Truth vs Rumor in To Kill a Mockingbird

In this lesson, students examine the impact of rumors and gossip in their own lives and in To Kill a Mockingbird.  After analyzing the difference between what is said and what is known about Arthur Radley, students write a sensational, tabloid-style news article.

I usually use this lesson early in the novel, just after we are introduced to Arthur (Boo) Radley.

For more great lessons, please see my full unit plan for To Kill a Mockingbird.

1. Gossip

  • Ask students to share examples of being the victim of gossip or rumour.
  • Why do people gossip?
  • Students are to make a T-Chart in their notes.
  • Have the students consult the first chapter and make a list of things that they know are true about Boo Radley, and things that are rumour.
  • When they are finished, have them share with the class and make a master list on the board.
  • Then discuss other examples of truth and rumour being different – high school students should be able to provide a few examples of this phenomenon.


2. Truth vs. Rumor

Truth (known fact)


  • Arthur Radley
  • Hasn’t been seen in 15 years
  • Got in trouble as a teenager
  • Father refused to have Arthur go to “reform school”
  • Arthur was locked in the house.


  • He creeps around and peers in windows
  • Malevolent phantom
  • 6 ½ feet tall
  • Drools
  • Eats rats and squirrels raw
  • Pecans from Radley tree are poisonous
  • Kills children
  • Chained to the bed


3. Maycomb Enquirer

  • Pass around some newsstand gossip magazines – national enquirer, etc.
  • Examine together and talk about how these articles might affect people’s lives.  How much is fact and how much is fiction?
  • After they have had a look at the gossip magazines, tell students they are to write an article for the Maycomb Enquirer.
  • Their articles should have one foot planted lightly in fact, but can be sensational and largely invented.
  • Have students share their articles when they finish.

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7 Comments to “Truth vs Rumor in To Kill a Mockingbird”

  1. Elise Saunders says:

    Fantastic lesson. Can’t wait to use it next time I teach To Kill a Mockingbird. Thanks.

  2. Jeremy M. says:

    Wow, this was actually really helpful. I am glad I checked it out. Usually I wouldn’t post any comments but I thought I should let you know I was pleasantly surprised. Thanks

  3. Chris says:

    Rumours can be terribly harmful in schools. This is good way of comparing social issues from the book to the daily lives of the students.

  4. Alexander says:

    Hi, could we use truth vs rumours as a duality in TKAM?

  5. Maecee Hubble says:

    This really helped me and my students! Thank you so much.

  6. caleb howard says:

    Great lesson! thanks.

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