How to Teach To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee's timeless coming-of-age novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, tells the story of racial injustice, the destruction of innocence, and the ever-enduring battle between good and evil, all through the eyes of seven-year-old Scout Finch. Though the novel describes a society that seems distant from our modern world, the voice of the young female narrator and the relatable cast of characters make the text accessible to students.

Because of its focus on class and race, To Kill a Mockingbird will promote conversations about discrimination and injustice. Students should make connections between historical racism depicted in this book and contemporary racial injustices they may witness today.

Due to the sensitive nature of the topics discussed in this book, it is essential to allow students the opportunity to have open and honest conversations about the stigmas surrounding race and class. Through the eyes of Scout, the novel's young narrator, students witness Scout, Jem, and Dill's loss of innocence as they grow up and learn life lessons throughout the novel. With its timeless themes, To Kill a Mockingbird remains a favorite for readers of all generations, both inside and outside the classroom.

Summary

Set in 1930s Alabama, To Kill a Mockingbird is narrated by Scout Finch, a young girl who spends the majority of her time with her older brother, Jem, and their neighbor, Dill. Over the course of three years together, they imagine all sorts of terrifying stories about the town recluse, a man named Boo Radley who they have never managed to see in person, despite their best attempts. Meanwhile, Scout and Jem's father, Atticus, is the defense attorney in the biggest criminal case their small town has ever seen: Tom Robinson, an African-American man, stands accused of raping a white woman. It is up to Atticus to convince a prejudiced jury of Tom's innocence.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Paperback

What makes Mockingbird so popular? It’s been more than fifty-five years since it was first published, and even now, it remains fresh and powerful. It may be the authentic and friendly voice of Scout or the hopeful message that one man standing up for his convictions can save not only another man, but an entire community. The story is so uniformly inspiring that it never fails to be mentioned among the best-loved books of all time.

Learn more

Content Warning

To Kill a Mockingbird contains several references to racial discrimination, including racial slurs. There are also some violent scenes, discussions of rape, and insinuations of incest.

Objectives for Teaching To Kill a Mockingbird

  • Analyze the symbolism of the mockingbird within the novel.
  • Discuss how the use of first-person narration contributes to the reader's understanding of the novel's themes.
  • Explain how To Kill a Mockingbird functions as a coming-of-age novel.
  • Identify the role of class and race in Maycomb's society and explain how these factors affect the town's citizens.
  • Describe the role of education in the novel.

Key Elements and Techniques

  • Allusion
  • Flashback
  • Foreshadowing
  • Irony
  • Metaphor
  • Personification
  • Symbolism

To Kill a Mockingbird - Complete Teacher's Kit

Package

You'll save countless hours preparing teaching materials, and you'll also save some money — the Kits cost less than buying individual teaching guides. Each Complete Teacher's Kit contains a Teaching Unit, an Activity Pack, and a Response Journal, and select titles also come with Headlines Posters.

Learn more

Themes and Motifs

  • Innocence— Throughout this novel, the mockingbird represents innocence. The title, To Kill a Mockingbird, refers to the destruction of innocence that occurs, both through Tom's death and the heartbreaking lessons Scout and Jem learn about the world as they grow up.
  • RaceTo Kill a Mockingbird depicts the persistent issue of racial discrimination and explores the effect this hostility has on the various characters within the novel.
  • Good vs. Evil— This novel analyzes the clash of good and evil within society, especially when these two traits are present within the same character. In the end, students are left to determine whether humans are inherently good or evil.

Key Facts

  • Length: 376 pages
  • Publication Date: 1960
  • Lexile Measure: 870
  • Recommended Grade Band: 9 - 10

Awards

  • Pulitzer Prize (1961)
  • New York Times Bestseller
  • Harper Lee: Presidential Medal of Freedom (2007)

To Kill a Mockingbird - Teaching Unit

Downloadable PDF File / Reproducible

The Teaching Unit for To Kill a Mockingbird gives you a comprehensive academic framework that saves you hours of prep work. You can rely on this well-researched unit as a strong base for your lesson plan — it was written by one of our seasoned educators with your needs in mind.

Learn more

Movies

To Kill a Mockingbird was adapted into the 1962 film of the same name. It stars Gregory Peck as Atticus and Mary Badham as Scout. The film won three Academy Awards: Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Art Direction. It is available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Your students will love:

  • Reading the story through the relatable eyes of a young narrator
  • The exciting narrative style that allows for discussion of social stigmas like class and race

Students may have problems with:

  • Understanding the level of racial intolerance and hostility depicted in the novel

To Kill a Mockingbird Free Library Resources:

Available from Prestwick House:

Title
Available Formats
To Kill a Mockingbird
Complete Teacher's Kit
AP Teaching Unit
Levels of Understanding
Multiple Critical Perspectives
Response Journal

More Teacher's Guides to Literature:

See all our Teacher's Guides to Literature here.