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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.


Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 9-12

Difficulty Level 4 (Difficult / Complex)

Type of Assignment Individual, Partner, or Group

Type of Activity: Themes, Symbols & Motifs

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/1] Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/2] Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/4] Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone)


Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)



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.



Rubric

(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)



Themes, Symbols, and Motifs (Grades 9-12)
Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes, symbols, and/or motifs in the story. Illustrate instances of each and write a short description that explains the example's significance.
Proficient Emerging Beginning Needs Improvement
Identification of Theme(s), Symbol(s), and/or Motif(s)
All themes are correctly identified as important recurring topics or messages in the story. Symbols are correctly identified as objects that represent something else at a higher level in the story. Motifs are correctly identified as important recurring features or ideas in the story.
Most themes are correctly identified, but others are missing or incomplete. Most symbols are correctly identified, but some objects are missing or incomplete. Some motifs are correctly identified, but others are missing or incomplete.
Most themes are missing, incomplete, or incorrect. Most symbols are missing, incomplete, or incorrect. Most motifs are missing, incomplete, or incorrect.
No themes, symbols, or motifs are correctly identified.
Examples and Descriptions
Quotes and examples are accurate to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) that are being identified. Descriptions accurately explain the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) and highlight their significance to the story.
Most quotes and examples are accurate to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motifs that are being identified. Descriptions mostly accurately explain the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s), and highlight their significance to the story.
Most quotes and examples are minimal, incorrect, or unrelated to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) that are being identified. Descriptions contain inaccuracies in their explanations, or do not highlight their significance to the story.
Examples and descriptions are missing or too minimal to score.
Depiction
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are accurate to the story and reflect time, effort, thought, and care with regard to placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are mostly accurate to the story. They reflect time and effort put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are inaccurate to the story. The depictions may be rushed or show minimal effort, time, and care put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Most depictions are missing too many elements or are too minimal to score. Little time or effort has been put into placement and creation of the scenes.
English Conventions
There are no errors in spelling, grammar, or mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions reflect careful proofreading and accuracy to the story.
There are a few errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions show accuracy to the story and some proofreading.
There are several errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. Most writing portions do not reflect proofreading or accuracy to the story.
Errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics in writing portions of the storyboard seriously interfere with communication.




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