“How can I make teaching this book interesting?” I said to myself aloud, in the middle of the library, like a crazy person. It was a Sunday night and I was putting together my teaching plans for Monday. My Honors 10 students were just starting Part I of To Kill a Mockingbird and I wanted them to have fun. I needed some inspiration.
I started thinking about ways to engage students in discussion, and I started thinking about getting my students up and about–moving, engaging, talking. That sparked an idea! I started planning.
Flash forward to Tuesday: the day of my discussion groups. After some serious planning I decided that creating a collaborative discussion would make class more fun. Adapting a group project from my cooperating teacher’s previous years, I separated my students into six groups:
Scout’s Naive Nature, Town of Maycomb, Atticus’ Role, Religion, Foreshadowing, and Progression of the Radley House/Story.
Round 1 — Fifth Hour:
In my fifth hour, each group was given a section of the room. I handed out large sheets of construction paper and had the students sit around one another and write on their paper. They were to gather evidence, quotes, and examples for their categories.
The prep-work for the discussion took almost two class periods. As the groups talked with one another, I walked around and helped them gather examples, explain quotes, and brainstorm ideas. When the groups were finished, they walked around to view other posters. Then I had each group present their information at the front of the class.
After presentations, I hung the posters on one of the supply closet doors next to where the students keep their Chromebook computers–a place where they could readily access the information and get ideas!
Round 2 — 6th Hour:
Sixth hour was set up a little different. In the classroom next to mine, a social studies/history teacher has a set of rolling, colored desks. They’re awesome! And since that teacher has sixth period prep, I was able to move my students to his classroom for a part of the period!
Needless to say, my students loved it! I first assigned them a color: red, black, yellow, blue, green, or purple.
These colors would be their topics.
Red: Radley Progression, Blue: Town of Maycomb, Yellow: Scout’s Naive Nature, Purple: Religion, Green: Atticus’ Role, Black: Foreshadowing.
They met with their groups for the first 30 minutes or so, gathering information, quotes, and examples. Then they mixed colors, forming new groups with one chair of each color!
Before setting them free, I re-explained what I wanted them to do with their new group members. Each of them now had the responsibility of sharing their color group’s information with their new people!
Because my sixth period is a smaller class, one group was missing two colors–that’s where I stepped in and joined in the discussion. I also walked around (and scooted in a chair) to each group to visit, add information, and ask questions. I was having just as much fun as the kids!
This was by far one of the most collaborative, engaging, and fun activities I’ve planned for my students. Whether fifth or sixth period (rolling chairs or not!) I think students loved it and learned a lot!
We discussed the topics essential to the beginning chapters of the book:
- Scout’s narrative voice – her being both a child, yet also narrating the story from older eyes.
- Religion – the ‘foot-washing baptists’ or Bible-pounding characters, the less religious figures who may or may not be morally sound, and people like Miss Maudie (the lens of looking at religion, who might also be judgemental)
- Maycomb – the geographic location, setting, and social classes/heirarchy
- Atticus’ role – father, lawyer, somewhat distant but caring for his children, good example, morally sound
- Foreshadowing – the broken arm scene at the opening of the story, the subtle hints of the Radley house, the gifts left for the children in the tree
- And the Radley House/Story — hearing bits and pieces from characters, touching the house, looking through the window, losing Jem’s pants, etc.
I think that the students grasped these ideas and learned a lot. I’m happy they were so engaged and excited to work!
I’m definitely going to plan more activities like this in the future!
**To view/download the complete lesson plan, click here: To Kill a Mockingbird Mid-Book Collaborative Discussion Lesson Plan.