Simon Birch

by Nancy Husari


Introduction and Notes for teachers:

Simon Birch is a film about a very small person; he has a lot of faith and self-confidence in spite of the fact that he is physically "different", he has little family support and he has health problems. Be aware that there is some "questionable" language and students may find parts of the dialogue difficult to understand. Also, Simon is religious, and goes to a Christian church, so I emphasized the "faith" issue in a general sense, and explained references to the Bible, the Christmas story etc. as lexical items.

Day l:

I introduced the film simply by saying that it was about "a very small person." I gave the students these comprehension questions to follow as they watched the first hour of the film.

Answer these questions about the first half of the movie.

1. What is different about Simon Birch?

2. Who is Simon's friend?

3.. Why do you think that they are friends?

4. What game did Simon like?

5. How would you describe Simon's character?

6. Who did Simon's friend (Joe) live with? Why?

7. Describe Miss Wentworth's (Joe's mother) boyfriend, Ben.

8. What was in his bag?

9. What's Simon's relationship with his parents like?

10. What does Joe what to know about?

11. What did Miss Wentworth make for Simon?

12. What happened in church?

13. How was Simon punished?

14. What did Miss Wentworth do?

15. What happened to Miss Wentworth?

16. What happened between the two boys?

17. What did Simon think that his purpose in life was?

18. What did Joe's grandmother tell him after his motheršs death?

19. What did Joe feel that he had to do?

Note: We finished this half of the film on the last day of the week and planned to watch the rest of it on Monday. I asked them to try to answer these questions for homework. I also asked them to write on the topic of "Write about a time in your life when you felt like you didn't fit in." (Recylcled topic from Lesson about Brainstorming on Tolerance)

Day Two:

Note: The students had had some trouble understanding the dialogue on the first viewing. We summarized the first day by answering the comprehension questions (above) as a group. I gave them a summary of the second half of the movie to follow as they watched. Then they worked on the discussion questions in small groups. I asked them to write about their ideas from the discussion questions for homework.

SUMMARY OF SIMON BIRCH
(Second half)

Joe and Simon decided that the gym teacher was Joe's father. They decided to break into his office in the school one night. They wanted to find the baseball that killed Joe's mother. They thought that Joe's father must have the missing baseball. They found a baseball, but it was not the right baseball. Joe realized that the gym teacher was not his father. He got angry. He broke some windows and other things. The police took Joe and Simon to the police station. The policeman said that Joe and Simon could do "community service" instead of going to jail. The community service would be going on a church retreat (camp) during winter vacation. The policeman couldnšt find anyone to pick the boys up from the police station so they called Ben and he picked them up. They all went to the lake to talk. Ben said that he didnšt know who Joe's father was, but that if he knew, he would tell Joe. Simon said that his destiny was to be a hero, but he didnšt know how yet. He also said that he was "running out of time." There was going to be a Christmas pageant (a play). The teacher chose Marjorie (the pretty girl) to be Mary, and Simon to be the Baby Jesus. She chose a large boy to be the angel. Simon was causing trouble so the Reverend took him to his office. He took Simonšs baseball cards so that Simon wouldn't cause any more trouble. Simon talked about God's plan, but the Reverend said that Simon was "overdoing it." A little boy said that he was afraid of going on the retreat with the older kids and Simon said that he would protect him. He told Joe that little kids always listened to him because of the way he looked. The pageant was a disaster because "the angel" fell down. Simon tried to touch and kiss Marjorie. The Reverend then told Simon that he could not go on the retreat and he could not have his baseball cards back. Simon got sick. Joe told Simon's parents that Simon was a hero and that they didnšt deserve to have him. Simon went to the bus to say goodbye to Joe. Simon went to the Reverend's office to get his baseball cards. He saw a baseball in the cabinet, and he knew that the Reverend was Joešs father. Simon told Ben. They went to the retreat to tell Joe, but the Reverend had already told Joe that he was his father. Ben decided to drive back and Simon rode on the bus with Joe. On the way back, the bus got into an accident in the river. The bus driver saved himself. Joe and Simon had to save everyone else. Simon took charge. He and Joe saved everyone, but Simon went back to save a little kid who was trapped on the bus and Simon died in the hospital. In the end, Ben adopted Joe, and Joe knew that even though the Reverend was his father, Ben was his "real" father because Ben really cared about him.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
SIMON BIRCH

1. Have you ever known anyone like Simon?

2. If yes, what was this person like?

3. Simon wanted to be a hero, and eventually he was. Have you ever been a hero, even in a small way?

4. What's your definition of a hero?

5. Sometimes a hero can be someone you know: a mother, a father, a friend, etc. Maybe Ben was Joe's hero. Who has been a hero for you in your life?



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