Analyzing The Witnesses

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SWBAT begin completing a graphic organizer designed to compare inferences made from text to film about the four witnesses of the trial in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Big Idea

Sworn to tell the whole truth and nothing but . . . but are they?

Chapter 17 Review

10 minutes


My students were to complete chapter 17 of To Kill a Mockingbird for homework, which we began reading as a whole group in this lesson, along with creating one focus question for the chapter.  We will spend the first few minutes of class debriefing about chapter 17 by allowing student volunteers to steer the discussion through sharing their focus questions.  

Since none of my classes were able to complete chapter 17 as a whole-group in the previous lesson, I expect that my students will have plenty to say about the testimony of Bob Ewell.

Analyzing the Witnesses

20 minutes


Before we begin reading chapter 18 as a whole group today, I want to put an activity in place that will progress into an analysis of each witness in terms of their believability and their effectiveness--in short, their use of the argumentative appeals.  This activity will put us on a path towards identifying the themes around racism inherent in the book, for what my students will discover is the ways in which racism usurps the truth.  In effect, how racism makes nonsense out of seeming sense.

I have drawn a graphic organizer on the whiteboard which I instruct my students to copy down in their classroom spiral notebooks.  I explain that we will only be working with the column marked "In the book . . ." this week, and that we will complete the final column--"In the film . . . " sometime next week, when I have scheduled the next installment of film viewing.

Once my students have copied down the graphic organizer, I instruct them to complete the book column for both Heck Tate and Bob Ewell, now that they have completed chapter 17.  I explain that they are to indicate how the character seems or sounds as a witness, based on one piece of evidence they must provide from the text.

When my students have completed this task, I ask for student volunteers to share what they have recorded and what evidence they have used as support.

Whole Group Reading

30 minutes


Next we move into whole-group reading of chapter 18, which is the chapter in which Mayella Ewell testifies.  My students now have two tasks in place as we read:

  1. Develop one focus question for the chapter.
  2. Complete the Mayella box on the chart we have just created.

I ask for student volunteers to read aloud, and I participate as a reader as well.  We stop whenever necessary to address questions or comments.  I expect that my students will have strong reactions to Mayella's demeanor, and wonder if they will be able to interpret her as more than one-dimensional. From the start of this book, I have been reminding my students that Harper Lee will challenge them to see her characters from all sides, and I'm curious as to whether they will be moved by Mayela's implicit loneliness. 


Mayella's Credibility?

10 minutes


Regardless of whether we finish reading chapter 18, I will stop with around ten minutes left of class to address Mayella's character and allow any student volunteers to share what they have recorded thus far about Mayella on their graphic organizers.

Any remaining reading of chapter 18 will be assigned for homework.