"The The Fighting Ground" is a chronicle of the 24 hours that a 13 year old boy experiences as a soldier. By the end of the story, the boy discovers that he no longer desires the life of a soldier. This book gives a realistic, unglorified, and compassionate view of how war was and can be.” Contained in this article are several activities to include while reading this book.
You can read The Fighting Ground in conjunction with a unit study on the American Revolution, but this is certainly not necessary. The Fighting Ground is a great stand alone book as well.
There are several activities that could work with the unit study approach, or just as activities for extending the book.
1. Library Resources: Add videotapes about the American Revolution that include the actual sounds of canon and musket fire on them. This will help the reader understand about all the sensory input that a soldier deals with during battle. How confusing and frightening it can be.
2. Field Trip Idea: Attend a battle re-enactment. These, even better than video, illustrate what Jonathon would have been going through. The canon and musket fire is very loud even though they use “fake” bullets. The smell of the gunpowder is also very potent.
3. One of the first ideas that comes up in the book is the idea of obeying your parents. Jonathon really wanted to be a soldier and he heard the tavern bell, but his parents had other ideas. You could cover the proverb “Obey your parents” and the consequences if you don’t.
4. Writing Activity: The Fighting Ground is written as an hour-by-hour chronicle. Have the children keep an hour-by-hour account of one of their own days. It could be for that day, or it could be memories from a special occasion. After it has been written, see if it recreates the memories of that day for you. Does it feel like you are actually re-experiencing the day. If not, give them the opportunity to had more description and personal observations.
5. Geography: The Fighting Gourd took place in New Jersey. Jonathon mentioned several places during the book. Take a detailed map of New Jersey and see if you can locate the places he named.
6. Geography/History: The activity in number five can be expounded on by studying the state of New Jersey and in particular about the state’s colonial period and any contribution it made to the American Revolution.
7. History: Who were the Hessians that were battling the patriots? What are mercenaries? What does mercenary mean?
8. Art: Jonathon describes the Hessian uniform in the book. Recreate what a Hessian uniform looked like and what color it was based on Jonathon’s description.
9. Writing Activity: Before reading the book, have the child write an essay on what they think of war and set it aside. After their essay have them write another essay on their feelings about war. Did the book change their feelings? In the second essay did they use the book to illustrate their feelings if they didn’t change?
10. What is a dialogue? Write a dialogue between two people, any two people, for practice. Then, once you get the concept, write an original dialogue between two characters in the book, perhaps two that didn’t meet in the book at all but were still part of the story.
11. The house Jonathon and the Hessians stayed in was a Swedish-style house. Draw a floor plan of the house as it was described in the book.
12. The Swedish-style house became the popular “log cabin” prevalent in colonial and pioneer eras of the USA. Make a three dimensional replica of a log cabin using whatever materials you have at hand. Even rolled newspapers can be used and then painted brown to look like wood.
13. Biographical reading: Additional reading can be accomplished by reading biographies of real life figures during the American Revolution. At the end of this article is a list of people you could chose from.
14. Physical Education: The musket that Jonathon carried weighed about 12 pounds. The longer he carried it the heavier it got. How long can you carry something that weighs 12 pounds before it gets to feel heavy?
15. Home Ec: Make Johnny cake. Its basically just your standard cornbread recipe fried up in a skillet like pancakes instead of baked in an oven. This is still a very popular bread in the south.
Additional Reading Suggestions:
My Brother Sam Is Dead
War Comes to Willy Freeman
Phoebe the Spy
The Secret Soldier: The Story of Deborah Sampson
George the Drummer Boy
Ben and Me
Guns for General Washington
George Washington’s Socks
Drums at Saratoga
The Bloody Country
An Enemy Among Them
The Riddle of Pencroft Farm
The Fifth of March: The Story of the Boston Massacre
Additionally, check out the many stories by the author Jean Fritz!
Some Famous People of the American Revolution:
George Rogers Clark
John Paul Jones
King George III
Marquis de Lafayette
Richard Henry Lee
Joseph Pumb Martin
Jean Baptiste de Rochambeau
Baron Friedrich von Steuben