Exploring Themes in To Kill a Mockingbird

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Working in pairs, SWBAT identify three themes that are evident in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Big Idea

Harper Lee taps on students' shoulders, and students respond.

Vocabulary Quiz 18

15 minutes


Class begins with a vocabulary quiz, testing ten words that were reviewed in this lesson.

Whole Group Review

15 minutes


After the vocabulary quiz, we spend the next few minutes reviewing chapters 26-27 of To Kill a Mockingbird, which my students read for homework.  We review via their focus questions, allowing student volunteers to offer questions to the whole group that they developed for the chapters, in order to address key events from the chapters.

Chapter 26 presents a good opportunity to review the definition of irony with students, in the way that Miss Gates, Scout's teacher, confuses her with her views of Hitler versus her views of African-Americans.  I anticipate that some of my students will apply the definition of hypocrite to Miss Gates as well.  I also expect my students to be intrigued by the shenanigans of Bob Ewell in chapter 27, as this is followed by one of the most exciting chapters of the novel.  

Partner Theme Work

20 minutes


Once a sufficient review has occurred, I explain to my students that we are now close enough to the end of the book that we should be able to determine some of the themes that Harper Lee is offering in To Kill a Mockingbird.  I remind them that themes are not single words, but rather complete sentences about single words.  I ask them to consider what Harper Lee is trying to teach them or remind them is important about the ideas in the book, as though she is tapping them on the shoulder, saying "This is important.  Notice it."

I pair students up with their table partners and give each pair three strips of yellow paper.  The task is to discuss and come to a consensus of at least three themes they determine are evident in To Kill a Mockingbird.  The partner with the neatest penmanship then writes a theme on each of the three strips, which are then taped to one of the classroom windows.  

This exercise will give my students an opportunity to address much of what the book has to offer, in preparation for an end-of-unit argument essay that will require such an awareness. When all themes are posted, we will do a brief whip-around, allowing each partnership to share their strongest expression of theme.  The posted themes are then displayed throughout the classroom as we wind down the reading and transition into writing, serving as idea inspiration for any student who may need it.

Whole Group Reading

20 minutes


The last segment of the lesson is designated for whole-group reading of chapter 28 of To Kill a Mockingbird.  My plan is to read as far as when Jem and Scout are walking home from the pageant, anticipating this will be enough of a cliffhanger for my students to want to finish reading the chapter for homework (I have a lot of fun with tricks like this, and never get tired of the wails of "NO!" when the reading stops because class is over).

I remind my students that they are to develop at least one focus question for the chapter, as I anticipate that they will be so riveted by what happens that they might forget.