Harper Lee received the Medal of Freedom ceremony, November 5, 2007
Harper Lee
Harper Lee


Essential Questions:

What is real courage and which characters exemplify this? How do they do this? What different types of courage exist?

What is empathy and why is it important?

What is the American Dream and do we all have equal opportunities to achieve it? Now? in the 1930s?

Does a hero succeed at everything they set out to do? Why or why not?


Enduring Understandings:
  • Students will understand the concept of empathy and what it means to "step into someone else's shoes and walk around in them" to gain a better perspective of the world around them.
  • Students will develop a definition of what courage means to them and will observe which characters in the book fight for what they believe in, even in the face of adversity.

Teachers may use the video which I have created below at the beginning of their Mockingbird units. It introduces some of the main themes and sets the scene for the novel. This is an example of a "digital story" which I created to introduce and hook my students before I began the unit. If using, please attribute to Sinead Meaney.

Copy of To Kill a Mockingbird Digital Story



*This video has been created using animoto.com. Animoto allows users to create videos using captions, pictures, and music (either from the available options via animoto or through one's own music library). Videos under 30 seconds can be made for free. This is an excellent medium for students to create projects with as well.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 3.13.34 PM.pngHistorical Connections


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PBS offers an interactive map that shows the rise and fall of the Jim Crow laws across the US. Check out Alabama, the setting of To Kill a Mockingbird.






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Although this novel is not a biography of Harper Lee's life, she drew inspiration for her novel from much of what was going on around her. PBS offers a timeline of the Scottsboro Boys' trial. The Scottsboro boys were a group of nine young men who were wrongfully accused by two women of committing sexual harassment in March of 1931. This is where the inspiration for Tom's trial comes from.





This is the first of nine parts of the movie, "The Scottsboro Boys' Trial, An American Tragedy". The remaining eight parts can also be found on YouTube. This does contain mature content so teachers should review it before showing it to their classes to make sure it's appropriate for their students.


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After reading the chapter in which Tom Robinson is shot an excessive number of times after allegedly trying to climb the walls of the jail yard to escape, introduce Bob Dylan's song about Emmett Till, a young African American boy who was beaten to death by two white men after wolf whistling at one of their wives. Despite the fact that the two men later admitted to the murder, they were never charged. Use the following lesson plan to compare these two injustices.


Image attributed to Nicolas Mollet and Matthias Stasiak
Image attributed to Nicolas Mollet and Matthias Stasiak