To Kill A Mockingbird
Book Information: Written by Harper Lee. Published by Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 1960/2014. 344 pp. $7.99 pb. Historical Fiction.
Awards: 1961 Pulitzer Prize
Review: Jean Louise Finch aka Scout is a young tomboy that prefers the company of her older brother Jem and their neighbor’s nephew, their summertime friend, Dill. Scout and Jem live with their father, Atticus, in the fictitious town of Maycomb Alabama set in the early 1930’s. Atticus is an attorney, and when not at home the children are looked after by their cook and housekeeper, a black woman named Calpurnia. Maycomb is a small and close knit town, and since Atticus’s grandfather Simon Finch, had a stake-hold in the town, Atticus is related to many of the people in the town. Set over the course of three summers, while the children puzzle over the mystery of their recluse neighbor, they soon learn that their father is going to represent a black man named Tom Robinson. Robinson has been accused of raping and beating a white woman, and Scout and Jem soon find themselves at the end of racial slurs and insults from their school peers because their Atticus will represent Robinson at his trial. The plot unravels to the third summer which has a tense and sad conclusion to the trial. In a subsequent series of events Scout and Jem learn that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird, for they never harm other creatures. This novel speaks about humanity and is highly recommended.
Grade level: 8 +
Rating: Highly Recommended
Byline: Jaimie Davis, Graduate Student, School Library Science Program, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA.
Teaching Ideas/Invitations to the Classroom (5)
#Teaching Idea 1: Create Psychological Profiles of the Characters in the Novel (9-12)
9.4 The student will read, comprehend, and analyze a variety of literary texts including narratives, narrative nonfiction, poetry, and drama. g) Analyze the cultural or social function of a literary text. m) Use reading strategies to monitor comprehension throughout the reading process.
- Activity: Students will explore the motivations of the characters actions in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Students will first complete a free write activity. Next they will be assigned groups to do research and creative thinking. The final product will be an original poster design and a presentation representing a psychological profile for a group of selected characters from the novel. The groups will determine what specific factors (such as family, career, environment, and so forth) have the greatest influence on the characters’ decision making throughout the novel. Students will work in groups and each student in the group will be assigned a character to present for the group. The entire group will work together to compile the profile. Each group member will present their findings to the class by assuming the persona of their selected character and explaining the psychological factors influencing their behavior in the novel (ILA/NCTE, 2017). The teacher may direct use readwritethink.org so that students can use the Trading Card Creator, the Graphic Organizer for Psychological Character Profile, the Example, and Reflection Questions as they plan their character profiles and presentations.
#Teaching Idea 2: Silent Discussion
- Activity: This is an activity that can be done after completing the reading of the novel. Students will be placed in groups of three and four. Each group will be assigned a discussion topic. Each group will receive a Big bright sticky note that they will use to have a silent discussion.
- The discussion topics will be written on an index card and taped to the middle of the big sticky note. There will be one student in the group directed to read the initial card, and then each students should write a written response to the initial discussion question. Students will not respond verbally. They are only allowed to give a written response to the initial question.
- Discussion topics: (these topics will be given to each group after three 15-minute intervals).
- Many of the characters in the novel hold stereotypes about how individuals will behave as a result of their age, gender, race, social status, etc. Which characters are the victims of stereotyping? Do any of them break through the behavior expected of them, showing individuality and exposing the falseness of labeling people?
- The novel begins as the voice of a mature adult recalling events from childhood and sometimes shifts to the point of view of a 6-year-old. Did you notice the shifts occurring? If so, did you find them distracting? What advantages did the author have as a result of being able to move from one perspective to the other?
- Many readers see To Kill a Mockingbird as having two parts, one centering on Boo Radley and the other on the trial of Tom Robinson. How were the two stories brought together at the end of the novel?
- After students have responded to the initial question, they must comment on their groups’ comments and ask questions of each other in writing on the big sticky note. If someone in the group writes a question, another member of the group should address the question by writing on the big sticky note. Students can draw lines connecting a comment to a particular question. Students should know that they can all write on the big sticky note at the same time. The teacher can determine the length of this step, but it should be at least 15 minutes of response time. At the conclusion of the third discussion question, the teacher will return to the first question and each group will share their discussion thoughts to the entire class.
#Teaching Idea 3: Research Paper
The teacher and the librarian will collaborate for this lesson to have students research one of the following topics: The Great Depression, Racial Injustices, Prejudice in Today’s Society, Racism in the 1930s, Social Inequality The librarian will give students a lesson on how to use the digital reference resources and materials, and how to cite sources using either MLA or APA. Students will sign up for their research topic. Students will work in small groups based on the sign up sheet for their topic. The librarian will have stations for each of the research topics that students will explore depending on the topic that they have for their research paper. Each student will type a 4-5 page well-researched paper on the topic they signed up for. Students will present their research information along with the other students that also selected the same topic. Presentations will require an audio and visual element and students will collaborate for the final presentation. The final presentations will take place in the library.
#Teaching Idea 4: Double Entry Response Journal
9.5 g) Analyze and synthesize information in order to solve problems, answer
questions, or complete a task.
h) Draw conclusions and make inferences on explicit and implied information using
textual support as evidence.
- Activity: Good readers make connections to text as they read, so for this assignment students as students read the novel, they will be required to make at least two-three connection/responses to each chapter. In the left column, students will record events, situations or quotes from the novel that they can relate or react to. In the right column, they will record their connections/reactions to make a connection between the text and themselves (text-to self), another text (text-to-text), or the world (text-to-world). Students will also be required to share their reaction to the connection by writing down how it makes them feel and why. The teacher will model for students how to complete the Double Entry response journal by using the first and second chapter as an example. The teacher will use a document camera so that students can see in real-time the teacher’s event, situation, quote, connection, and the reaction to the text connection.
#Teaching Idea 5: Book or Movie Trailer
9.3 ) Discriminate between connotative and denotative meanings and interpret the
connotation. 9.4 m) Use reading strategies to monitor comprehension throughout the reading process. e) Explain the relationships between and among elements of literature: characters, plot, setting, tone, point of view, and theme.
- Activity: Students will make their own book trailer or movie trailer to introduce the novel using a video tool. Students may select from the following video tools: Animoto, Adobe Spark, Powtoon, Sharalike, Stupeflix, or WeVideo. The teacher and the librarian will collaborate on this lesson. The librarian will give students an overview of how the difference between all of the video tools and how to use them. If a student has a preference for use of a different video tool, he or she must receive permission from the teacher. Students will work in groups to create either a book or movie trailer. For the movie trailer, students will be assigned roles to direct, act, and produce the video. The trailer must include audio (voice over and music), and scene changes and transitions. Students will need to collaborate as a team to produce the final product. The teacher will bring students to the library computer lab for the video creation. The teacher and librarian will monitor and assist students as needed.
Further Explorations (7)
1- Facing History and Ourselves (2017) Teaching Mockingbird. Retrieved from https://www.facinghistory.org/mockingbird.
Teachers can use this site to access multimedia resources to teach TKAM. The site also contains resources for Go Set a Watchman.
2- Harper Collins (2017). Teaching Resources for To Kill a Mockingbird. Retrieved from http://tokillamockingbird50year.harpercollins.com/teachers/teacher-resources.php.
Teachers can use this site to access resources to teach TKAM.
3- Mulligan, R. (1962). To Kill a Mockingbird [film]. United States. Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
This is the film version of the novel, directed by Robert Mulligan. Very closely depicts the events from the novel and is a great audiovisual representation of the novel.
4- Murphy, C. Dingler, B., Yu, L. (2003) To Kill A Mockingbird Unit Plan. Retrieved from http://education.library.ubc.ca/files/2011/06/10Chris-Murphy-Brad-Dingler-Lisa-Yu-Unit-Plan-TKAM.pdf
This is a unit plan for teaching resources that teachers and students can access through the web.
5- NEA Big Read. (2016) To Kill a Mockingbird Resources. Retrieved from http://www.neabigread.org/books/mockingbird/teachers-guide
Teachers can use this site to access multimedia resources to teach TKAM.
6- Neary, L. (2010) 50 Years On, ‘Mockingbird’ Still Sings America’s Song. NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128340180
This radio broadcast celebrates the anniversary of TKAM, and discusses how the novel is still used in classrooms around the world and continues to resonate with students from all backgrounds despite its age.
7- Shields, C. (2008) I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Co.
This is an adapted version for children of the original title by Shields “Mockingbird: A portrait of Harper.” This is the story of the author of TKAM. Will provide students will background knowledge about the author and the novel, TKAM.
Partner Titles (5)
1- Acampora, P. (2014) I Kill the Mockingbird. New York, NY: Roaring Brook.
This novel begins with the death of a beloved English teacher who assigned To Kill a Mockingbird for summer reading. Represents a good artistic interpretation of the novel. This partner title supports the title of To Kill a Mockingbird.2- Curtis, C. P. (2012) The Mighty Miss Malone. New York, NY: Random House/Wendy Lamb.
This novel is set in 1936 and the protagonist’s father disappears and funds are limited her mother is forced to move the family to a shack to make ends meet. Set in the same era, this novel’s protagonist is about the same age as Scout, and has the same spunk and courage. This partner novel shows life and struggles in the 1930s from the perspective of an young African American girl, which is the opposite of Scout who is a white female protagonist.
3- Marino, J. (1997) Searching for Atticus. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
This partner title is a story about a girl that has seen the To Kill a Mockingbird movie several times and wishes her father, a soldier recently returned home from the Vietnam war, was more like Atticus Finch. This partner title reflects the problems encountered in the era of the main text.
4- Lee, H. (2015) Go Set a Watchman. New York, NY. Harper Collins.
This novel is set twenty years after TKAM. Scout, now twenty six years old returns to Maycomb Alabama from her home in New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. While in Maycomb she learns things that she finds disturbing and have her questioning all that she knows and believes about people. This partner title is a true partner title to TKAM, because it was penned to follow the original plot of TKAM. It contributes to the objectives of TKAM and enriches the the plot.
5- Wiles, Deborah. (2014) Revolution (The Sixties Trilogy #2) New York, NY: Scholastic Press. Set in Missisippi in 1964, this novel offers a perspective of two alternate viewpoints from the same town but different sides of the town. It includes segregation, civil rights, and jim crow laws. This partner title is relevant to today’s world and represents some of the problems, aspirations, attitudes, and ideas of society that people encountered in the 1960s and present-day.
This novel can be paired with All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.
Acampora, P. (2014) I Kill the Mockingbird. New York, NY: Roaring Brook.
Chicago Public Library. (2017). To Kill a Mockingbird Discussion Questions. Retrieved from https://www.chipublib.org/to-kill-a-mockingbir-discussion-questions/.
Curtis, C. P. (2012) The Mighty Miss Malone. New York, NY: Random House/Wendy Lamb.
FacingHistory.Org. (2016). Big Paper: Building a Silent Conversation.
Facing History and Ourselves (2017) Teaching Mockingbird. Retrieved from https://www.facinghistory.org/mockingbird.
Harper Collins (2017). Teaching Resources for To Kill a Mockingbird. Retrieved from http://tokillamockingbird50year.harpercollins.com/teachers/teacher-resources.php.
Lee, H. (1960/2014). To Kill a Mockingbird. New York, NY: Harper Perennial Modern Classics.
Marino, J. (1997) Searching for Atticus. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Mulligan, R. (1962). To Kill a Mockingbird [film]. United States. Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
Murphy, C. Dingler, B., Yu, L. (2003) To Kill A Mockingbird Unit Plan. Retrieved from http://education.library.ubc.ca/files/2011/06/10Chris-Murphy-Brad-Dingler-Lisa-Yu-Unit-Plan-TKAM.pdf
NEA Big Read. (2016) To Kill a Mockingbird Resources. Retrieved from http://www.neabigread.org/books/mockingbird/teachers-guide
Neary, L. (2010) 50 Years On, ‘Mockingbird’ Still Sings America’s Song. NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128340180
ILA/NCTE (2017). Creating Psychological Profiles of Characters in To Kill A Mockingbird. ReadWriteThink.org. Retrieved from http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/creating-psychological-profiles-characters-1184.html.
Shields, C. (2008) I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Co.