framing birds

Written at the beginning of January, I sought advice and resources to teach To Kill a Mockingbird. Here’s how it’s going:


But also kind of great.

The Engage NY curriculum is clunky and goofy-footed when strained through district curriculum committees.

But that is what we have to work with as part of our GVC. And while there are many good tools, it’s been a welcome challenge to roll up my shirt sleeves and get back to what I do well, and that is bridge what “has to be taught” with why is taught.

I cannot thank the wonderful educators on my query post who came to my rescue. Facing History and Ourselves: To Kill A Mockingbird is a breathtaking unit: simple, organized and incredibly rich. Anyone who loves to design curriculum should review it and cherish it as a masterwork.

And then the unflappable Tom Rademacher provided these resources: The Construction of Racism Resource List and Cait Hutsell, a powerhouse and force for good put this together: One Pagers and Article Set.

Some things I’ve put together are co-constructed anchor charts on theme theories/inquiries, and my Chapter Expert Project. Hey, if I can get 120 students to jigsaw The Hobbit, I certainly can provide the structure for 60 to scaffold TKAM.

Inspired by Catlin Tucker: Thematic Throwdown
Learning is messy
This simple structure can help scaffold theme statements.

The process is fairly simple: have students work in pairs or groups of three, and find key words from the chapter. Collect those words, and then they choose three they think are the most important. From Chapter 5, many found ‘religion, religious differences, God, sin, garden, weed,’ etc. From this, one student thought that the noxious weed in Miss Maudie’s garden was important, and that led us to think that yes, it was–symbolic of the festering racism in the town and needed to be rooted out.

“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)… There are just some kind of men who – who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.”

― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

We’re getting through TKAM with help of the graphic novel, audiobook, movie, and discussions. We haven’t had a chance to go too deeply into some burning questions and ideas that I have or Facing History explores. But we are getting there.


And all the while, we are hoping to be able to watch THUG if it comes out on Netflix, and I get parent permission slips. *Fingers crossed*