Motion pictures become the basis for analysis of historical information as young children glean factual information from biographies, legends and documentaries through the aid of a puppet. Are children able to grasp a sense of the past and its connection to the present? Do children bring any thoughts and pictures in their young minds about early pioneer life and what those children must have experienced as they sat and played on the very soil we walk on today? Or do they see only a Hollywood version captured through cartoons with grotesque figures that portray only fanciful and fictitious pictures far removed from human life?
With these questions in mind, I will explore ways in which young children can gather historical information about early pioneer life, creating mental pictures and developing a more critical eye for viewing films. I will integrate various forms of literature, drama and film for helping children learn and appreciate historical stories based on factual information. As a key component to my unit, I will emphasize the active participation of children through the aid of a puppet in retelling and analyzing historical significance via film.
I have chosen three films, “Daniel Boone,” Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier,” and “Johnny Appleseed” from which I will develop strategies and classroom activities centered around critical analysis of historical information presented in these stories via film. More specifically, the unit will include activities suitable for children in first through third grades. Along with reading and the language arts, the lesson plans would cover curriculum areas such as reading, social studies, math, science, music and art.
The art of ventriloquism has been in my repertoire of teaching for many years. I have developed a family of characters with unique personalities, interesting voice variations and a flare for flashy, colorful appearances. Many of my characters have been used in numerous programs that have been presented at schools, churches and birthday parties with the main theme on entertainment. However, many characters have evolved in my first grade classroom, centered around pertinent curriculum areas. For example, most popular of all is Willie Sunday, who is an encouragement to all and is compelling in bringing the best out in most of us. His main emphasis in the classroom is his expertise in phonics, or lack of it, as he misses letters and letter sounds to the delight of the children. Not only does he encourage the children to take risks, but they prompt him in doing likewise. He, also, takes our class on a delightful journey through the early times of Pocahontas and how her people lived and related to the early settlers of Jamestown. I am sure that he will be able to relay a lot of information about early Native Americans to our class that will be most helpful in viewing our early pioneer films. Then there is Tuesday’s Cup of Sugar who is always doing her little antics in helping to present our writing for reading curriculum in class. Of course, Wednesday Delight would be saddened if she were overlooked because she plays a very important role in not only helping the children to develop their own puppet characters and voice variations, but in bringing various pieces of poetry to our class on a weekly basis. Did I forget Blue Monday? How could I? He has played a very important role in helping the children to gather information and experience traditions based on Jewish holidays. He certainly cannot be missed with his indigo face and hot pink hair!
With all of these characters in mind I will pull out Friday Funtastic who does not have an active role in the classroom, call him Mr. Friday and allow him the opportunity to assist the children in their critical analysis of historical facts in film. Mr. Friday will bring factual information pertinent to the story that the children will be viewing in class. For example, before the children view the film “Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier,” Mr. Friday will present information and help to read Davy Crockett from the A Discovery Biography series. Other books and resources will be used in obtaining information about clothes, food, housing, etc. from that time period. George and Ellen Laycock present a beautiful book called, How The Settlers Lived which gives a fascinating account about early pioneer days depicting aspects of the early settlers daily lives and challenges.
I teach first grade in a self-contained classroom at L. W. Beecher School on Jewell Street in New Haven. My classroom contains approximately 26 children from a variety of ethnic backgrounds with varying abilities in the six to eight year old age range. Along with a need for improved vocabulary, many children exhibit poor self-images and have difficulty conveying their thoughts and feelings. I want the children to be able to draw upon their inner strengths, enhance their academic skills and strengthen their overall social-emotional development.
My overall objectives for the course of my curriculum unit are:
(1) To provide an interactive experience through the use of puppetry and film in :
b. in small groups of two or four
c. large group interaction
(2) To help the children stimulate intellectual and cognitive development about early pioneer life in a classroom setting:
a. with creative puppetry
b. through written works and illustrated art work
c. by a play production
(3) To improve auditory reading and listening skills of participants through:
a. written language
b. oral language
(4) To encourage confidence and a positive self-image while participating in class activities.
a. as listeners
b. as narrators
c. as actors
d. as members of an audience
(5) To connect the classroom unit with the school curriculum:
a. reading, language arts and the music curriculum
b. science and social studies curriculum
c. socialization skills
Mr. Friday is a duck who resides in a brown draw-string bag. The children are soon caught up in the magical illusion surrounding Mr. Friday as he begins to bemoan the fact that his voice is a bit “scratchy” while perched on top of his brown bag. However, it doesn’t take very long for the children to discover that this is no ordinary duck. For believe it or not, that “scratchy” voice goes on and on, giving a wealth of information about a film that the children are about to view. You might hear him ask the children if they thought a guy would actually wear a cooking pot on his head because his backpack was full of apple seeds. Then too while introducing Johnny Appleseed, you never know what he may have hidden in that bag. Could that bulge in his bag be due to a hidden apple? Or perhaps after discovering the apple, Mr. Friday tells the class that they will use apples for learning about fractions and then put them in a pie or two.
Mr. Friday will introduce his film friends about Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett and Johnny Appleseed to the class each Friday, or around there, for a total of three or four weeks. Besides talking about early pioneer life to the class, Mr. Friday will give suggestions for critical analysis of the story. One example might be: “Do you think the people in the film are dressed appropriately for that particular time frame?” Follow-up activities will include cooperative learning activities where children are paired and discuss themes from the film then report back to class. Journal writing will be included whereby the children take notes while watching the film then record their critical feelings about the story.
The children will also retell a story through their own puppet creations and illustrated works. For example, in the story film about Johnny Appleseed, the children will make puppets representing Johnny Appleseed, focusing on factual information rather than representing a mere legend.
Art activities will also be included in the lessons. One example would be illustrating the story in sequential drawings. This activity will tie into the fact that film follows a sequential pattern. Sequencing will also be important for developing our own animated movie. We will attempt to make an animated movie based on factual information gleaned from the biographies read in class.
A visit to the New Haven Historical Society Museum will be in order whereby the children receive additional information and hands on experience about early pioneer life. This information will be very helpful while viewing the films and critically analyzing the story presented via film.
My unit will be part of a team effort including teachers from L. W. Beecher School whereby we will help students utilize film to examine major movements in American history. In addition, a collaborative effort will be held in regards to our animated movie whereby students from grades two and three pair with first graders in making a video about Daniel Boone. Our Media Specialist will contribute resource information from children’s biographies and other resources used for getting factual information in making the film. The children will write various parts of the script, illustrate the background scenes for their assigned parts and make the movable characters for the movie. Teams of children will collaborate in reading the scripts and moving the figures. Other teams will be involved in providing the background music, lighting and filming of our production.
Another collaborative effort will involve a story that the classroom teacher, puppet and children have developed that will be suitable for a school play. The play will be rehearsed in the After School Program by children from grades one through third and performed on stage for a school-wide assembly. This particular program meets once a week for a period of one hour and generally consists of 10 to 15 children.
Pioneer Life Through Film
Daniel Boone was born in 1734 in the state of Pennsylvania near
the present day city of Reading. He made friends with the Delaware
Indians who helped him to be a skilled woodsman and hunter.
Young Boone moved with his family to the state of North Carolina
where he helped in the French and Indian War by driving
a supply wagon. Shortly after, he married his neighbor, Rebecca
Bryan. She was a courageous pioneer woman who often guarded
the cabin and family while Boone went hunting. Boone spent two
years exploring Kentucky before going home for his family. On
their journey into Kentucky, Boone’s oldest son, James was killed
by Indians. The group turned back to safer areas. However, after
Kentucky was bought from the Cherokee Indians for Judge
Henderson, Boone and a few friends blazed the Wilderness Road
and built a fort by the Kentucky River. Boone’s wife and daughters
were the first pioneer white women to see this part of Kentucky.
Later, Shawnee Indians captured Boone, and Chief Black
Fish adopted Boone as his son. Boone escaped from the
Shawnee village, running four days to warn the fort, called
Boonesborough, that the Shawnees were planning an attack.
Rain helped to save the fort from the Indian’s fire darts. After
the Revolutionary War ended, in which the Indians were
compensated by the British to fight the settlers, Boone
decided to move to Missouri where he spent his last days. 1
(Week One and Two, First Two weeks of November)
As an introduction to our unit, Mr. Friday (i.e. a classroom puppet) will introduce his pioneer box. The pioneer box will be an integral part of our project, bringing new items pertaining to the daily lessons. Mr. Friday will announce our study of Daniel Boone and early pioneer life and tell the class that Boone was born in Pennsylvania. Today’s pioneer box contains an inflatable ball which we soon discover turns into a globe. After helping the children find their home state and the state of Pennsylvania, Mr. Friday tells the children to bounce the ball around the circle. Those catching the ball have to find, first their home state, and then the area where Daniel Boone was born. Classmates on either side of the “catcher” make sure their neighbor has identified the areas correctly. North Carolina, Kentucky and Missouri are also identified as places where Daniel Boone spent considerable time exploring and living with his family.
On subsequent days, Mr. Friday’s pioneer box may contain a sampling of items such as a miniature log cabin, an old black felt hat, coonskin cap, fringed deerskin top and pants, candles, braided rugs, etc. Each item will be carefully handled and used as a lead to open discussion about early pioneer life. Paul Burns and Ruth Hines have written a beautiful book with illustrations called, To Be A Pioneer. The book will be used a reference along with How the Early Settlers Lived, by George and Ellen Laycock for learning about the items in Mr. Friday’s pioneer box. For example, we will discover that pioneers made their own clothing at home. Clothes similar to those of the Indians were used by the men. A loose deerskin shirt, caps made of raccoon or fox skins and deerskin moccasins were common clothing of the early settlers. The women wove their own cloth and made dyes for adding color to the material. Quilts and braided rugs were important because the cabins were very cold in the winter. It was impossible to heat the whole house from the fireplace.2
A Discovery Biography: Daniel Boone by Katharine E. Wilkie will be used for guided reading lessons along with Daniel Boone In the Wilderness by Matthew G. Grant. These books are chapter books and will be read in class over the two week period. Along the way, we will celebrate our own pioneer days by making butter, eating an early pioneer breakfast, braiding material for a rug and participating in a song and dance. A visit to the local Historical Society Museum will help us understand candle making, weaving of flax, school days, and many other cultural aspects from early pioneer days.
Along with the chapter books, we will use John Mack Faragher’s book, Daniel Boone as a reference book. Faragher gives a detailed documented historical account of the life of Daniel Boone. He has gathered his information from many and varied resources, including his travels and journeys into the towns and states where Boone traveled and lived. The book, although a reference for teachers, will be invaluable in helping us to separate fact from fiction. Portions can be read to the children; for example, the story relating the kidnapping of the Boone’s daughter, Jemima along with her two friends.
The last two days of this period will be utilized by watching the film, “Daniel Boone,” produced by Hanna-Barbera Home Video, Inc. The story is depicted cartoon style and covers Daniel Boone’s childhood, exploration of Kentucky and friendship with the Shawnee Indians. The story begins with Boone as a very old man, wanting to set the record straight about all of the tall tales of his life, while his son wants to include only the legendary side. The story attempts to cover many facts about the life of Daniel Boone. However, a legendary strain runs through the story. For example, when White Top, the Indian tries to outsmart Boone, he and his friend jump over a huge falls. One sees a picture of a sapling coming out of the falls. The next scene shows Boone and his friend under the falls on a rocky ledge. How did they get there? How did they get down?
The children will take notes while watching the film and come to their own conclusions about the authenticity of the story and illustrations. They will share their conclusions in small groups of four or five, coming to a consensus in their small group and sharing that information with the first grade class.
As a culminating activity, we will engage in a collaborative effort with second and third grade students whereby students will be paired with first graders, making an animated film about the life and times of Daniel Boone. By this time, first grade students are adept in ways pertaining to early pioneer life and will guide second and third grade students in depicting illustrations and written material for our film. Our finished product will be shared with family and friends during our team’s celebration day in early spring where curriculum studies come “alive” on stage showing scenes from our units through plays, narratives, film and dance.
Crockett was born in 1786 and grew up in Greene County, Tennessee.
At the age of thirteen, he ran away from home for three years. When
he returned home, he worked to pay off a debt owed by his father,
an innkeeper. At the age of 18, he married Polly Finley. When she
died, he married a widow lady, Elizabeth Patton. The Crockett family
moved four times, moving further and further into the wilderness of
Tennessee. Crockett volunteered as a scout for Andrew Jackson, who
was trying to subdue the Creek Indian Nation. Later he won the rank
of colonel in the Tennessee militia. His first political office was justice of the peace.
Crockett’s funny stories and sincere mannerisms
won him an election as a legislature in Tennessee. While campaigning for
U.S. Congressman, a flock of noisy guinea hens wandered into the
meeting. Crockett said the birds were saying, “Crockett, Crockett.”
The story was repeated everywhere and he won the election. While
in Washington, Crockett spoke up for the rights of poor people in
western Tennessee and ardently spoke out against President Andrew
Jackson’s Indian policies. Crockett’s outspoken tongue cost him the
election after serving for three terms. He never finished his
third term in the U.S. Congress. He decided to move with the
western frontier and joined the Americans in the Alamo at San
Antonio. There Crockett died in the final assault when 5,000
Mexicans besieged them.5
(Week Three Monday through Friday)
Mr. Friday continues his lessons with his pioneer box. As he begins his first lesson of the week, the children discover that Mr. Friday’s pioneer box contains deer antlers, a rabbit tail, raccoon tail and bear fur. He is quick to explain that these were common animals, hunted by early pioneers. However, the early pioneers were not the only hunters in the woodland areas. Indian tribes inhabited the woodlands and often felt threatened by the early pioneer’s journeys and settling down in their territory. Some of the tribes were friendly and showed the early settlers how to hunt and prepare foods. While others were hostile, interested only in stealing and attacking the settlers. Nevertheless, Indian tribes, as well as, early pioneers enjoyed common food and meat staples. Mr. Friday feels that since venison was one of the common meat products of early days, first graders should have the opportunity of tasting this dish, also. Sure enough, hidden in a dark corner of his pioneer box, the children find a dish of venison meat to enjoy. In his book, Daniel Boone, Faragher suggests that even though early pioneers ate venison on, they felt venison was inferior eating, and basically used the deerskins for clothing. Bear along with opossum and raccoon were considered prime meats. Other foods enjoyed by both Indian tribes and early settlers, included squash, pumpkin, beans, corn, tomatoes, etc. Cultivation of these vegetables were tended to in similar fashion by pioneer women just as they were done in Indian villages.4
Some of these foods would be great to dissect, compare, illustrate and taste. Therefore, the children will be grouped into small groupings of four or five. Each group will be given a food item to dissect and describe. Every child will be given a data sheet and asked to describe the outside peeling. For example, they will state the color, shape, size, and texture, along with drawing a picture. After their group’s food item is cut, the children will proceed to describe the inside, stating color, number of seeds, smell and finally taste.
Again, as we did for our study of Daniel Boone, a chapter book entitled, Discovery Biography: Davy Crockett by Elizabeth R. Mosley will be used as a guided reading on subsequent days for the remainder of this time period. The children having acquired a knowledge of early pioneer days through our journey with Daniel Boone, and now having heard the story of Davy Crockett are ready to view two films about Crockett and his adventures as a frontiersman. The last three days, Wednesday through Friday will be used as viewing days for our first grade class. “Davy Crockett” produced by Rabbit Ears Productions is a cartoon style film, and depicts the legendary Davy Crockett, his rise to fame in Congress and his fight for freedom at the Alamo.
The story is told in first person as if Davy Crockett is telling his own story. It begins with Davy as a young boy, who is stuck in a log eating honey, and comes face to face with a bear. The bees begin to sting Crockett, as he talks to the bear, asking him to move aside so that he may crawl out and allow the bear a treat of honey. Finally, after much persuasion, the bear moves aside, Davy crawls out and the bees attack the bear. As in most of the legendary stories told by Crockett in the film, he finds himself in very difficult circumstances, but always finds ways for escaping and arises the hero. The stories are very funny and told in a witty manner. Crockett is clever with words, always wooing his audience until he meets the Mexicans at the Alamo. There he is not able to smile down his enemy or use witty stories to keep them at bay. Instead, the battle is lost and Crockett looses his life.
The second film is a Walt Disney movie called, “Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier.” In contrast to the Rabbit Ears Production, the story uses live actors and depicts the legendary woodsman as an Indian fighter, bear wrestler and leader of the fight for freedom at the Alamo. The story begins with Crockett as a grown man in a patch of tall grass, grinning down a bear. He is asked to serve as a scout and locate Indians for Major Andrew Jackson. There are many Indian war scenes, both with Crockett and preparation for war in the Indian camp. Cherokee Indians are used as actors and portrayed as anti-social and very hostile. Quite the opposite from Emilie Lepthien’s The Cherokee where she contends that the tribe consisted of hardworking, intelligent and peaceful people. Cherokee Indians play the part of the Creek uprising for which Crockett was recruited and asked to subdue. However, facts are not clearly defined. When Crockett says that it looks like Red Stick finally convinced the whole nation, perhaps he was referring to Chief Tecumseh. Tecumseh was the son of a Shawnee chief, who wanted all the Indian nations to unite in hopes of defeating the Americans.4 Throughout the movie, the Native Americans are referred to as Red Sticks. According to Elizabeth Moseley, in her biography of Davey Crockett this term was used by the early settlers because they carried clubs that were painted bright red.5 Hence, the name Red Sticks. Crockett is seen killing many Indians along the way, but when he does not kill Red Stick in a tomahawk duel, Red Stick asks Davy why he saved his life. Crockett answers. “The Bible says thou shalt not kill.” The story continues with his role as magistrate in a small town, run for state legislator and winning a seat in Congress. Crockett’s views opposing President Andrew Jackson’s Indian policies are clearly enacted and stated. While serving as a legislature, he receives word that Polly has died. Several scenes are interspersed with Crockett at their log cabin, either by the fireplace or outside the cabin. The story does not mention Crockett’s second marriage to Elizabeth Patton nor does the film depict family life in general. Most episodes depict violent scenes with Indians, small town brawls, and the huge battle at the Alamo.
Again, the children will take notes while watching the films, drawing conclusions about the authenticity of the story. At this point, Mr. Friday interjects and tells the children that he feels they need more facts concerning the Cherokee. He just happens to have a copy of Lepthien’s, The Cherokee by his side and proceeds to show pictures from the book, reading episodes from the chapters, “Broken Treaties,” and “The Trail of Tears.” Small groups of children will be given discussion questions, while a team leader records feelings and sentiments from the group. Questions may include: “Do you feel the Disney film shows too many violent scenes?” “Why or why not?” “What impression did you get about the Indian tribes?” “Do you think all of the Indians were hostile towards the early settlers?” “Do you think either group had a right to be angry?” “Why?” “Do you feel either film shows family life about the early pioneers or the early Indians?” “Do you feel the film gave us facts about Davy Crockett?” What facts did it give and what facts were missing?”
Johnny Chapman, (Johnny Appleseed) was a pioneer born
in the state of Massachusetts in year of 1774. It appears
that he was a mixture of plant nurseryman, herb doctor, and
religious zealot. Around the early 1800’s, he became an ardent
distributor of apple seeds and seedlings along the Ohio River, and
there obtained the name, “Johnny Appleseed.” He preached the
teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg, combining his sayings with
herbs and medicinal plants which he distributed along with his apple
seeds. Swedenborg was a scientist, inventor and mystical religious
leader. He claimed to have direct contact with the spirit world, thus
enabling him to interpret Bible teachings. He taught that if one
accepts his teachings, Jesus Christ will make his second appearing
in spirit, not in person. During the war of 1812, Johnny Appleseed served
as a frontier messenger. His distribution of apple seeds and apple trees
helped to improve the farming economy of northern Ohio and Indiana.7
(Week Four Monday through Wednesday)
Apple orchards are barren this time of the year, (i.e. when our unit will be introduced); therefore, Mr. Friday reminds the children of their visit to the apple orchard in the early part of October. Mrs. Bishop of Bishop’s Apple Orchard, North Brandford gives the children a lovely tour, where they are able to pick their own apples, view the modern-day processing plant and taste freshly squeezed apple cider. The Apple Grower’s of America, Washington, D. C. put together a filmstrip which is a lovely introduction to the growth of apples in the orchards and how they are processed for shipping to the stores. This filmstrip will be used before we visit the Bishop Farm.
Mr. Friday continues his lesson by sharing the story, Johnny Applseed by Jan Gleiter and Kathleen Thompson. Vocabulary words from the book are discussed such as cider mill, pulp, blacksmith, etc. The children are asked to contrast the city from the countryside, and record their statements on chart paper. Mr. Friday asks the children to draw sequential drawings from the story that he has helped to read. He, also, reminds the children that a “first-start” reader, Johnny Appleseed Goes A Planting by Patsy Jensen is in our classroom library and can be used during our morning’s silent sustained reading period, along with our apple shaped book that our class made from our trip to Bishop’s farm.
Our children are excited and so is Mr. Friday as he introduces our film, “Johnny Appleseed” on Tuesday of our final unit’s week. The film is a cartoon style story about Johnny Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) who distributed apple seeds across the early Midwest and how he became a legend along the Ohio River Valley. The film shows Johnny talking to the animals, blowing the trumpet in the wilderness as he warns the early settlers about upcoming danger from the War of 1812, and ends with Johnny watching the stars and then going to meet his angel brides in the sky.
By this time, the children do not need reminders about taking notes. They are eager to begin and are asked by Mr. Friday to write about parts that they liked or disliked in the film. Following the film, a discussion will take place, comparing the film to the story that Mr. Friday read in class.
The children will make their own puppet creations with the art teacher. These Johnny Appleseed puppets will be used for retelling the children’s stories.
Mr. Friday has a surprise on our final day. From his pioneer box, he pulls out a bag of apples and tells the children that they are going to study fractions. Each child is given an apple and told to cut it in half. Mr. Friday encourages the children to guess how many seeds their apple contains; count the seeds, and compare their estimate with the actual number. The children are told that each piece represents one half, and after the apple has been cut into four equal pieces, each one represents one fourth.
Mr. Friday is not finished with surprises for the day. It is almost Thanksgiving and he has decided that the class will bake apple pies as a final class treat.