National Endowment of the Arts - The Big Read
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by Mark Twain

The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.


Teachers may consider the ways in which these activities may be linked to other Big Read community events. Most of these projects could be shared at a local library, a student assembly, or a bookstore.

  1. Have the students locate as many different illustrated editions of the novel as possible. How do these illustrations represent their time period? Have students select different parts of the novel to illustrate. Work with your visual arts specialist to create a series of images that reflect events in the novel, characters in the novel, and/or symbols in the novel. Exhibit student work in the gallery of a Big Read community partner.
  2. Divide the class into groups and have each group prepare a eulogy for Tom's "funeral" in Chapter XVII to be delivered by one of the following characters: Aunt Polly, Sid, or Becky Thatcher. Working with a theater teaching artist, learn dramatic techniques to assist students in delivering the eulogy. Present the eulogies at a Big Read event.
  3. Working with your local TV or radio station, create a storyboard for a short film or radio theater. Have teams of students create a radio drama or short film with the assistance of local media educators. After students have created their own rendering, examine some of the film versions of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Share student work with the community through a Big Read partner. Hold a student and media educator panel on what students learned working with film and radio. On the panel, they can discuss how their conceptions compared to professional film versions.
  4. Tom and his peers have to learn how to recite from memory. Work with your stateNEA Poetry Out Loud coordinator and hold a recitation contest in your town. Students can memorize and recite one poem from the Poetry Out Loud anthology. After the contest, hold a student panel to discuss what the young people have learned from their experience with recitation and memorizing a poem. Successful reciters can go on to compete in the state finals.
  5. Research your own community's history. Using images available online or through your local historical society, create an exhibit illustrating what life was like in your area a hundred years ago. Write captions explaining the photographs. Display the exhibit in the school's library, at a local museum, or at another Big Read venue.
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