Launching To Kill a Mockingbird: Establishing Reading Routines (Chapter 1) | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G8:M2A:U1:L8

Launching To Kill a Mockingbird: Establishing Reading Routines (Chapter 1)

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can cite text-based evidence that provides the strongest support for my analysis of literary text. (RL.8.1)
  • I can effectively engage in discussions with diverse partners about eighth-grade topics, texts, and issues. (SL.8.1)
  • I can analyze the impact of word choice on meaning and tone (analogies or allusions). (RL.8.4)

Supporting Targets

  • I can use the strongest evidence from To Kill a Mockingbird in my understanding of the first part of Chapter 1.
  • I can participate in discussions about the text with a partner, small group, and the whole class.
  • I can analyze the impact of allusions to world events in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Ongoing Assessment

  • Structured Notes graphic organizer


AgendaTeaching Notes

1. Opening

 A. Engaging the Reader: Homework Discussion (5 minutes)

 B. Review Learning Targets (2 minutes)

2. Work Time

 A. Launching the Novel: Story Impressions (5 minutes)

 B. Reading To Kill a Mockingbird: Read-aloud and Modeling Structured Notes with First Half of Chapter 1 (28 minutes)

3. Closing and Assessment

 A. Preview Homework (5 minutes)

4. Homework

 A. Complete a first read of the second part of Chapter 1. Take notes on the Structured Notes graphic organizer.

  • This lesson launches students' study of To Kill a Mockingbird. Students first encounter the novel through Story Impressions, a pre-reading activity in which students make predictions about a piece of literature through reading phrases from the novel or connected to the novel and then developing an "impression" of the text. The phrases included for this activity will familiarize students with setting and characters.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird is a difficult text. In this lesson, students hear the first chapter read aloud as they follow along silently. This read-aloud gives students a chance to hear a fluent reader model this difficult text. In previous lessons, the read-aloud was "pure" and was read only to model fluency and help build understanding. For this read-aloud, continue to model fluent reading but also pause for comprehension checks to ensure students' understanding as they begin this complex text.
  • This lesson introduces students to a new structured notes routine that they will use throughout their study of the novel. Students used Structured Notes graphic organizers during Module 1 (while reading Inside Out & Back Again). But because the demands of To Kill a Mockingbird are different, the "structure" of the structured notes is also different here in Module 2A. With each reading assignment, students write the gist of the reading homework, answer a focus question, and attend to teacher-selected vocabulary words. Key words for each chapter include academic words that serve a number of purposes. Most have prefixes, suffixes, or Latin and Greek roots. Many are adjectives that are used to describe setting or characters. Others are words students should know to understand critical incidents in the novel.
  • For readers who struggle, an optional set of supported structured notes is provided that includes chapter summaries and vocabulary definitions. Those summaries were retrieved from Wiki Summaries; a open online resource.
  • The Structured Notes graphic organizers for homework are provided at the end of each lesson. Students should keep the structured notes because the information collected will provide details and evidence relevant to the Unit 2 essay and the final performance task in Unit 3. If you plan to collect these notes, consider how to help students keep them organized in a folder once you hand the notes back.
  • For students who struggle, consider preparing a completely separate packet with all of the "Supported Structured Notes" for the entire novel. 
  • Review: Think-Write-Pair-Share. (See Appendix 1)


allusion; assuaged (3), "the disturbance" (4), ambled (6), vague optimism (6)


  • Discussion Appointments (from Lesson 3)
  • Story Impressions Note-catcher (one per student)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (book; one per student)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird Structured Notes Graphic Organizer, Chapter 1, Part A (one per student; in class)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird Structured Notes Graphic Organizer, Chapter 1, Part B (one per student)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird Supported Structured Notes Graphic Organizer, Chapter 1, Part B (optional for students needing more support)



A. Engaging the reader: Homework Discussion (5 minutes)

  • As students enter, ask them to meet with their New York City Discussion Appointment and share their QuickWrite from their homework:
    • "Based on the speeches by Shirley Chisholm, Sojourner Truth, and President Lyndon Johnson, you have learned a lot about what it means to 'take a stand.' Have you ever taken a stand on something? If so, what and why? If not, is there an issue that you can see yourself taking a stand about? When and why? Please explain, providing evidence from your own experience."

B. Review Learning Targets (2 minutes)

  • Draw students' attention to the posted learning targets. Read the first two learning targets aloud:

*   "I can use the strongest evidence from To Kill a Mockingbird in my analysis of Chapter 1."

*   "I can participate in discussions about the text with a partner, small group, and the whole class."

  • Ask students to turn and talk with their partner about their previous experience with these types of learning targets. Listen for students to make connections to their work in Module 1.
  • Read aloud the last learning target:

*    "I can analyze the impact of allusions to world events in To Kill a Mockingbird."

  • Explain to students that an allusion is a reference to something. Today they will read part of the novel that alludes to a famous historical speech, and they will think about how this allusion, or reference to the speech, helps them understand the novel better.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Launching the Novel: Story Impressions (5 minutes)

  • Distribute the Story Impressions Note-catcher. Tell students that today they will be participating in a pre-reading activity in which they write down their first impressions or thinking about something based on a few words or phrases. Focus students on the top of the Note-catcher. Point out that there is a list of some characters' names and phrases. These are taken from the beginning of the novel they will begin today. Cold call on a student to read the phrases.
  • Give directions:
    1. On your own, read the phrases quietly to yourself a couple more times. 
    2. Think about what this novel might be about.
    3. What do these phrases make you wonder?
  • Once the majority of students seem to be done, have students share their wonders with their NYC Discussion Appointment partner from the beginning of the lesson.
  • As time permits, cold call a few students to share their wonders with the class.

B. Reading To Kill a Mockingbird: Read-aloud and Modeling Structured Notes with First Half of Chapter 1 (28 minutes)

  • Tell students that for this module, they will read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Do not tell them much about the novel at this point.
  • Distribute students' texts: To Kill a Mockingbird. Ask students to turn to Chapter 1 and follow along in their text while you read aloud.
  • Begin reading aloud from the beginning of the book. At times, pause to check for comprehension by inviting students to turn and talk to their NYC partner and retell, question, and/or comment on the story. Provide one minute for each turn and talk. (Do not explain too much at this point; students will gradually come to understand the events of Chapter 1 across this lesson and in Lesson 9.)
  • Finish reading at "But it was a time of vague optimism for some of the people: Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself" (page 6). Pause after this sentence and ask students:

*    "Have you ever heard of the phrase 'the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"?"

  • Listen for students possibly to know of this phrase from previous learning or from social studies instruction. As needed, briefly explain where this quote comes from: President Franklin D. Roosevelt said these famous words in his first inaugural address in 1933. Invite students to think about the source of the quote. Then ask:

* "Based on this allusion to FDR's speech, what can we figure out about the novel?"

  • Invite students to turn and talk.
  • Cold call on student pairs. Be sure they understand that this allusion provides us with the year the novel takes place and the climate of the country. Probe deeper on this last point:

* "Why in his speech would FDR be talking about fear?"

  • Invite students to turn and talk.
  • Then cold call on student pairs. Ideally students will understand that the country was in economic turmoil, with people out of work and discouraged. FDR is saying this to encourage and calm the people of the United States. Clarify as needed. 
  • Distribute the To Kill a Mockingbird Structured Notes graphic organizer, Chapter 1, Part A (in class) for the first part of Chapter 1 reading. Invite students to work in their NYC pairs. Orient students to the structure and tell them that for each night for homework they will read part of the novel and will complete structured notes. Explain that the structured notes page will look the same; just the focus question and the vocabulary will change.
  • Invite students to engage in a Think-Write-Pair-Share of the first part of the in-class structured notes:
  • * "What's the gist of what you read?"

    • Circulate and be sure students are capturing what was read.
    • Model as needed. Show students that they will probably write something like: "This first part of Chapter 1 describes the setting of the novel. It is set in Maycomb County, a tired old place, in 1933. Chapter 1 also begins by introducing the narrator's father, Atticus, who is an attorney and from a long line of Finches."
    • Next, invite students to read the focus question in the second part of the structured notes:

    * "Based on what you have read so far, how would you describe Atticus? Be sure to use the best details that give you the clearest understanding of Atticus in your answer."

    • Tell students that each night, they will have a question for which they will need to use the strongest evidence from the novel to answer the question.
    • Invite students to Think-Write-Pair-Share as they answer the focus question. Circulate and encourage students to go back into the novel to select the strongest details and evidence.
    • Model for students that they should have something like: "Atticus tries to do what is best for his clients. For example, he tried to convince his first two clients to make a guilty plea and live, but they didn't take his advice and pled not guilty, which ended up getting them hanged (5). Atticus does not like criminal law (5). Finally, Atticus supported his brother when he went to medical school. This shows me that Atticus puts others' needs ahead of his own (5-6)."
    • Ask students:

    * "What do you notice about my answer?"

    • Encourage students to notice that it is written in neat handwriting, has complete sentences, uses page numbers from the novel when needed, explains the best evidence the writer selected, and makes inferences based on evidence from the text. Explain that the number of sentences will be different for different questions, but just as with the QuickWrite responses, they must be sure they use enough sentences to answer the question completely.
    • Finally, invite students to review the vocabulary words from the reading they did in class. These are listed on the last part of the

      structured notes.

      • Model for students the first word, assuaged. Reread the sentence "When he was nearly thirteen my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow. When it healed, and Jem's fears of never being able to play football were assuaged ..." Say: "So based on this sentence, it makes me think that Jem was worried about not being able to play football because of his broken arm, but when it healed he didn't worry about that anymore. So, I think assuaged means to put to rest, eased, or lessened." Continue to model by writing the definition you said in the appropriate space on the chart and describe how the context helped you figure out the word by writing: "It makes me think that Jem was worried about not being able to play football because of his broken arm, but when it healed he didn't worry and his fears were lessened."
      • Invite students to work in pairs to return to the novel to reread the sentence or phrase in which the other vocabulary words are used; remind them that we've talked about some of these words. Tell students they will need to define the word and write how they decided on this definition based on the context clues.
      • Congratulate students on reading such a complex today.
  • Pairing students for comprehension discussions during the reading will provide a supportive structure for reading and understanding a complex text.
  • ELLs may be unfamiliar with more vocabulary words than are mentioned in this lesson. Check for comprehension of general words that most students would know.
  • ELLs and readers who struggle will benefit from the optional supported structured notes, which provide a summary of the chapter and the vocabulary words defined.

Closing & Assessments


A. Review Homework (5 minutes)

  • Distribute the Homework: To Kill a Mockingbird Structured Notes, Chapter 1, Part B or Homework: To Kill a Mockingbird Supported Structured Notes, Chapter 1, Part B and briefly preview the homework.
  • Point out that as students read, they will be practicing skills that they have learned in class today. They will be writing the gist of what they read, answering a focus question using the strongest evidence from the novel, and defining vocabulary words based on context clues. Invite students to ask questions about what to do in the structured notes for homework, and clarify if needed.


HomeworkMeeting Students' Needs
  • Complete a first read of the second part of Chapter 1, using structured notes. Answer the focus question: "Based on your reading of Chapter 1, how do Jem, Scout, and Dill describe Boo Radley? Use the strongest evidence from the novel to support the description."

Provide struggling learners with the supported structured notes for additional scaffolding as they read the novel.

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