Introducing To Kill a Mockingbird

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SWBAT establish the historical context and continued relevance of To Kill a Mockingbird through both visual and textual presentations.

Big Idea

Starting to demystify that book they've always heard of . . .

Mini Writer's Workshop

15 minutes

In the previous lesson, my students were instructed to develop one paragraph that states and supports their stance on the practice of book banning.   

I invite any student volunteers to place their paragraphs on the document camera, in order to contribute to a writer's mini-workshop.  I ask the student volunteer to read his/her paragraph out loud, and then ask for student feedback first--areas of strength, areas of concern, questions, etc.

After my students share their feedback, I will read the paragraph out loud once more, adding comments or corrections to any areas not already addressed by my students. This process is a quick and fairly easy way to maintain a continued focus on writing and the techniques that contribute to making writing better.  I also believe it is always helpful for students to stay aware of how their peers are developing as writers, as they have as much to learn from each other as they learn from me:

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Historical Context Clip

15 minutes

After the writer's mini workshop, I explain to my students that today we will begin to explore our next book, To Kill a Mockingbird.  

Because the last book we read--Of Mice and Men--is set during the same time frame as To Kill a Mockingbird, my students already have a fairly functional historical foundation about the depression era, in part from the documentary they viewed in this lesson.  Today they will view a brief documentary that addresses the racial segregation that plagued the country at that time, particularly in the south, where the novel is set.  It is an accessible presentation, with no voice-over--just music, images, and text.

I distribute a set of questions to each student that they will answer as they view the presentation. I have kept the questions simple to answer and as relevant to their better understanding the historical context of the novel as possible.  It is important to attach an accountability portion to any viewing activity in light of the testing format changes of the CCSS. I want my students to get used to viewing and listening to presentations with written questions attached as much as possible.

The presentation is just under eight minutes, and when it has ended, we will review the questions as a whole group. 

KWL Chart

15 minutes

After we have reviewed the questions of the documentary, I instruct my students to turn to the next blank page in their classroom spiral notebooks and create a KWL chart.  Most, if not all, of my students should already know what this is.

I instruct them to take a few minutes and list what they know, or think they know, about To Kill a Mockingbird in the K column, and what they want to know in the W column.  At this point, I know of only two or three of my 100 students who have actually read the book already, and so I anticipate that many of my students will have the common "want to know question" of why the book is called To Kill a Mockingbird.  I also expect that most will indicate that they "know" it has been a banned book, as this was revealed to them in this lesson.

When my students have had enough time to address the first two columns, I ask for volunteers to share what they have recorded.  We spend a few minutes sharing as a whole group, and I refrain from answering any of their questions directly and instead encourage them to keep open eyes and ears as we begin reading the book.

Partner Reading

25 minutes

I conclude the period by instructing my students to pair up with their table partners in order to read an article that acknowledges the ways and reasons that To Kill a Mockingbird is still a relevant text. As they read the article with their partners, they will record at least three pieces of information that they learn about the book in the L column of their KWL chart.

I remind them not to read empty-handed (one of my many mantras), to highlight any passage that stands out to them, and to perform paragraph-by-paragraph mini-summaries in the margins if they feel it is necessary to aid their comprehension.

Because this is a relatively accessible article, I anticipate that my students should be able to read it and record their entries in their L columns with just enough time left for a few volunteers to share what they have learned with the whole group.