Drummer Boy of Shiloh

Johnny Clem

Sgt. Johnny Clem

This is a lesson study on a lesson designed for an eighth grade Language Arts class.


In this lesson students will partake in silent reading, quick writing, oral reading, and reading comprehension. Students will spend ten minutes at the start of class silent reading and reflecting on their reading using evidence from the text to support their reasoning. Students will then engage in a brief lesson on historical fiction. Students will learn that historical fiction pieces could be in the form of either movies or novels, so long as they are partially historically accurate and partially fictitious, thus illuminating a historical event or time period. Students will also learn about the battle of Shiloh and drummer boys in the civil war in order to gain context for the short story, The Drummer Boy of Shiloh by Ray Bradbury. Students will then learn, through reading The Drummer Boy of Shiloh what life was like for a drummer boy during the civil war. Students will also make connections between this historical fiction piece and the actual events of the battle and therefore what it would have been like for Johnny Clem, a drummer boy, at this battle. Students will also discover through the introductory lesson and the reading just how significant drummer boys in the Civil War were. After reading through this short story, students will use their recall, inference and citing skills in order to answer nine questions about the text.


            In terms of materials, this lesson plan will require students to have their SSR books, their journals in order to write their quick writes, and their literature textbooks which contain Ray Bradbury’s short story The Drummer Boy of Shiloh and accompanying reading questions. In the beginning of the class, students will read their SSR books silently and individually after reading the agenda for the day. After ten minutes of silent reading, students will listen to instructions for their quick write. They will then use the prompts on the overhead to silently write a quick response for ten minutes as the teacher circulates the room keeping everyone on track. The key is for students to refer to evidence in the text to write their responses. Next the class will listen to and engage in an introduction to the short story, featuring a lesson on historical fiction and drummers in the civil war. The lesson will begin by defining historical fiction. The teacher will ask the students if they have any guesses of what historical fiction is, then the teacher will provide a definition. Next students will be called upon to share possible historical fiction examples. Then the activity is concluded by a visual of a varied selection of historical fiction pieces. Next students will learn about the Battle at Shiloh, where the story takes place- its date, location, generals, specifics and so on. After looking at some visual representations of the battle, students will also learn about drummer boys in the civil war, specifically about Johnny Clem, the boy that the drummer in the story is most likely based off of. They will listen to drum calls in order to understand the significance of the drummers’ job- calling out the general’s orders. Then students will all participate in popcorn reading the short story as the teacher occasionally pauses the reading to ask guided reading questions in order to keep students on track. In this way, students are expected to refer to the text in order to participate. Students will then be asked to answer the “recall” and “interpret” questions regarding the story as well as a quick write on the significance and purpose of the drummer boy’s job. After they have completed these, they will turn them in, or finish them the next day. All of this is meant to be in-class work.


By the end of this lesson plan, students will have produced a quick write in response to their silent reading, as well as answers to the recall, interpret, and analyze questions regarding the short story. Throughout the lesson they will also be asked to participate in reading aloud with the class. Their quick writes will demonstrate their ability to use evidence and examples from their reading to explain their answers to the question. This could be in the form of making connections, analyzing, or reflecting on the text. The reading questions that relate to the short story will ask them to recall facts from the story in addition to interpreting and analyzing pieces of the story. They will also produce a quick write on the significance of the drummer boy- using what they learned from both the short lesson on drummer boys as well as the story.


            The lesson will be assessed through the students’ quick writes and their answers to the questions pertaining to the short story. I will also be able to assess their oral reading skills as students read out loud to the class. Their understanding of the reading will be constantly checked through their answers to the guided reading questions.

 What kinds of thinking will students need to do to participate in the lesson?

            Students will need to practice their critical thinking skills in this lesson. They will be asked to make connections between the civil war and this historical fiction piece. Students are expected to interpret and make inferences about the text in order to answer reading questions.

 To what extent do students have options or choices regarding these lesson components?

            The lesson provides students with several opportunities to choose between options. Students have already selected the SSR books that they want to read all unit long. There will also be five different prompts that they can choose from in order to write their quick writes. However, students will be required to read Bradbury’s short story and to write answers to the selected questions about the short story.


The peer review of my lesson study was extremely helpful for me. I added quite a bit after we went over it together. I got some excellent feedback and suggestions for different activities. After discussing my lesson study, I added the certain elements to the historical lesson piece. This lesson went very well overall. There were a few bumps, particularly in transitions. But students were very engaged and really enjoyed the visuals and the examples of the drum calls. It went mostly as I had planned, just maybe a bit behind schedule. The end result was incredible. My students completed an excellent final product and showed great understanding.

Image Credit: Sgt. Johnny Clem  (1863),
The Library of Congress Call Number: LC-DIG-ppmsca-34511
Notes: Photograph shows identified young soldier in uniform; he served in Co. C, 22nd Michigan Infantry Regiment from May 1, 1863 to September 19, 1864.

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