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Age of students: 17-year olds

Level: C1

Lesson: American literature: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

Teaching aids and materials:

  1. Sources: The National Endowments for the Arts Big Read site at: http://www.neabigread.org/books/mockingbird/
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird, Reader’s Guide, The Big Read (available at American Corner)
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird, CD, Audio Guide, The Big Read (available at American Corner)
  4. Billie Holiday’s song “Passion Fruit” in interpretation of Nnenna Freelon (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnbsSuybOU0)

  1. Harper Lee’s framed picture (see video)
  2. Framed picture of the map of the USA (see video)
  3. Colour pencils and paper
  4. Cultural realia representing different ethnic/religious practices, in my case it was hats, such as:

a) a Jewish kippa

b) a Turkish folk cap

c) modernistic cap sewn from a hand-woven cloth from the Bansko area

d) a Rastafari hat

  1. Handouts - five groups of reading comprehension questions on the articles about:

a) Harper Lee – short bio


or http://neabigread.org/teachers_guides/lesson_plans/mockingbird/Lee_TG2014.pdf

b) Introduction to the book


c) The Great Depression


d) The Jim Crow South


e) The Civil Rights Movement


  1. A set of listening comprehension question on track #2 from the CD in 3.
  2. Homemade American breakfast biscuits and respective recipe
  3. Link to the online eponymous film at: http://www.moviesub.net/watch/to-kill-a-mockingbird-1962/3962.html

For individual preparation of the teacher:

  1. USA’s Southern States:


  1. Causes of the Civil War:


  1. Black Leaders During Reconstruction:




Background of the group:

Twenty Mitropolit Andrey Foreign Language School 12-graders with intensive study of English as a first foreign language in their American literature class.

Main aim:

The aim of the lesson is two-fold:

  1. To introduce the students to Harper Lee’s modern classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” in the light of the moral of the book viewed from the cultural and historical perspective of 20th-century America.
  2. To showcase the basic principle of groupwork to fellow colleagues teaching English as well as other subjects; the lesson was announced as open to the wider public and to all interested in American culture as the lesson took place outside of school at the American Corner in Targovishte’s Regional Library.

Besides, the lesson was planned as interdisciplinary for using music and drawing by the students in some of the tasks and for the specific historical and geographical information in the introduction and the comments of the teacher between the tasks.



Stage / Procedure




Interaction pattern


1. Introduction into the topic by the teacher in a way provoking interest on the part of the students.

1. Groping about the level of information the students have about either Harper Lee or the book. It instantly became clear that the class had no info whatsoever about either of them.

2. Provision of basic information about the topic and why we should talk about the book.

1. A wholeclass activity on the pattern of asking a question / receiving an answer and a short lecture delivered by the teacher.

5 min.

2. Distribution of the class into 5 groups, each with handouts about the topics for discussion in 9 above plus respective set of reading comprehension questions; each group should choose a speaker to report on their set of questions for discussion.

1. Working in groups in order to learn to analyse and summarise the key points of information in a given text by agreeing on the final product of discussion.

2. Extraction of factual knowledge about a topic acting as a building brick in the general construction of the idea about 20th-century America and the place of Harper Lee in it. As it appeared that the students had no preliminary cultural knowledge about the topics of discussion, they had to create the overall picture by gradually putting together the information derived from each reporter.

Groupwork activity.

Slow jazz (Nnenna Freelons’ Blueprint of a Lady) as a background.

10 min.

3. In keeping with the spirit of universal humanity of the book, the teacher exhibits a set of different ethno hats and explains that each group reporter should choose a hat, put it on his/her head and thus speak about the findings of the group.

1. Getting closer to the spirit of the book.

2. Adding a livelier accent to the course of the lesson.

Teacher asks questions about the type of hats and explains what they are. Also, he/she may explain why it is desirable to deliver the findings of the group with a hat on.

1 min.

4. Reporting of the findings of the 5 groups by individual reporters chosen by the group; short clarifying comments by the teacher at the end of each report.

Learning about the main topics of discussion:

- Harper Lee as an author

- The plot of the book

- The Great Depression

- The Jim Crow South

- The Civil Rights Movement

Individual oral reports by students.

25 min.

5. In relation to the last 2 topics of discussion and especially in regard with the segregation law of the South, the teacher writes 3 key words on the board (fruit, hanging, tree) and tells the students that they should draw their group picture using the images created by the given words while listening to Billie Holiday’s song “Strange Fruit”. The prop words are part of the lyrics of the song.

1. Exercise of the ability to comprehend listening material and express it in a certain non-verbal form.

2. Adding a creative and more personal perspective to the understanding of the book.

Groupwork listening and drawing activity.

3 min.

6. Explaining the general picture derived from the song. Setting the homework assignment: Guess how close you have been to the book by watching the film at: http://www.moviesub.net/watch/to-kill-a-mockingbird-1962/3962.html

The lesson ends with a treat to homemade American breakfast biscuits, so typical of the 30s in which the novel is set, and a recipe about how to cook them.

The film starring Gregory Porter will conclusively shape the rough notion about the book formed by the students during the lesson and can serve as a starting point for a follow-up discussion on the Listening Comprehension task attached to this lesson plan.

The biscuits give additional cultural flavor to the atmosphere of the event.

A wholeclass activity through ask and answer.

1 min.


The key stages can be viewed on the

Youtube video of the lesson:



Media coverage:




Reading Comprehension Questions ( 5 groups):

  1. Full name and date and place of birth
  2. Details about father
  3. The author’s personality as a child
  4. The author’s favorite subject at school and whom did she want to look like
  5. University studies and activities at the University of Alabama
  6. Her life in New York
  7. The name of the book she published and when

1. What is the Great Depression

  1. Time of occurrence
  2. Causes of the Great Depression
  1. When did Harper Lee experience the Great Depression

  1. Name of the book and author
  2. Main characters you can deduce from the text
  3. The 2 plot lines of the book
  4. Themes discussed in the book

  1. What is the law of Jim Crow
  2. In which particular states did it appear
  3. Why was it called “Jim Crow”
  4. Which famous group of organized mob violence does the article mention
  5. Describe briefly the case of racial injustice that has a close relation to the plot of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”

  1. What is the Civil Rights Movement?
  2. What are the fundamental democratic rights?
  3. When and how did the Civil Rights Movement in America begin?
  4. What measures did the Southern states take to prevent the black population from voting?
  5. How were blacks segregated (separated from the white population)?
  6. Who is the leader of the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s?
  7. When and how were the civil rights of all Americans established?

Reneta Stoimenova teaches English at the Foreign Language School in Targovishte. She has also translated and published bits of modern American fiction and poetry. The link to her translation of a rare interview from J. D. Salinger can be used as a teaching resource on the author: http://www.kultura.bg/bg/article/view/12367



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