Secondary Fly through To Kill a Mockingbird with CommonLit’s Curated Lesson Plans
Here are 12 informational and literary texts to introduce alongside Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
The CommonLit library has over 3,000 high-quality lessons that engage students and strengthen their reading comprehension. Additionally, we offer over 100 Book Pairings, carefully curated supplemental texts that support the books teachers read with their class. Students will gain vital reading comprehension skills and increase their ability to make connections across texts.
This Book Pairing was created for To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The novel follows Scout Finch, a young girl growing up in a Southern town. Her life changes when her father, prominent lawyer, Atticus Finch, takes on the defense of Tom Robinson, a Black man accused of raping a white woman.
Understanding the historical context of racism in America
In order to understand the complexities of To Kill a Mockingbird, CommonLit has provided these three texts that detail systemic issues during the era of slavery, Jim Crow, and today in the United States.
“From Slaves to Sharecroppers” by Leigh Dekle
This informational text describes the sharecropping system in the American South after the emancipation of enslaved individuals in the United States.
Have students read this text before beginning Chapter 6, to provide them with a window into the racial climate of the 20th century. After reading the chapter, ask students how they view Mr. Radley's language. Does the context from this article change students' perspective of Mr. Radley?
“Excerpt from Southern Horrors: Lynch Laws in all its Phases” by Ida B. Wells
In this informational text, activist Ida B. Wells explains the injustice and horrors of lynch laws. Wells wrote Southern Horrors while in exile from the South. The piece focuses on the violence against African Americans following the Civil War. When incorporating this text into your lesson plan be aware that it contains sensitive content that students may find disturbing.
Teach To Kill a Mockingbird by introducing this text before Chapter 18. This piece will provide the class with insight into the history of white women accusing Black men of rape in the post-Reconstruction South. After reading Chapter 18, ask students to discuss their views on Mayella's believability in the context of Southern Horrors.
“President Obama’s Remarks on Trayvon Martin Ruling” by President Barack Obama
In 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American boy from Florida, was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer. A jury found Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder. This is President Barack Obama’s speech after the trial verdict.
Introduce this text after Chapter 25. Use the speech themes on race and responsibility to discuss the evolution of the public reaction to the death of unarmed Black men. How can this modern event shed light on America's history of race relations?
Cultivate literary analysis skills using poetry
Poetry often conveys deep themes about growing up and persevering. These themes are prevalent throughout To Kill a Mockingbird. Share these poems with your class to develop students' ability to identify themes using cross-text analysis skills.
“On Turning Ten” by Billy Collins
Billy Collins is an award-winning American poet who uses droll wit and profound observations about the mundane to express the deeper meaning of life. In this poem, the speaker reflects on his youth with longing.
Ask students to read this text after having read Chapter 13 when Aunt Alexandra arrives to give the Scout and her brother Jem “a feminine influence.” Ask students to compare Jem's character, as a maturing boy, to that of the speaker in the poem. What does growing up mean to the two of them? How are the two impacted by their environments?
“We Wear the Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Paul Laurence Dunbar, an influential African American poet from the Reconstruction era, wrote "We Wear the Mask," to introduce the idea of hiding behind a metaphorical mask.
This text can be introduced into the reading program once students have read Chapter 19, when Tom testifies in court. Use this poem to discuss whether Tom, as a Black man in a courtroom, wears his own type of mask.
“If We Must Die” by Claude McKay
In this poem, Claude McKay, a Jamaican-American poet from the Harlem Renaissance, discusses facing obstacles with courage and dignity and reflects upon his perspective on the Black experience during early 20th century America.
Have students read “If We Must Die” after Chapter 25. Ask students to compare Tom Robinson to the speaker in the poem. Can Tom's decision to run be understood better through the lens of McKay's poem?
Informational texts about standing up for what’s right
Atticus Finch, and by extension his children, are ostracized for their defense of Tom Robinson and the town turns against them. To learn more about the dangers of uniform thinking, we have provided three texts about following the crowd and the dangers of herd mentality that can be seen in Nazi Germany and lynch mobs.
“Herd Behavior” by CommonLit Staff
This information text describes how individuals change when they are part of a crowd and discusses the dangers that befall a community without individual thinkers.
Discuss this article after students read Chapter 16. Ask students to analyze the climate in Maycomb during the trial. Discuss Atticus' explanation of mobs in the context of the article. Do Atticus and the author of “Herd Behavior” agree about mob mentality?
“The Scottsboro Boys” by Jessica McBirney
In "The Scottsboro Boys," Jessica McBirney discusses the historic event in which nine black boys were wrongfully accused and convicted of assault.
Harper Lee said the trial of the Scottsboro boys inspired her to write To Kill a Mockingbird. Have students read "The Scottsboro Boys" after reading Chapter 21, when the jury returns a verdict on Tom’s case. Ask students to write a paragraph comparing the similarities and differences between the two trials.
“Anti-Jewish Legislation in Prewar Germany” by The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
This article covers the rise of anti-Semitic laws in Nazi Germany throughout the 1930s, which led to the dehumanization and genocide of Jews living in Nazi-occupied territory. Many people living under Nazi Germany did not speak up against the dictatorship and were complicit with the crimes of the Holocaust.
Have students read this text after finishing Chapter 26, to gain historical background on the antisemitic practices in Germany that are discussed in Scout's class. Ask students to discuss what the texts paired together reveal about the themes of fairness, dehumanization, tolerance, and indifference.
Talking about slavery and segregation in the United States can be a difficult topic for students. Check out our text set on Talking About Race if you would like to further develop a unit on the complexities of racism in America.
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