Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Lesson Plan - To Kill a Mockingbird

I've never posted a lesson plan on my blog before, tho I have talked about lesson ideas and such. I read a great post by Deven Black about the one truly great lesson he had last year, and I found it inspiring! Run very much like an Independent Investigations classroom, he gave his students choices over a project, then got himself OUT OF THE WAY, and let the kids run with it.

The following lesson plan is along the same idea, with some backstory and knowledge building exercises mentioned.  I simply love teaching To Kill a Mockingbird, and have been looking for something I can do as a wrap up that is NOT an essay test.  The following lesson plan is something I created for an online class I am taking, and I really look forward to implementing it next spring.  Comments are welcomed!!

• Title of the Project To Kill a Mockingbird

• Subject/Content Area(s) Language Arts/Social Studies

• Grade Level(s) 8th Grade

• Project Time Line 6-9 weeks

In conjunction with study of the Civil Rights Movement and Black History Month, we will read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. At the conclusion of the novel, students will be given a choice of several projects they may choose for their final assessment of their understanding of the novel and the social/political implications of the story.

Options for activities: Students may choose one of the following

1. Write and produce a Podcast for “Stuff You Missed in History” on the happenings of the trial.

2. Create a 3-D map of Maycomb County using specifics from the novel (not from the movie set)

3. Use a genealogy site to develop a family tree of the Finch family, including historic significance of any real life characters mentioned.

4. Write and produce a newscast after the trial ended, including interviews with Atticus and Mr. Ewell.

5. Write and enact on video (A Vlog {Video Blog} is acceptable) a conversation about the trial using as many characters as there are members of the group. Be sure to include: Miss Maudie, Miss Stephanie, Miss Rachel and Aunt Alexandra.

6. Write a collaborative blog as Scout, Jem and Dill over the course of the summer of the trial.

Goals: For students to master a deeper understanding of the Civil Rights Movement and its place in the history of the United States. Students will be able to articulate in their own words how the outcome of the trial in To Kill a Mockingbird could have resulted due to prejudice. They will be able to compare/contrast that to how the legal system is supposed to work (there must be evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt)


Students will be able to work in collaborative groups to produce a single project related to one of the various choices.

• Students will be able to speak to the events of the novel and relate those events of a fictional setting to the happenings from real-life Alabama and other Southern cities in the 1950s and 1960s.

• Students will be able to use comprehension strategies to refer back to the novel for further information.

Standards Addressed: Include a list of national and state standards and benchmarks that the lesson will address. Be sure to include both content and ISTE NET*S technology standards. This project needs to address the ISTE NET*S Standard 2: Communication and Collaboration.

Language Arts Reading Standards

• Strand 1, Concept 6, PO 7. Use reading strategies (e.g., drawing conclusions, determining cause and effect, making inferences, sequencing) to interpret text.

• Strand 2, Concept 2, PO 1. Describe the historical and cultural aspects found in cross-cultural works of literature.

Language Arts Writing Standards

• Concept 4: Editing: PO 1. Identify punctuation, spelling, and grammar and usage errors in the draft.

• PO 2. Use resources (e.g., dictionary, word lists, spelling/grammar checkers) to correct conventions.

• PO 3. Apply proofreading marks to indicate errors in conventions.

• PO 4. Apply appropriate tools or strategies (e.g., peer review, checklists, rubrics) to edit the draft.

Technology Standards: National Educational Technology Standards:

o 2a: interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media.

o 3b: locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media.

o 5a: advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology.

o 5b: exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity.

o 5d: exhibit leadership for digital citizenship.

o 6a: understand and use technology systems.
o 6d: transfer current knowledge to learning of new technologies

Prior knowledge of:
Civil Rights Movement, the Abolitionists, Slavery, Segregation, Jim Crow Laws, Brown v Board of Ed all necessary.

 Prior knowledge will be assessed through classroom discussions and by teacher-led activities to introduce or reinforce concepts before the start of the novel. Resources include The Children’s March produced by Teaching Tolerance, copies of speeches from John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. Students will study a timeline of the Civil Rights movement provided by Teaching Tolerance. American History from the Civil War era will be revisited after learning the topic the previous year.


 Copies of To Kill a Mockingbird for every student.

 Internet access at school

 Copy of The Children’s March video produced by Teaching Tolerance

 Blogger or other blogging site such as School Fusion

 Video camera or other recording equipment.

Instructional Procedures:

Introduction: how you will introduce the goals and let students know what is expected of them.

Students will be allowed to choose their project as project ideas will be placed on signs in different areas of the classroom. Students will move to the area of the project they are interested in completing. A brief description of expectations will be at each station.

Main activities: what the project focus is and how the teacher will facilitate the learning experience.

Each activity will have a different focus (writing, speaking, drawing, presenting, and researching) and students will need to facilitate their own activities depending on which project they choose.

Differentiation: how both the content and process of the plan will accommodate the various learning styles and abilities of the students.

Natural differentiation will take place as students will naturally gravitate to an area where his/her skills are strongest. Each student should be able to participate to his/her own optimum learning style and capability. Should the students seem to choose only the “easiest” tasks, they will be allowed to choose their working groups and then the teacher will assign the project.

Conclusion: how you will provide closure and reflection for students and provide feedback.

Students will present their projects to the class upon completion. Teacher will provide written feedback regarding quality of work, but students will also grade themselves on team work and effort, and include a personal reflection on what it was like to work independently and yet inter-dependently with a group.

Assessment: Describe the assessment procedures for the project, including the creation of a rubric to evaluate students' learning. The assessment incorporates a consideration for diverse student needs. A rationale for the selection of the assessment technique based on course readings and best practices is provided.

Each specific project will have its own rubric and check list, as many of the projects address very different skills and information. (A 3D map vs. a blog.. etc).

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Those who have followed my blog for a while know that I do not consider Arizona 'home'. I'm not happy here, and while I am not abjectly miserable either, I would really, REALLY like to pick up and move somewhere else.  Somewhere that has snow.  Somewhere that does NOT have insects that are out to kill you and fauna which would love to do the same.  I'd love to live in a place where the kids can climb trees, where I can tell them "Go outside and play", and not see them all day long, knowing they are safe and having fun.

We were close about two years ago.  Then Steve got this promotion and the economy was tanking quickly, and sometimes it does not matter how much you want something, actually doing that something is really just a ridiculous move.  We realized this.  We stayed put.  I was not one bit happy.

But now, for a multitude of reasons, we are moving again, and yet staying put.  We're going back to our old neighborhood, as we found a house that is perfect, that is in our budget and meets all our needs.  The only problem, as I see it, is that it is STILL IN ARIZONA!!!  (insert silent scream here).

In all my grumbling and obsessiveness of housing prices in Massachusetts and Connecticut, I have come to realize something. While this is not •home• to me, it IS home to my boys.  Arizona is all they have ever known. They don't mind the heat, because they have never known a summer where you can frolic outside barefoot in the grass.  They don't know how to make snow angels, or throw a snowball or what Docksiders are.  They don't miss being only 40 minutes from the ocean, because they have never, ever lived like that. I want to give them that experience, I want to be able to raise them as I was raised, with the pleasures of a simple walk along the river, but that is not what is in the cards for them, or for me.

So I resign myself.  I could struggle with it as if it is some foreign body I need to expel. I could stay angry and miffed and shortchanged because we "are still here" after all this time when I have been hoping that would not be the case for nearly 7 years now.

Or, I could just accept it.  I could put away my feelings of loss at what I am missing, and realize what THEY have. 
Teams they love to play for.
Teachers they know and love.
Familiarity that is the embodiment of HOME to them.

So, we are here for the long haul. Unless we have to, I do not want to move them once they get into middle school and Oldest is already there with Middle not far behind. I can retire to the beach and swing my legs over a dock when I am retired.  This is their Home. I may as well make peace with it and try to find the beauty, share with them in their experiences. 

But next summer, we ARE going to Boston for a visit!!  They WILL eat clams and walk on a beach.  Just so they can say they did...