Activities for the Book "To Kill a Mockingbird"
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Set in the 1930s, Harper Lee's literary classic "To Kill a Mockingbird" brings issues such as discrimination, prejudice and race to the forefront. While a 6-year-old girl serves as the story's narrator, the tale of a black man falsely accused of sexually assaulting a white woman makes the book more suitable for junior high and high school students. Teachers may want to obtain parents' permission before engaging students in activities related to the 1960 novel.
- As children of a white attorney who defends a black man in Maycomb, Alabama, Scout and Jem Finch endure an emotional journey through the duration of "To Kill a Mockingbird." In this activity, students create a game board outlining the kids' coming of age and loss of innocence. Board spaces should include locations and characters vital to the novel's events, with accompanying cards. For instance, a card for an "Aunt Alexandra" space may quiz players on Alexandra forbidding the kids to interact with Walter Cunningham, an action that leads to the kids' discussing different kinds of "folks." Or, the card for a "Jail" space may quiz players on how Scout prevented an angry mob from lynching Tom Robinson. When presenting the game, students explain how the game represents the novel's characters, plot, setting and themes.
- Students turn the adult-oriented themes of "To Kill a Mockingbird" into a children's book for this activity. The book should encompass at least 12 pages and contain illustrations on each page. Students ensure that the book represents all of the novel's key events, and that the drawings and text are suitable for elementary school children.
- Using their creative talents for this activity, students construct a diorama depicting a scene from "To Kill a Mockingbird." Aside from presenting a 3-D setting that represents a key moment from the novel, students include a written description of the scene and use direct quotes from the novel.
Standing in Their Shoes
- Attorney Atticus Finch states that people never understand others until they look at things from their point of view or stand in their shoes. In this activity, students choose a character from "To Kill a Mockingbird" and write a diary or journal entry in the voice of that character. Students focus on a key moment of the novel, and consider the character's qualities, priorities and choices. In addition, students use direct quotations and reference the literary text. As a literal variation to standing in others' shoes, students look at a variety of shoes and picture the owner's appearance and actions. Students then write a story detailing the shoe owners' activities in a given day.
- Students reenact Tom Robinson's trial in this activity. Student roles include judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, defendants, jury and courtroom observers. After reenacting the trial, students draw images and symbols to represent their characters' feelings and thoughts during the trial. Once finished, students explain their visual representations. As variations, students create a talk show setting focusing on the trial, the verdict and Maycomb County residents' reactions, or write front-page newspaper spreads focusing on the trial and the death of Bob Ewell.
Understanding Racial Struggles
- With U.S. citizens electing a black man to the presidency in 2008, many students (especially white) may not comprehend the racial struggles that occurred throughout history. For this activity, students research 1930s race relations in the South and discuss whether Harper Lee accurately portrays the era's social tensions in "To Kill a Mockingbird." In addition, students discuss occurrences of race-oriented discrimination, protest and violence in Alabama during the 1960s civil rights movement, and historical events leading to a shift in the oppression of blacks.