Close Reading: Fishbowl Comparing Atticus and Mr. Gilmer (Chapters 17–19) | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G8:M2A:U2:L5

Close Reading: Fishbowl Comparing Atticus and Mr. Gilmer (Chapters 17–19)

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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 analyze how specific dialogue or incidents in a plot propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision. (RL.8.3)
  • I can analyze the impact of word choice on meaning and tone (analogies or allusions). (RL.8.4)
  • I can express my own ideas clearly during discussions. (SL.8.1)
  • I can build on other's ideas during discussions. (SL.8.1)

Supporting Targets

  • I can use the strongest evidence from the text in my close reading of a scene in To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • I can analyze how Atticus's questions reveal aspects of his character.
  • I can analyze the impact word choice has on meaning and tone as Atticus and Mr. Gilmer cross-examine witnesses.
  • I can share my ideas and build on other's ideas during Fishbowl.

Ongoing Assessment

  • Structured notes for Chapter 19 (from homework)
  • Vocabulary Squares
  • Atticus Cross- Examination Note-catcher
  • Mr. Gilmer Cross- Examination Note-catcher`


AgendaTeaching Notes

1. Opening

A.  Engaging the Reader: Vocabulary Squares (4 minutes)

B.  Review Learning Targets (1 minute)

2.  Work Time

A.  Character Study: Atticus and Mr. Gilmer (10 minutes)

B.  Fishbowl: Cross-Examination of Witnesses in Chapters 18 and 19 (28 minutes)

3.  Closing and Assessment

A.  Preview Homework (2 minutes)

4.  Homework

A. Read Chapters 20 and 21 with structured notes. 

  • In this lesson, students will closely read to better understand Atticus as a character by comparing his and Mr. Gilmer's approaches to cross-examination of witnesses.
  • Students will be introduced and participate in a new protocol: Fishbowl. Fishbowl is a peer-learning strategy in which some participants are in an outer circle and one or more are in the center. In all Fishbowl activities, both those in the inner and those in the outer circles have roles to fulfill. For this lesson, those in the center will discuss text-dependent questions. Those in the outer circle will act as observers and take notes on the conversation the inner circle is having. Fishbowls can be used to assess comprehension, to assess group work, to encourage constructive peer assessment, to discuss issues in the classroom, or to model specific techniques such as literature circles or Socratic Seminars.
  • In advance: Determine Discussion Appointment partners; prepare Vocabulary Squares for the Opening. Write the vocabulary words from the lesson (from Chapters 18 and 19) in the space provided above the square. Make two sets of each word.
  • Review: Vocabulary Squares (see Unit 1, Lesson 11) and the Fishbowl protocol (see Appendix 1).
  • Post: Learning targets.


mollified (241), arid (247), wrathfully (248), volition (257), subtlety (260), expunge (262), candid (264), impudent (265)


  • Vocabulary Square (one for each pair)
  • Atticus Cross-Examination Note-catcher (one for each student in half of the class)
  • Mr. Gilmer Cross-Examination Note-catcher (one for each student in the other half of the class)
  • Atticus Note-catcher (begun in Unit 1, Lesson 9)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird Structured Notes graphic organizer, Chapters 20 and 21 (one per student)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird Supported Structured Notes graphic organizer, Chapters 20 and 21 (optional; for students needing additional support)


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Engaging the Reader: Vocabulary Squares (4 minutes)

  • Tell students to find their new Discussion Appointment partner and distribute one Vocabulary Square to each pair. All the lesson's vocabulary words will be distributed throughout the class (some groups will have duplicates). Invites students to work with their partner to complete their Vocabulary Square and encourage them to use what they have written in their structured notes from Lesson 4 homework. Collect the squares and post the exemplar student squares around the room.
  • Use of Discussion Partners allows for total participation of students. It encourages critical thinking, collaboration, and social construction of knowledge. It also helps students practice their speaking and listening skills.

B. Review Learning Targets (1 minute)

  • Read aloud the four learning targets. Share with students that they will study the scene in which Atticus questions Mayella and Mr. Gilmer questions Tom. They will examine the strongest details in the chapter to help them better understand Atticus as a character.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Character Study: Atticus and Mr. Gilmer (10 minutes)

  • Students will continue to work in pairs for the first part of the lesson. Remind them that they first began to see the different approaches of Atticus and Mr. Gilmer in Chapter 17 during the testimonies of Heck Tate and Mr. Ewell. Invite students to skim Chapter 17 and discuss with their partner their first impressions of each attorney's style in the courtroom. Cold call several pairs to share out their first impressions.
  • Distribute the Atticus Cross-Examination Note-catcher to half of the pairs and the Mr. Gilmer Cross-Examination Note-catcher to the other half. Orient students to the layout and questions on the Note-catchers. Explain that they will work with their partner to answer the text-dependent questions. They will have the opportunity to discuss their responses to the questions with the other students who are studying the same character in a new protocol called a Fishbowl, which will be explained when they are ready to discuss their answers. Give students the next 8 minutes to work with their partners to answer the questions on the Note-catcher.
  • Pairing students of mixed abilities for regular discussion and close-reading exercises provides a collaborative and supportive structure for reading complex texts.
  • For students who struggle with reading grade-level text, consider chunking the text for them on separate sheets of paper. This makes the reading of complex texts more manageable and allows them to focus on one small section at a time.

B. Fishbowl: Cross-Examination of Witnesses in Chapters 18 and 19 (28 minutes)

  • Arrange chairs in the classroom in two concentric circles. Explain that the pairs who studied Atticus are going to sit in the inside circle first and the students who studied Mr. Gilmer will sit in the outside circle. The groups will switch halfway through. The group in the inner circle interacts by taking turns sharing out their answers. Those in the outer circle are silent but will complete the last column in their Mr. Gilmer Cross- Examination Note-catcher as the inside group is sharing. Tell students that they are all expected to contribute to the conversation when they are in the inside circle.
  • Provide 8 minutes for each circle to share their questions and responses.
  • Once both groups have participated, debrief using the Debrief Fishbowl questions at the bottom of each Note-catcher:

*   "What is the difference between Atticus and Mr. Gilmer?"

*    "How do the differences help you understand Atticus's character?"

*    "What connections can you draw to the Golden Rule?"

  • Have students Think-Pair-Share and add to their Atticus Note-catcher based on what they have learned about Atticus in this lesson.
  • You may inform those who will be on the inside ahead of time to prepare quiet or reticent students, so they can be prepared for the activity.
  • The teacher may have students take turns for discussion, consider other discussion protocols, or select a discussion facilitator.

Closing & Assessments


A. Preview Homework (2 minutes)

Distribute the To Kill a Mockingbird Structured Notes graphic organizer, Chapters 20 and 21. Preview the homework.


HomeworkMeeting Students' Needs
  • Complete a first read of Chapters 20 and 21 with structured notes. Answer the focus question:

*   "Mr. Raymond says, 'Miss Jean Louise, you don't know your pa's not a run-of-the-mill man, it'll take a few years for that to sink in--you haven't seen enough of the world yet. You haven't seen this town, but all you gotta do is step back inside the courthouse' (269). What does Mr. Raymond mean? Explain using the strongest evidence from the novel to support your answer."

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

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