Not Your Momma’s Mockingbird

The first unit of the year with the freshmen is a fun one filled with tons of *stuff*. I’m really proud of the construction of this unit: the scope and sequence. This first unit is an introduction to the course, my teaching style, our relationship, expectations, and intensity. I want to make sure it’s enjoyable and challenging.
It begins with the students reading or re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAM) over the summer. They’re rarely excited (and I understand) because the book is often taught from a “teacher-will-lecture-you-about-race-things-and-we-will-all-hail-Atticus” point of view. That’s boring, to me, too. So, that’s now how I run the the Mockingbird show. The unit is filled with students teaching and leading discussions and while we reference the text, we use it a spring board to think and analyze about modern day issues. Like Paolo Freire wants us to do, I use my teaching to help them understand the word, but also read the world. Here is the outline/skeleton of the unit:


Literary Terms- students begin by teaching the rest of the terms that we will use to analyze this and other texts for the rest of the school year. In these presentations they teach us the term and also apply it to Lee’s book. Boring. Over.

Gender/Race/Identity day- Students get to decide what topic they want to study in relation to TKAM for the day. In their small groups, they follow a document I’ve outlined with resources and step-by-step instructions. While the learning process takes place together, at the end, they write/reflect/create independently. Done!

Context Days- In teacher-selected small groups, students are assigned topics they must research and then teach the class. Part of their presentation includes making connections between the topic and TKAM. Here are the topics:

1. Lack of diversity in literature

2. White gaze

3. Scottsboro Boys

4. Police brutality 

5. Black Lives Matter movement

Cool presentations, always. Done!

The Essay- After a collective groan, we endure the grueling process of an essay where they identify what they believe the main theme of TKAM is and cite evidence in the text to support their reasoning. After peer edits and more writing, they’re done. Yay!

TV Show- Secretly, this is my favorite part! In teacher-selected small groups, students choose the character from the text they want to personify and analyze. The task includes preparing that character for a TV Show set in modern day addressing current events. Take a look at the assignment if you want more details. This year, we filmed it and I can’t wait to see it. Even though students know the objective is to focus on characterization skills, they don’t realize how much more they truly extract from the experience. It grants them the opportunity to empathize with someone different from them, understand others’ points of views, realize how some people’s journeys define their stance, and explore current events in a deeper way.



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