To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Teacher Guide by Rebecca Ray

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our High School ELA Category!

To Kill a Mockingbird Lesson Plans

Student Activities for To Kill a Mockingbird Include:

To Kill a Mockingbird was the novel that made me become an English teacher! I remember fondly Mr. Myers reading this book with us my sophomore year, and the lessons it taught me. This was, perhaps, the first novel that I ever connected with. For this reason, it gives me great pleasure to present a teacher’s guide for it. With these specifically designed and focused lessons, your students will become motivated by Scout and Atticus Finch, and their passion for justice.

To Kill a Mockingbird Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

To Kill a Mockingbird Summary | Plot Diagram

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A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a novel. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and help students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a novel with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the novel in sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.

Example To Kill a MockingbirdPlot Diagram


The Finch family lives in Maycomb, Alabama. Although it is the 1930s, a time of depression, the family is not struggling. Atticus, the father, is a prominent lawyer. The narrator explains that it is a time of racism and prejudice.


A young black man is accused of raping a white woman, and Atticus is asked to defend him. This is not easy; Atticus must overcome the prejudice and preconceptions people of Maycomb have against Tom Robinson.

Rising Action

Atticus’ children, Scout and Jem, become a center of attention because their father is representing a black man. Throughout the trial, the children go through tribulations of their own as they learn valuable lessons about justice, commitment, and what is right.


Tom is found guilty, and Atticus’ innocent children cannot believe that the people they knew could send an innocent man to the electric chair.

Falling Action

One man in particular, Bob Ewell, has made his disapproval of Atticus well known. During the move, he threatened both Atticus, and Tom’s wife, Helen. The children fear he will do something to hurt their father.


In the end, Ewell goes after Scout and Jem instead of Atticus. In the process, their reclusive neighbor, Boo Radley, comes to the children's rescue. He grabs Ewell's knife and kills him.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of To Kill a Mockingbird.

  1. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  2. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  3. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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To Kill a Mockingbird Characters

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As students read, a storyboard can serves as a helpful character reference log. This log (also called a character map) allows students to recall relevant information about important characters. When reading a novel, small attributes and details frequently become important as the plot progresses. With character mapping, students will record this information, helping them follow along and catch the subtleties which make reading more enjoyable!

For To Kill a Mockingbird, a character map helps students remember the characters, and their interactions with Scout, Jem and Atticus. Many of the characters in the novel are dynamic, changing over the course of the book.

It's a good idea to create a copy of this generic character map and edit it with specific questions about characters you want your students to answer. Tailoring this map with a guided note style helps students with recall and comprehension.

Major To Kill a Mockingbird Characters

Atticus FinchFather, and prominent lawyer
Scout (Jean Louise Finch)Main protagonist
Jem FinchBrother of Scout
Tom RobinsonBlack defendant on trial
Boo (Arthur Radley)Reclusive neighbor
Bob EwellAccuses Tom of rape, tries to hurt Scout and Jem
Dill (Charles Baker Haris)Nephew of Mrs. Rachel. A friend of Scout and Jem
CalpurniaThe Finches' cook
Miss Maudie AtkinsonNeighbor and friend to the Finches
Aunt AlexandraAtticus's sister
Mayella EwellBob's daughter. The woman Tom was accused of raping
Mrs. Henry Lafayette DuboseTownsmen lives in mulatto community
Mr. Walter Cunningham Sr.Townsmen, racist
Walter Cunningham Jr.School boy who bullies Scout

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Create a character map for the major characters.

  1. Identify the major characters in To Kill a Mockingbird and type their names into the different title boxes.
  2. Choose a character from the "1900s" tab to represent each of the literary characters.
    • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
  3. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
  4. Fill in the Textables for Physical Appearance, Traits, Relatives, and Friends.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Depicting Key Themes, Symbols, and Motifs in To Kill a Mockingbird

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Valuable aspects of any literary work are its themes, symbols, and motifs. Part of the Common Core ELA standards is to introduce and explain these complex concepts. However, abstract ideas are often difficult for students to anatomize 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 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 this story 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


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


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


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.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

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 "Use this Template" from the 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.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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To Kill a Mockingbird Characters in Conflict

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Literary conflicts are often taught during ELA units. Building on prior knowledge to achieve mastery level with our students is important. An excellent way to focus on the various types of literary conflict is through storyboarding. Having students choose an example of each literary conflict and depict it using the storyboard creator is a great way to reinforce your lesson!

In To Kill a Mockingbird, conflict is not only present, but it is a very apparent element. Much of the conflict arises from the prejudices of the people of Maycomb.

Examples of To Kill a Mockingbird Conflict

MAN vs. SELF: The Sheriff vs. Himself

When Boo kills Ewell, the sheriff must decide whether to lie, or to arrest Boo. He decides to call the incident an accident, and that Ewell fell on his knife. The decision to lie was a struggle for the Sheriff. If he arrested Boo, it would have been like killing a mockingbird.

MAN vs. SOCIETY: Atticus vs. Racism in Maycomb

A prime example of a man vs. society is when Atticus agrees to defend Tom Robinson. Members of the town feel Atticus should not defend Tom because he is black, and the novel is set in a time of racial discrimination. Atticus is looked upon poorly, threatened, and even harassed, for being Tom’s Lawyer.

MAN vs. MAN: Bob Ewell vs. Boo Radley.

At the conclusion of the novel, Ewell goes after Scout and Jem on their way home. To save them, Boo leaves his house and kills Ewell in a fight.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows at least three forms of literary conflict in To Kill a Mockingbird.

  1. Identify conflicts in To Kill a Mockingbird.
  2. Categorize each conflict as Character vs. Character, Character vs. Self, Character vs. Society, Character vs. Nature, or Character vs. Technology.
  3. Illustrate conflicts in the cells, using characters from the story.
  4. Write a short description of the conflict below the cell.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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A Hero's Journey in Moral Education

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While doing research for this teacher's guide, I kept coming across an interesting project that many teachers are assigning: using the Hero’s Journey with a character from the novel. Students create a presentation with either Atticus or Scout as the hero, and depict it using the steps of the Hero's Journey! I had never looked at either one of them through the lens of the Monomyth before. Not only does it work, but it's fun as well!

Related to both plot diagram and types of literary conflict, the ”Hero’s Journey” is a recurring pattern of stages many heroes undergo over the course of their stories. Joseph Campbell, an American mythologist, writer, and lecturer, articulated this cycle after researching and reviewing numerous myths and stories from a variety of time periods and regions of the world. He found that they all share fundamental principles. This spawned the Hero’s Journey, also known as the Monomyth. The most basic version has 12 steps, while more detailed versions can have up to 17.

Example: My Interpretation of the Finches' Heroic Journey

Ordinary World Sleepy Maycomb Alabama, 1930s
Call to Adventure Atticus is asked to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of rape.
Refusal He realizes the attention that this case will bring, and that it will expose his family to the cruelty of society. The psychological journey of Atticus and his family begins as they battle morals vs. prejudice in the South.
Mentor / Helper Calpurnia is often Atticus’ helper. She is his black cook and disciplinarian for the children. She acts as the passage for the Finches into the black community. The Mentor of the novel is Miss Maudie, who, like Atticus, believes in Justice and becomes friends with the children.
Crossing the Threshold As the trial begins, hostility towards the Finches grows. Although Atticus knows what the verdict will be, he promises to do everything he can for Tom.
Test / Allies / Enemies Many of the townspeople become enemies during the trial. They allow their racism to cloud their judgment and morality:
  • Bob Ewell
  • Walter Cunningham Sr.
  • Walter Cunningham Jr.
  • The white community
Approach The trial ends with a guilty verdict, but Scout's journey has not ended. She still faces hardships brought on by her father’s involvement in the trial.
Ordeal Sometime after the trial, Scout and Jem are walking home. Bob Ewell attacks them. Boo Radley, who is agoraphobic, leaves his home to save the children and kills Ewell in a fight.
Reward Scout and Jem’s lives are spared.
Road Back Scout gains a moral education, their lives are saved, and her faith in the goodness of humanity is somewhat restored by Boo, who risked his life for them.
Atonement The Sheriff rules Ewell’s death accidental, saying that he fell on his own knife. “Let the dead bury the dead.”
Return The Sheriff’s decision not to convict Boo restores Scout and Jem’s faith in justice and humanity. While Atticus does not think this is right at first, Scout explains to him that sending Boo to jail would be like killing a mockingbird. These words prove Scout has learned a valuable lesson, and has come full circle in her journey.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Use the story of To Kill a Mockingbird and map it to the narrative structure of the Hero's Journey.

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Depict and describe how the chosen character's story fits (or does not fit ) into each of the stages of the Hero's Journey.
  3. Finalize images, edit, and proofread your work.
  4. Save and submit storyboard to assignment.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Visual Vocabulary Boards

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Another great way to engage your students by creating a storyboard that uses vocabulary from To Kill a Mockingbird. Here is a list of a few vocabulary words commonly taught with the novel and an example of a visual vocabulary board.

Example Vocabulary Words From To Kill a Mockingbird

  • amble
  • domiciled
  • repertoire
  • temerity
  • mortification
  • foray
  • temerity
  • unsullied
  • rectitude
  • umbrage
  • tyrannical
  • expound
  • philippic
  • ramshackle
  • consult
  • concede
  • habiliments
  • arbitrate
  • apoplectic
  • undulate
  • denunciation
  • altercation
  • ecclesiastical
  • prerogative
  • acrimonious
  • acquiescence

In the vocabulary board students can choose between coming up with their use of the vocabulary board, finding the specific example from the text, or depicting it without words.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of the vocabulary words in To Kill a Mockingbird by creating visualizations.

  1. Choose three vocabulary words from the story and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary.
  3. Write a sentence that uses the vocabulary word.
  4. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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A Quick To Kill a Mockingbird Summary

The classic story of To Kill a Mockingbird has touched generations since it was written in the late 1950s. Set during the great depression, in Maycomb, Alabama, the story centers around the Finch family. Atticus, the father, a prominent lawyer, takes a case defending an innocent black man. Although Atticus clearly proves his client is innocent, the all-white jury still convicts the defendant.

Atticus is raising his two young children, Scout, and Jem. With his choice to defend Tom Robinson, Atticus's family are exposed to the pressures of racism and hatred. During the novel, the reader gets to see the trial through the eyes of a youngster, free from the prejudices’ that adulthood brings. While most of the town shuns the Finch family, the black community begins to embrace them.

Scout, Atticus’ young daughter, also at this time has a fascination with the Radley home. Through hearsay, the reader learns Boo Radley is an extreme introvert, and lives in an eerie, haunted home on their street. His reclusive lifestyle sparks the imaginations of Scout, her brother Jem, and their friend Dill, and they often act out what they think Boo is like. Atticus catches them one day, insists that what they are doing is wrong, and asks the children to consider life from Boo’s perspective. Engrossed with Boo, Scout thinks he leaves them gifts. She also believes that one night when she’s not watching he puts a blanket over her while she stands and watches a neighbor’s home on fire. Boo ends up being a major symbol in the novel, and the source of two valuable lessons learned by Scout later on.

The story climaxes when Bob Ewell, the man who framed Tom, seeks out Scout to take revenge for Atticus making a mockery of him in court. One night, as Scout and her brother are walking home, he attacks them, wounding Jem. However, Boo Radley comes to the rescue and kills him. The sheriff realizes what has happened, and covers for Boo, suggesting that Bob fell on his own knife.

Finally, Scout knows and understands Boo. She embraces the lessons her father taught her: practice sympathy and understanding, and no amount of hatred or prejudice can ruin faith in human goodness.

Essential Questions for To Kill a Mockingbird

  1. How can biases be harmful?
  2. What are the different ways a person can show courage?
  3. Should people be able to have opinions that harm others?
  4. Is it okay that Justice is not always fair?

Other Lesson Plan and Activities Ideas

  1. Track how Boo Radley is viewed, and how that view changes from the beginning to the end of the novel.
  2. Follow the court case using six cells depicting the major events.
  3. Give three examples of Race vs. Justice.
  4. Compare and contrast Scout and Jem.

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