Tips for Teaching To Kill a Mockingbird

Here are my five top tips for teaching To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee:

  1. Don’t get bogged down by detail – So much happens in this novel.  If you try to cover every page of every chapter, it will take you months to get through it all.  Pick out the most important scenes and conflicts to focus on.
  2. Teach the life lessons – Atticus and others share some important life lessons with Scout.  These lessons are just as important for your students.  Make sure you take advantage of these moments to go beyond simply studying literature.  Teach your students social responsibility, morality, tolerance, strength, and courage, just as Atticus tries to with his children.
  3. Explore context – Teaching To Kill a Mockingbird provides a great opportunity to expand your students’ understanding of the Great Depression and the Civil Rights Movement.  I always appreciate having a chance to teach history while studying literature, and understanding how these two historical contexts influence with story is essential to a full reading of To Kill a Mockingbird.
  4. Read it togetherTo Kill a Mockingbird is too long to read together entirely, but do try to find some moments to share as a class.  I usually begin the unit by reading the first chapter together.  I also give my students lots of class time to read silently.  It’s a long novel, and there is nothing wrong with using class time for silent reading.
  5. Have fun – There are many opportunities to have fun while studying To Kill a Mockingbird.  Make sure you don’t let things get too dark and serious for too long.  Incorporate fun activities into your unit.  You could have your students produce skits, do role plays, write tabloid articles, film newscasts, etc.


3 Comments to “Tips for Teaching To Kill a Mockingbird”

  1. Elise Saunders says:

    Thanks for the great tips on teaching To Kill a Mockingbird. I totally agree that you can’t get too worried about the details, and that you have to keep things fun. I also love how To Kill a Mockingbird provides tons of chances to branch out into other meaningful material. What a great novel for high school students.

    • SusanAnderson says:

      Thanks Elise. I’m glad you enjoyed my tips, and that you are so passionate about teaching To Kill a Mockingbird.

  2. Wendy says:

    Even though I’ve been teaching To Kill a Mockingbird for a number of years, I found your tips very helpful. All literature is grounded in historical context and it’s important to understand that context. At the same time, as indicated by your “tips”, To Kill a Mockingbird is an example of great literature which transcends its immediate context to provide life lessons that are relevant through time. That’s why I’m still happy to teach this great novel.

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