English Inquiry Project

This lesson plan covers the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. For this assignment, we are targeting standard 9-10.RL.2.2 which focuses on following major themes and ideas in a novel. 

Topic: Racial Struggles within To Kill a Mockingbird

Part 1:  Driving question:   

  • What are your three initial driving questions?

    • 1. Where does the novel portray racial inequality?

    • 2. What elements of the author’s tone indicate that racism was unacceptable?

    • 3. What issues in the novel contribute to the belief that people of color are treated/convicted unfairly based on their race?

  • What is your one, final driving question?

Does the tone of the author contribute to a reader's’ perception of racial inequality in the novel? If so, what events contribute to this?

  • Background information of this driving question:

We are working with 9th and 10th graders.  For this assignment, we are targeting standard 9-10.RL.2.2 which focuses on following major themes and ideas in a novel.  This project should take a few days, because students need to find textual evidence, discuss in their groups, and discuss as a class, as well as perform tasks along the way to check comprehension. Our question will target the theme of racism and how it’s unacceptable in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. For this lesson, students must start by reading the novel and highlight and coming to class with textual evidence for their discussion of this question. For the remaining class periods after they have done their research, they will participate in small group and class discussions to better understand the ideas.

  • Why do you think this is a good driving question?

Try to answer these 4 questions. (But you should not answer them with yes or no, instead explain the details and convince me that you’ve met these criteria)

    • Does the DQ warrant in-depth study?

The DQ requires in-depth study because they must consider the novel and its entirety.  They need to consider specific events from the text and analyze typical or possible perceptions.  They must then state their answer professionally.

    • Is the DQ an authentic and relevant issue/problem for my students?

Racial inequality is a very relevant issue and problem because it is a common and controversial topic in today’s culture and media.  

    • Is there more than one plausible solution to the DQ?

Yes, the DQ requires student’s opinions and there is never a yes or no answer for opinion-based answers!

    • Does the DQ provide opportunities for students to evaluate, analyze, present, and defend their solutions?

The entire goal of the question is to get students to evaluate the text, analyze its meaning, state their opinion and then back it up with supporting evidence from either the reading or secondary sources.

Part2: Grabber

  • What is your grabber?

Videos linked from CNN’s edition of “The First Time I Realized I was Black”

1- Michaela Angela Davis: http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2017/02/us/first-time-i-realized-i-was-black/

2- Van Jones: http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2017/02/us/first-time-i-realized-i-was-black/

  • Why do you think this grabber is beneficial and how it  aligns with your driving question?

Try to answer these questions. (But you should not answer them with yes or no, instead explain the details and convince me that you’ve met these criteria)

  • Does the story, article, video, announcement, role play, or other resource hook the learner into asking more questions about the topic?

Yes, these videos definitely hook the student into wanting to learn more about the topic, because the videos we chose to include really exemplified horrific experiences that African American people have experienced just being that race, which really sparks thoughts and debate.

  • Does the grabber capitalize on novelty and / or high emotion situations?

It definitely capitalizes on high emotion situations, because the videos show how these people are being treated so poorly simply for their race, which is a very high emotion topic.

  • Does the grabber establish authenticity & relevance?

Yes, it definitely establishes authenticity and relevance, because these videos show a real world application of the racial inequality present in the book. These videos show situations have happened in real life and that have happened to real people, which makes students see how real, or authentic these situations are, and how these things are happening in modern times, which makes them very relevant to our world today.

  • Make sure to explain in detail how this grabber would be used.

We will use these videos as our grabber to begin our entire until over racial inequality in To Kill a Mockingbird. We will first assign students to read the book, and once they have read it, we will begin class by showing these videos, which are high-emotion and spark a lot of debate. Then we hope to use these videos as a basis for the rest of the lesson and the rest of the discussions that follow these videos. This grabber activity should probably only take about 15-25  minutes, because we will be showing the videos and having mini-lecture to explain the purpose of it. We will explain to them that the purpose is to show how relevant and real discrimination is in America, and how the events in the book connect to the real world. Next, we will have a small discussion with the students about the videos they watched and their thoughts on the topic

Part 3: Culminating activities: List all your activities here:

1) Activity 1: Video Project- News Report  

  1. Introduction/ Project Description- Students will come to class and we will begin with the grabber, and then move on to introduce the project overview, the purpose of the project and other details. We will then divide students into groups of 4.

  2. Preparation- After we have explained the project, we will allow student groups to meet for 20 minutes to plan the outline of their project, including elements of the project and when they want to meet outside of class to complete the project.

  3. Project Schedule-  

Monday: Assign project/ Preparation Time

Tuesday-Friday: 10 minutes each day to meet in class with groups and touch base (Work on project outside of class!)

Friday-Sunday: Work on Project

Monday- Project Questions and General Recap in class

Tuesday- Projects due and students will present

  1. Project Overview- Students will be placed into groups of four and will need to complete a video project in which each of the fours students plays a character. The students will be creating a newscast of a reporter interviewing characters from the book, Atticus Finch (defense attorney), the prosecutor, and Tom Robinson (the defendant). The reporter is suspicious that Tom’s arrest was racially motivated, and that he was arrested simply because he was black. The student who plays this character should keep this perspective in mind. Students will have time in class (20 minutes) to decide who will play which part, where and when they want to meet outside of class to complete the project and other details. For the actual project, students will assume the roles stated above, and will work together mainly outside of class to film the reporter questioning each of these characters. The students must include real facts, elements and ideas from the novel. They will not make up details. The students will film the reporter introducing the case and the issue, then interviewing each character, and lastly wrapping up the newscast. The rubric will outline specific details. The class will follow the schedule listed above for the duration of the project. Lastly, once the project is completed, students will come together to present their videos while the class watches. Students will also complete anonymous surveys about their group participants that will factor into their participation grade.

  • Why do you think this is a good activity for PBL?

    • Try to answer these 4 questions.  (But you should not answer them with yes or no, instead explain the details and convince me that you’ve met these criteria)

How is the activity authentic?

This activity is authentic because, most obviously, no one has used the same resources we have together to create this activity.  The sources being used are modern compared to the novel which is older.  This activity requires students to push themselves past their initial assumptions about racial equality and see how they view the actions in the novel.

Does the activity provide students with the opportunity to present and defend problem solution?

The great thing about this activity is that students are going to create their cases (for or against Tom Robinson’s prosecution) and then defend themselves with text from the novel.  They are able to create their own opinion, but they are required to have substantial information to back it up.  Through their “news report” they can challenge each other’s ideas.  

Does the activity require student collaboration?

Yes!  This project engages students by requiring them to work together to create the video report.  Each student in the group must have screen-time and a substantial amount of speaking time.  If the teacher notices that one student overrides the rest, there will be point deductions.  The first day, students will get into groups and collaborate on what side they want to defend and then work together to decide who will play which role.  From there they will create a script that involves everyone with very specific references to the novel.

How will I judge what students have learned from the activity?

See rubric

  • You will need to create a rubric for this step and potential example materials as well.


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