Corrupt Innocence To Kill a Mockingbird
Created by Kelsey Plaunt
As part of the literary canon, To Kill a Mockingbird is a necessary book for students to read in high school before entering college or the working world. To Kill a Mockingbird earned Harper Lee a Pulitzer Prize and became an instant classic. There are really so many ways this book can be taught and read, but this unit focuses on the binary between corruption and innocence through a concentration on themes and symbols used throughout the book. This is a valuable way to look at To Kill a Mockingbird because every person, innocent and corrupt alike, plays a role in a society. This is especially an important theme while teaching in high school because so many students succumb to peer pressure resulting in poor choices. This unit addresses the definition and surface level psychology of mob mentality, and then it shows how the innocent are often the victims of this phenomenon. Addressing mob mentality is particularly applicable to high school students because it can take the form of bullying, teasing, and, in extreme cases, gang participation. These forms of mob mentality are all very real experiences for some high school students and can be a way for students to connect to the text. Asking high school students to interpret To Kill a Mockingbird through the theme of innocence and societal corruption not only applies to high school experience, but it also extends to their lives outside of high school. This unit also addresses corruption in American courts, race relations, the effects of labeling others, and hypocrisy. The issues addressed in To Kill a Mockingbird remain relevant issues today, and the lessons taught in this unit will enrich the lives of students tomorrow.
Although this unit is geared towards 11th grade, it could be taught anywhere from 9th-12th depending on the ability of the reader. Some vocabulary could be hard for younger or struggling readers, but simply making some of the trickier words from the chapters the vocabulary words for the week could amend this unit. This unit doesn’t have any feature that would make it more appropriate for some students than others.
- I assume that students will be able to read To Kill a Mockingbird .
- I assume that some of the themes of the novel are hard to understand, and that students will need some scaffolding in the classroom in order to understand.
- I assume that students do not have ample prior knowledge about Harper Lee, life in the South in the 1930s, the Great Depression, the Scottsboro Boys, or Jim Crow laws, so the webquest will provide the students with prior knowledge.
- I assume that students are more likely to participate when they have time to rehearse and organize their thoughts. Every day that includes a discussion will start with a writing prompt in order for students to gather and organize thoughts, prepare for class, and find their perspective.
- I assume that students benefit from a combination of instruction including: lecture, individual work, group work, and individual reading/writing.
- I assume that students respond better to classes where they are provided with choice. Students will get to choose their summative assessment from a list provided to them.
- I assume that students benefit from collaboration. There will be specific cooperative learning activities throughout the unit.
Desired Outcomes/Standards/Objectives to be Met
- D. Literature: The student will actively engage in the reading process and read, understand, respond to, analyze, interpret, evaluate and appreciate a wide variety of fiction, poetic and nonfiction texts.
- Read, analyze and evaluate traditional, classical
and contemporary works of literary merit from American literature.
4. Evaluate the impact of an author’s decisions regarding word choice, point of view, style and literary elements.
5. Analyze, interpret and evaluate the use of figurative language and imagery in fiction and nonfiction selections, including symbolism, tone, irony and satire. Disclaimer: This unit will focus mostly on symbolism and tone. Irony and satire will be covered in a different unit.
- Students will be able to create connections between To Kill a Mockingbird and the poem “Strange Fruit.”
- Students will be able to draw upon prior knowledge (learned from webquest) in order to form a more complete understanding of To Kill a Mockingbird.
- Students will utilize cooperative groups in order to understand material.
- Students will understand how point of view contributes to the reader’s interpretation of a text.
- Students will learn about narrator reliability.
- Students will be able to explain the dangers of labeling others.
- Students will understand what foreshadowing is and why it is an important literary device.
- Students will learn about symbols and the use and function of symbols in To Kill a Mockingbird.
- Students will use understanding of symbolism and themes in order to interpret Harper Lee’s message in To Kill a Mockingbird .
- Students will learn about perspective and identify the events in the novel that change the perspective of characters.
- Students will learn the term mob mentality and how it is stopped.
- Students will learn about hypocrisy in connection To Kill a Mockingbird.
- Students will learn about “coming of age” in literature.
- Students will learn that what is right is not always popular.
Possible Whole-Class Activities
- Think-Pair-Share. See Monday 1, Friday 15.
- Students make timeline of trial as a whole class. See Wednesday 13.
- Jigsaw. See Wednesday 3.
- Fishbowl. See Monday 6.
Possible Small-Group Activities
- Labeling activity. See Friday 5.
- Students create high-quality quiz questions. See Wednesday 8.
- Friendly competition. See Friday 10.
- Peer-editing. See Tuesday 17.
Possible Individual Activities
- Journaling. See Monday 1, Thursday 4-Monday 16.
- Memory essay. See Wednesday 3.
- Worksheets. See Tuesday 7.
- Finding character hypocrisy. See Thursday 14.
- Final project. See Thursday 14.
- Students will do a daily journal at beginning of class to prepare for class discussion. These could be called learning logs because the writing prompts will draw on student knowledge and interpretation of To Kill a Mockingbird as well as their own world.
- Group work is also used throughout this unit. See week map and daily outline for details.
- To Kill a Mockingbird.
- “Strange Fruit”
- Non-fiction websites on webquest
- Hand out the poem “Strange Fruit.”
- Show recording of Billie Holliday singing “Strange Fruit” recorded in 1938.
- Ask students what this poem/song is about?
- Connect the poem to To Kill a Mockingbird through explanation of racism, the South, lynching mobs, politics, etc.
Handouts (attached below)
- “Strange Fruit” By Lewis Allen
- Symbolism in To Kill a Mockingbird chapters 10-11
- Quiz on chapters 1-11
- Final Projects
- See weekly organizer, then refer to the day-by-day layout of unit.
- Discussion questions as well as writing prompts are given for each day.