My sophomore Honors English students had just finished reading Part I of To Kill a Mockingbird, and as a transition activity, I had them journal for the first 10-15 minutes of class about these two topics:
Since Part II deals mainly, if not entirely, with the trail in Maycomb, I wanted the students to start thinking about their own lives and experiences–making connections to the book.
After journaling, we discussed their ideas as a class. Many students said they were influenced by family, peers, media, and religion. Some students argued that school was more of an influence than churches/religious establishments solely because students spend the majority of their time in school. Others said that family was a huge influence; some students argued that they had different beliefs than their family members. It was a very lively and interesting discussion!
For the second question, about our justice system, students were almost unanimous on the belief that it was unfair. They talked about things like long sentences to people that don’t deserve it, or vice versa. They talked about how money can play a huge role in someone’s consequences. They even talked about some celebrities and how the media influences the way people feel about the justice system.
I thought this activity worked well to preview what was coming next–a project that compared/contrasted the 1930’s and 1960’s–the setting of the book and the time period when Harper Lee (the author) was writing the book.