Skip to content

To Kill a Mockingbird Anticipation Guide / Introduction Activity

    To Kill a Mockingbird Anticipation Guide cover

    This To Kill a Mockingbird Anticipation Guide (PDF handout) prepares students to read Harper Lee’s masterpiece.  Activate prior knowledge, engage with theme subjects, create interest, and set a purpose for reading. Click the file link to print or download.

    To Kill a Mockingbird Anticipation Guide PDFThe most important topics are on the first page.  If you have time constraints, use the first page only.  If students will be discussing in groups, you can bring the class back together to discuss the first statements even if some did not finish.

    To Kill a Mockingbird Anticipation Guide page 2: 

    To Kill a Mockingbird Introduction Activity printable

    Related Post: 10 To Kill a Mockingbird Pre-reading Activities

    To Kill a Mockingbird Discussion class FEATURED

    To Kill a Mockingbird Anticipation Guide (printable PDF)

    The PDF file above is ready-to-print.  If you prefer to cut and paste from this page, the statements are listed below.  Keep reading for a lesson plan that incorporates this resource.

    TKM anticipation guide statements to cut and paste:

    “When someone thinks or acts in a way that I do not understand, I try hard to see things from their point of view.”

    This is one of the most important lessons learned by Scout over the course of the novel.  Major plots like “Discovering Boo Radley” and minor plots like “Walter Cunningham Comes for Supper” develop this message.

    “The strong have the right to harm the weak. That is simply how the world works.”

    This cynical view is all to common in history and in today’s world.  Lee uses Atticus to voice her view that it is a sin to harm the innocent.  Lee develops symbols like birds and animals to artfully oppose this point of view.

    “I can explain what it means to be an adult.”

    For young readers discovering To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time, this is a topic of great import. What does it mean to see the world with adult understanding.  Jem, Scout, and Dill are finding out.

    “One day, racism and prejudice will be a thing of the past.”

    Can prejudice ever be completely eliminated?  Is bigotry and exclusion ingrained in human instinct? Can we train ourselves to be rid of this loathsome limitation?

    “I see examples of hypocrisy in my day-to-day life.” (Hypocrisy is when someone’s behavior does not match their claimed beliefs, like a gossip who claims to despise gossip.)

    Students (and adults) love denouncing examples of hypocrisy, especially when the contradiction is to their own disadvantage.  Of course, hypocrisy is a matter of point of view.  Scout is learning to think critically about the behaviors that she sees.  When Miss Gates denounces prejudice in Nazi Germany but supports it in Maycomb, Scout struggles to make sense of it.

    “The legal system protects everyone equally. It is very fair.”

    As Atticus explains, courts of law are meant to be “the great levelers.”  Nevertheless, history is littered with examples of failed “justice.”  How can Atticus dedicate his life to a system so flawed? Should we have faith in this system?

    “In some circumstances, it is OK to lie.”

    As Scout moves to a more adult and nuanced point of view, she must accept that fact that right and wrong are not a simple as a list of rules.  She learns that sometimes a lie is the moral choice, even when a man has been killed.

    “School is the most important influence on a young person.”

    This question usually gets a rise out of the discussion groups.  Some students put incredible faith in their education while others see it as an obstacle to their development.

    “When I read a book or watch a movie, I am on the lookout for details that might have a larger meaning or message (symbols).”

    Most people believe that they are fairly observant, but is this so?  How many have never stopped to think about why there are stars on the U.S. flag? Why not diamonds? Why not arrows? Why not anchors?  Challenge students to put their skills of observation to the test when it comes to the symbols in To Kill a Mockingbird.

    “I would rather live in a big city than a small town.”

    For most students, a small, rural town is an alien world.  Get students thinking about the lifestyle differences before they head to Maycomb.

    Incorporating this worksheet into a lesson:

    Lesson: It’s NOT about Birds!

    To Kill a Mockingbird Introduction Activity lesson

    Key standard: SL1 Comprehension and Collaboration (discussion)

    SL9-10.1 “Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own…”

    Into: Why read fiction?

    Some people feel that reading fiction (made-up stories) is a waste of time. What do you think? What might a reader gain from a fictional portrayal? If you think reading fiction is pointless, explain your view.

    Through: What’s this all about?

    Before we discuss the key topics in To Kill a Mockingbird , let’s talk about…

    Unit goals

    • Analyze theme development (especially symbols)
    • Explain the use of point of view
    • Describe how authors craft characters (characterization)
    • Recognize structural elements and effects (e.g., suspense)
    • Cite textual evidence to support analysis

    Culminating tasks

    • Symbol presentations
    • Final exam
    • Other: __________________________

    Reading schedule

    Available support: (“If you would like additional help, you can let me know by…”)

    Sensitive content: (more on sensitive content)

    • Accusations of sexual assault / implications of sexual abuse
    • Racist stereotypes, attitudes, and slurs
    • Violence
    • Sexist attitudes and slurs
    • Cursing and harsh language

    Group activity:

    We will now preview the themes and context of To Kill a Mockingbird with an anticipation guide. Respond to the statements and be ready to explain your views.  Share your views, be a good listener, and respect the views of others.

    1. Respond to each statement on your own.
    2. Share and discuss your responses in a group.
    3. Choose one of your group discussions to share with the whole class.


    • Based on today’s discussion, make some guesses (even wild guesses) as to what To Kill a Mockingbird is all about. (Hint: It is NOT about birds!)
    • Which of the discussion statements interested you the most? Explain.

    Related Post: To Kill a Mockingbird Unit Plan (Grades 8-10)

    To Kill a Mockingbird Unit Plan cover

    More To Kill a Mockingbird introduction activities

    An anticipation guide is an efficient and effective approach to get students thinking and talking about key themes before reading.  Here are some other introduction activities to consider at the start of the novel unit. For detailed explanations check out 10 To Kill a Mockingbird Pre-reading Activities.

    Building on Prior Knowledge (Jim Crow and segregation)

    What do you already know about life before the Civil Rights Movement? Use primary sources and nonfiction texts to think about stereotypes, discrimination, and social norms in the Jim Crow era.  How was it possible for such objectionable ideas to be popular?

    “An Event that Changed My Point of View” (personal essay)

    What is your personal definition of adulthood? How’s does a child’s point of view differ from an adult’s?Students think about the meaning of adulthood and write a personal essay entitled “An Even that Changed My Point of View.”

    Visual Symbols and Literary Symbols 

    Symbols permeate our culture, stories, and visual landscape. Practicing with visual and literary symbols prepares students to identify and analyze symbolism in To Kill a Mockingbird.

    A Controversial Novel

    Many schools and districts have removed To Kill a Mockingbird from the curriculum.  Familiarize students with the controversy surrounding the novel before they read and form their own conclusions.

    Hypocrisy Skits

    Prepare student for Lee’s use of irony by thinking about hypocrisy in general.  Students will demonstrate their understanding by performing original skits.

    Profiles in Courage

    Atticus wants Jem to reconsider his notion of courage.  Have students explore the meaning of courage by presenting on different forms and examples.

    The Scottsboro Affair

    Students use primary sources connected to the Scottsboro Affair to identify and analyze bias.  The real-life events inspired Lee’s imagining of the trial of Tom Robinson.

    Research Jigsaw (1930s America)

    Students conduct short research projects to establish the historical context of To Kill a Mockingbird.  Assign separate topics (feminism in the 1930’s, segregation in America, the Great Depression, etc.) so that students can build and share knowledge.

    Debate the Jury System

    How is a trial by a “jury of one’s peers” meant to work? Would you be proud to serve jury duty? Why does the system sometimes fail? Could there be a better way?

    How Accepting Are You?

    Are you accepting of others? Do you practice tolerance, understanding, and sympathy in your day-to-day life? Take a quiz to find out.

    For more on To Kill a Mockingbird introductions, check out 10 To Kill a Mockingbird Pre-reading Activities.

    Thanks for checking out To Kill a Mockingbird Anticipation Guide!

    The conventional format for anticipation guides asks students to agree or disagree with a set of statements.  The printable To Kill a Mockingbird anticipation guide below follows this model. If you have found this post helpful, check out more To Kill a Mockingbird posts from TeachNovels.

    This worksheet is the first part of a comprehensive To Kill a Mockingbird  unit.  If you like what you see, check out all the To Kill a Mockingbird resources from TeachNovels. Teaching units include pre-reading activities, comprehension checks, engaging lessons, extensions tasks and projects, exam banks, and more.

    Related post: To Kill a Mockingbird Discussion Questions (6 sets)

    Related post: To Kill a Mockingbird Unit Plan (Grade 8 to Grade 10)