To Kill a Mockingbird Activities

Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

If you are teaching Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and need ideas for class work, you have come to the right place. This lesson discusses several activities you can use to promote learning during this novel unit.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird masterly weaves the themes of racism, segregation, inequality, justice and innocence all into one novel. Set in a small town in rural Alabama in the 1930s, it addresses these deep issues through the eyes of children, Scout and Jem.

As you teach this unit to your class, there are a variety of activities you can implement in order to give your students opportunities to further analyze the concepts in the novel. The rest of this lesson describes some ideas for creative and engaging class activities.

Individual Activities

First, let's discuss some individual activities, which are designed to be completed independently. For these, students should work alone to analyze the novel and stretch their critical thinking skills.

Research Paper

The first type of individual activity you can use is a research paper, which is a written composition following in-depth research and analysis of a topic. For To Kill a Mockingbird, design a research paper that will give your students the opportunity to investigate a concept related to America in the 1930s, since this is the setting of the novel. Here are some topics from which your students can choose.

  • Social issues: communications, transportation, entertainment, media, sports, consumer products, fashion, careers, population
  • Events: The Great Depression, Stock Market Crash, Harlem Renaissance, The New Deal, Lindbergh kidnapping, Scottsboro Trial
  • People: Gertrude Stein, Pearl S. Buck, Amelia Earhart, President Hoover, Joe Louis, John Dewey, Langston Hughes, Jesse Owens

If you choose to use this activity during the novel unit, be sure to create very clear guidelines and expectations for the research paper. You may even allow for research days in the school library or due dates for specific parts of the paper.

Reading Journal

Another individual activity that could be used throughout the whole unit is a reading journal. This type of writing asks for feeling, thoughts or opinions related to what each student reads in the novel. Student responses for these questions should focus on his or her reaction to the characters or events in the plot.

You can create these writing prompts according to the learning goals for your class, or the interests of your students. For this novel, having a few reading journal questions per chapter will help to tap into critical thinking skills and making connections. Here are some examples for the first chapter of the book.

  • What do you learn in this chapter about Maycomb and Atticus Finch and his family? What is your first impression of the characters?
  • What do you think about what has happened to Arthur 'Boo' Radley?
  • What do you notice about the narrative voice and viewpoint in the novel?

Opinion Verbal Argument

Another individual activity is to have students create a verbal argument, which is a short persuasive speech in favor of one side of an issue. Create statements related to the themes in this novel and have students rate each statement according to if they agree with it. Here are some sample statements.

  • All men (and women) are created equal.
  • Nobody is all good or all bad.
  • Under our current justice system, all citizens are treated fairly in our courts of law.
  • If the law doesn't punish criminals, citizens should do so.

After rating these statements, have students choose a side to one of the issues, and prepare the verbal argument. You can have students make their arguments in class, then have class discussions or a class vote on the issue. This can also be turned into a group activity, which will be discussed in the next section.

Group Activities

In your class, you should definitely use a mix of individual and group activities. In a group activity, students work in small groups to accomplish a task. Group activities are useful because they provide leadership opportunities for high-achieving students and allow peers to help struggling students.

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