Themes, Symbols, and Motifs in To Kill a Mockingbird

This Storyboard That activity is part of the lesson plans for To Kill a Mockingbird


To Kill a Mockingbird Themes

Example



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Activity Overview


Themes, symbols, and motifs are valuable aspects of any literary work, and they add richness to stories. Part of the Common Core ELA standards is to introduce and explain these complex concepts. However, abstract ideas are often difficult for students to analyze without assistance. Using a storyboard, students can visually demonstrate their understanding of these concepts, and master analysis of literary elements. For best practices, see our supplementary article with specific lesson plan steps on setting up your classroom and activities to teach themes, symbols, and motifs.

In the classroom, students can track the themes To Kill a Mockingbird uses to send a strong message to its readers. Have students track the four lessons Scout learns throughout the novel, then create a storyboard depicting and explaining each of them, or have them track one theme, symbol, or motif throughout.


  1. Put yourself in someone else's shoes to see life from their perspective.
  2. Don't kill mockingbirds, to kill a mockingbird is unfair because they are small and defenseless and don't bother anyone.
  3. Keep fighting, even if you know you are going to lose.
  4. The world is unfair.

Other TKAM Themes, Motifs, and Imagery to Look for and Discuss

Good vs. Evil

Through the eyes of the innocent children - Scout, Jem, and Dill - the world seems very clear. The further Atticus progresses into the trial of Tom Robinson, the more the children learn that not everything in life is fair, and sometimes evil prevails. This is the theme that ultimately leaves Jem disenchanted with the justice system and leaves Scout in disbelief; that people would convict a man based on their prejudicial beliefs, instead of the truth.


Having Morals

An important theme and lesson, found throughout the novel, is the necessity of morals. Morals are a person’s core beliefs, principles by which they live their life. Being morally educated is important because it helps us to be sympathetic and understand others.


Prejudice and Social Inequality

The people of Maycomb are so caught up in their ignorant beliefs that they convict a man because his is black, and not because he is guilty.


Birds and Mockingbirds

In the novel Scout, almost kills a mockingbird. This upsets Atticus who says that Mockingbirds are weak and defenseless creatures. These birds are meant to symbolize people in the world who are weak and defenseless and cannot help themselves. Moreover, it specifically eludes to Tom Robinson as a defenseless black man on trial for murder. Atticus teaches a moral lesson through this symbol: people should do everything they can to help those who are defenseless. This is why he defends Tom, even though he knows what the verdict will be.


Storyboard Example: The Theme of Good vs. Evil in To Kill a Mockingbird

Evil

After Tom Robinson is arrested, the town mobs the jail. They assume he is guilty, and want to take action, demonstrating their racism.


Good

When Miss. Maudie's house catches fire, the town rallies to help her, showing the good in people, and their willingness to help.


Good/Evil

Boo Radley is initially viewed by the children as a terrible person. They often taunted, and told stories about him. However, Boo proves to be good though his actions, helping Scout and Jem learn a lesson.



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Template and Class Instructions

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in To Kill a Mockingbird. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the theme(s) from To Kill a Mockingbird you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for an example that represents this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.

Template: Theme

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