow me at my TpT store:  Education Island, to stay current as I have over a hundred book question bundles that I will be publishing in the next six months.  I’m working on some larger bundles by Lexile Level that will be available soon.

This is a link to literature specific to winter.
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People who have used my products have said:

“This question assessment is very well thought out and provides many ideas to incorporate into a Native American unit. Thank you for sharing!”  Dana B.

“These are great questions! I am so happy with my purchase, Thank you :-)” Buyer

“This was a terrific list of questions, I was able to pick and choose for a variety of assessments as we read the book.”  Amy D.