To Kill a Mockingbird Unit Plan cover

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

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Designing a great novel unit challenges even the most expert teachers. I hope my To Kill a Mockingbird Unit Plan will help you make your unit a success.

To Kill a Mockingbird Unit Plan overview

This unit divides the novel into six (approximately) equal readings.  Lessons, activities, discussion sets, and reading quizzes accompany each reading.

  • Pre-reading: “It’s NOT about Birds!” (anticipation guide)

  • Reading 1: Building Character

  • Reading 2: The True Boo

  • Reading 3: 1930s America

  • Reading 4: Atticus v. Maycomb

  • Reading 5: TKM and The Scottsboro Affair

  • Reading 6: It’s Complicated (structure)

  • Final project: Beyond the Mockingbird (symbolism)

  • Final exam: multiple choice questions and writing prompts

Reading schedule handoutReading schedule PDF to print for students

31 Lessons: To Kill a Mockingbird Unit Plan

Each section of the unit includes several lessons and a set of discussion questions.  The lessons have been paired with an appropriate reading, but many of the lessons could be used at an alternate time.

Pre-reading activities

It’s NOT about Birds! (anticipation guide)
Who Is Jim Crow? (historical context)
A New Point of View (personal essay)
When an Apple Isn’t an Apple (symbolism)

Reading 1 (Chapters 1-5)

Building Character (textual analysis)
One Form of Courage (group presentation)
Setting and Mood (analyze word choice)
Discussion Questions (Chapters 1-5)

Reading 2 (Chapters 6-9)

The True Boo (structural effects)
Atticus’ Guide to Parenting (characterization)
Dialect in Dialogue (skit)
Discussion Questions (Chapters 6-9)

Reading 3 (Chapters 10-14)

Atticus v. Maycomb (points of view)
1930s America Gallery (primary sources)
Symbol Poems (creative writing)
Discussion Questions (Chapters 10-14)

Reading 4 (Chapters 15-18)

Closing Arguments I (composition)
Closing Arguments II (delivery)
Harper Lee’s Style (textual analysis)
Discussion Questions (Chapters 15-18)

Reading 5 (Chapters 19-23)

Trial on Trial (argument and persuasion)
The Scottsboro Affair (analyze bias)
Writing with Imagery (creative writing)
Discussion Questions (Chapter 19-23)

Reading 6 (Chapters 24-31)

Lee’s Themes (trace development)
Beyond the Mockingbird (symbolism)
It’s Complicated (group structure diagram)
Discussion Questions (Chapters 24-31)

Bonus lessons

The Suspense is Killing Me! (effects of structure)
To Kill a Mockingbird in Context (timeline)
Hypocrites! (group skit)

To Kill a Mockingbird Lesson Plans COVER - Edited

Example Lessons: To Kill a Mockingbird Unit Plan

NOTE: The lessons are aligned to the Common Core standards for grade 10.  However, since the Language Arts standards are recursive, they usually relate to the same standard for grade 8.


Lesson: The True Boo

Common Core standard: RL2 Key Ideas and Details (theme development)
RL9-10.2 “Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.”

Into:

The message of a narrative (any story) is called the theme. A long text might have many themes. A theme is always expressed in a complete sentence.

Theme: Love stinks. (This is a complete sentence.)
Theme subject: Love (This is not a sentence.)

Brainstorm all the theme subjects that are developing in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Chart student responses.

  • Racism
  • Growing up
  • Gender
  • Perceptions
  • Schooling
  • Innocence
  • Lineage and family
  • Courage
  • Religion / morality
  • Family
  • Tolerance
  • Understanding

Through:

This reading develops a plot surrounding the true nature of Boo Radley. We unravel the mystery of Boo Radley along with the kids. What theme does Lee develop in this episode? (Hint: Jem’s point of view on the events is especially important.)

The True Boo Handout (PDF)

Students create a chart that compares Boo Radley perceptions vs. Boo Radley reality. This chart may be completed individually or in collaborative groups. Decide if you want the students to simply identify the events or to include citations. After collecting the evidence, students should be able to identify the theme.

Beyond:

What theme has Harper Lee developed about perceptions? Summarize how she uses the plot surrounding Boo Radley to develop this theme.


Lesson: 1930s America Gallery

Common Core standard: SL4 Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas (present findings)
SL9-10.4 “Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.”

Into:

Scout and Jem are growing up in a small town in Alabama in the 1930s. What aspects of their lives are the most different from your own experiences? What aspects are similar?

Discuss responses as a class.

Through:

Your group will present one image from the 1930s America Gallery to the class. You will conduct outside research in order to gain expertise.

1930s America Gallery PDF (to print or project)All gallery images are Public Domain.

  • Jim Crow Laws (1870-1965)
  • Separate but Equal (1896)
  • The 19th Amendment (1920)
  • Prohibition (1920-1933)
  • The Wall Street Crash (1929)
  • The Great Depression (1929-1933)
  • Hooverville (1929-1933)
  • Gender in Pop Culture (1930s)
  • The rise of the Nazi Party (1931)
  • The Scottsboro Boys (1931)
  • The Ku Klux Klan (1865-present)
  • The New Deal (1933-1939)

In your presentation make sure to…

    • Explain key terms.
    • Put the image in context. (How does it fit within history?)
    • Think about the original purpose behind the image.
    • Offer two informative quotes from your research.
    • Analyze key details of the image.
    • Make connections to To Kill a Mockingbird.

Decide how you want students to participate as listeners. Will they be required to ask one thoughtful question? Will they record an explanation for each of the primary sources?

Beyond:

Which image from today’s gallery is the most memorable or interesting for you? Explain your choice.

What are your key takeaways from today’s gallery? What did you learn? Do your findings help you better understand the setting of To Kill a Mockingbird?


Lesson: Closing Arguments I (composition)

Common Core standard: W1 Text Types and Purposes (argument)
W.9-10.1 “Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.”

Into:

We have not heard all the testimony, but what are some of the problems with the prosecution’s case so far? Review the aspects that do not build a solid case against Tom Robinson. Why might one doubt the Ewells’ testimony?

Chart responses as a class.

Through:

You will be serving on the defense team for Tom Robinson. Your task is the write the closing argument. Listen to Tom Robinson’s testimony and think about how the additional evidence will help you defend him.

How can you persuade the members of the jury to find Tom Robinson innocent?

Read the first part of Chapter 19 (Tom Robinson’s testimony) as a class. Add to the class chart of ideas and evidence.

Persuasive appeals (reasons):
Logos: A logical appeal. Based on sound and reasonable thought.
Pathos: An appeal to emotions. Anger, sadness, affection, etc. can persuade.
Ethos: Moral expertise and knowledge. Determining right and wrong.

If time allows, discuss faulty reasoning and deceptive persuasion.

In defending Tom Robinson, think about the three types of appeals: logical appeals, emotional appeals, and ethical appeals. Regarding emotional appeals, a dramatic delivery is not out of order, but the tone should be appropriate for the trial.

What makes a formal argument?

    • Organizing the elements: position statement, claims, reasons, evidence, and counterclaims
    • Developing reasons and appeals with key evidence
    • Making transitions and connections (transition words)
    • Keeping an appropriate tone and style
    • Concluding with authority

To Kill a Mockingbird Unit Plan grade 8 handoutBeyond:

Think about counterarguments. What claims and reasons might the prosecution present in the closing argument? How will you respond?


Lesson: To Kill a Mockingbird in Context (timeline)

Key standard: RL9 Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
RL7-8.9 “Compare and contrast a fictional portrayal of a time, place, or character and a historical account of the same period as a means of understanding how authors of fiction use or alter history.”

Into:

What do you think Harper Lee wanted to accomplish in writing To Kill a Mockingbird? (Of course, she may have had many reasons.)

Through:

Harper Lee wanted to entertain readers and be compensated, but she may have had larger goals. After all, she published in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement.

To think about how this work of fiction relates to real history, you will create a timeline of key terms and events. You must sort the terms in chronological order from earliest to latest.

Include the fictional events of To Kill a Mockingbird (1933-1935) and the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) in your timeline.

To Kill a Mockingbird in Context handout (PDF)Historical context lesson

Beyond:

How does Harper Lee mirror real-life events in To Kill a Mockingbird? Why does she create these similarities?

Think about the people reading To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time in 1960. How do you think different people reacted to the novel?


Lesson: Beyond the Mockingbird (symbolism)

Common Core standard: RL2 Main Ideas and Details (theme)
RL9-10.2 “Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.”

Into:

SYMBOLISM DRILL! Choose four examples from the list and offer an idea about what each might represent in a creative work. Be imaginative!

  • An abandoned silver mine
  • An ancient tree
  • A newborn lamb
  • A pair of worn-out gloves
  • A perfect spot to watch the sunrise
  • A homemade birdhouse
  • An orderly greenhouse
  • A broken violin
  • A tiny sailboat
  • An old action figure still in its package

What objects, places, events, or people in To Kill a Mockingbird might be symbols?

Through:

Harper Lee uses symbols to develop the novel’s themes (messages about life). Each group is to choose one symbolic element from the list and present analysis on its development.

Symbols in the novel chart grade 10 - Edited

Decide how extensively students must use textual evidence. This presentation could work at varying levels of formality.

Your presentation must include…

    • Relevant textual evidence with analysis
    • An explanation of how Lee creates the symbolism
    • The connection between the symbol and a theme

Speaking and Listening (SL9-10.6): Practice presentating in a professional manner.

    • Posture (standing up straight and not fidgeting)
    • Movement (engaging eye contact and gestures)
    • Voice (clear, paced, and with inflection)
    • Tone (formal vocabulary and phrasing)
    • Explanation (Do not read off the screen or board. The text is a list of concepts and details that you will explain, not a script. Expand on the key terms, phrases, and visuals with your expert knowledge.)

Beyond:

Does symbolism have an impact on you as a reader or is it a wasted effort? Explain your answer.

Which symbol from To Kill a Mockingbird is most impactful to you as a reader? Explain your choice.

Create an outline for a short story that includes a symbol. Briefly outline the characters, setting, plot, theme, and symbol.


Symbolism To Kill a Mockingbird

Goals of the To Kill a Mockingbird Unit

Analyze point of view. Explain how Lee’s choice of narrator impacts the telling.  The narrator is an adult, but, through her memories, we adopt a childish point of view.  As a result, the reader benefits from two points of view in one.

Trace theme development.  Lee packs To Kill a Mockingbird with messages about life and human nature.  Major themes on understanding others, protecting the innocent, and prejudice develop through a variety of literary elements.

Interpret symbolism and analyze its use.  While the mockingbird symbol is heavy-handed and obvious, Lee also creates more subtle symbols.  Recognize symbols, analyze their development, and explain the author’s purpose.

Make connections to historical context. Explain how the setting of the novel and the time of publication relate to historical realities and events.

Recognize the complexities of structure. At first glance, TKM seems like a straightforward recollection.  Closer inspection reveals a text with two parts, parallel main plots, episodic subplots, and a wealth of structural effects that weave together in a cohesive whole.

Describe the author’s style.  The highlights of Lee’s style in To Kill a Mockingbird include how she integrates dialect, creates imagery, and establishes tone.

Explore methods of characterization. In TKM Harper Lee creates some of the most memorable characters of American literature.  Explain characterization methods in general and characterization in TKM specifically.

To Kill a Mockingbird Unit and Teacher Guide COVER

The complete To Kill a Mockingbird Unit and Teacher Guide

If you plan to teach this novel and would like access to all the To Kill a Mockingbird resources, check out the complete To Kill a Mockingbird Unit and Teacher Guide.

To Kill a Mockingbird Unit and Teacher Guide contents:

31 To Kill a Mockingbird Lessons:

  • 25 complete lessons
  • 6 discussion sets
  • Connected readings, graphic organizers, and clips
  • A variety of activities and learning modes

To Kill a Mockingbird Reading Checks (6 readings)

  • 10 questions each (multiple choice)
  • PDF and DOCX files (print as-is or modify in Word or Google Docs)
  • Includes answer document

28 To Kill a Mockingbird Assignments (culminating tasks and learning extensions)

  • Encourage debate, foster creativity, guide research,  and make connections.
  • PDF and DOCX files (print as-is or modify in Word or Google Docs)
  • Assignment pages Include helpful organizers, scaffolding, and links.
  • Resource preview (PDF)

To Kill a Mockingbird Unit Test Bank

  • Delete the questions you do not want.  That’s it, your test is ready.
  • Comprehension/recall (70 multiple-choice questions)
  • Language Arts elements (53 multiple-choice questions)
  • Short Answer (28 prompts)
  • Extended Answer (17 prompts)
  • This file can be modified in MS Word or in Google Docs.
  • Includes answer document

Also included:

Thanks for checking out To Kill a Mockingbird Unit Plan and for visiting TeachNovels.

I started TeachNovels after many frustrating years of trying to find the perfect resources for the texts that I wanted to teach. It is my sincere hope that you have found some ideas that you can use in your teaching practice.

Related Post: To Kill a Mockingbird Unit Test (PDF)

NOTE: I developed this To Kill a Mockingbird Unit Plan for grade 8 at a magnet school (special admission with IEP inclusion). I aligned the unit to Common Core standards for grade 9 and 10 as part of an accelerated program.  Since the Language Arts standards are recursive, the goals for each standards are similar from grade to grade.