April Fleming, MSDE Admin, Kathleen Maher-Baker
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • MSDE
  • Maryland State Department of Education
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • wa-ela
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
    Media Formats:
    Downloadable docs, Video

    Education Standards

    Examining Human Compassion (Remix) Days 3-6: Southern Gothic Literature

    Examining Human Compassion (Remix) Days 3-6: Southern Gothic Literature


    During days 3-6 of the unit, students will complete a short, focused research assignment to learn about the characteristics of Sourthern Gothic Literature and to begin to view To Kill a Mockingbird through that lens.  As is true with the rest of the unit, the three day time frame is a suggestion only and can be adjusted based on your schedule and the needs of the students.

    Image source: "Mockingbird" by skeeze on

    Mini-Research Task--What is Southern Gothic Literature?

    To make the assignment more manageable for students, assign pairs or small groups of students individual aspects of Southern Gothic Literature in order to have them each provide a brief presentation of their assigned subtopic.  To facilitate the sharing of information, you might set up a presentation on Southern Gothic Literature using Google slides and have the students co-author a presentation with each group contributing slides on their assigned subtopic.  The characteristics of Southern Gothic that could be assigned as subtopics are listed in the attached resource, What is Southern Gothic Literature, and are as follows:

    • isolation and marginalization
    • violence and crime
    • sense of place
    • freakishness and the grotesque
    • destitution and decay
    • oppression and discrimination

    In addition to defining and the terms in each subtopic during this lesson, students will eventually consider how each aspect of the literature contributes to a setting that helps showcase compassionate characters.  The objective is to help students understand how the juxtaposition of Southern Gothic characteristics with compassionate characters helps define morality in the time period in which it is set.


    Show students the   "Kong Breaks Free" Video Clip in the resource section from Wingclips.  Follow with a discussion of why people are attracted to/entertained by things they consider to be freakish and dangerous.  Explain that this fascination has resulted in literary genres such as Gothic, and later, Southern Gotic literature.

    Discuss the term gothic as a class; what do the students know about this term and what is it used to describe today?  Explain that the term gothic also refers to a genre of literature inclduing stories by Edgar Allan Poe and that this genre is the basis for the Southern Gothic movement that students will be exploring in more depth.

    Decide how you will divide the students to explore the six different aspects of Southern Gothic Literature.  You may make six-member groups, with each person exploring a single aspect individually, with the end result being that each group will create a complete presentation on Southern Gotic Literature.  You may create small groups where the entire group focuses on a single aspect of Southern Gothic Liiterature in order to create a single class presentation using Google slides or Prezi, or you may want to use a "jigsaw" model where each group contains members exploring a different aspect of Southern Gothic Literature but then are regrouped with those who are exploring the same aspect in order to return eventuallyto their original groups as "experts" on that aspect in order to present the information to the others in their original groups. You know which grouping model will be most effective based on the abilities and needs of the students in your class.

    Provide students with the research guide provided in the resource section in order to better facilitate their thorough exploration and understanding of the characteristics and ensure consistency in their presentations.

    Though no point values have been added to the rubric, it was created to pair specifically with the research guide and is based on a 4 point per category model with each category being evaluated as not meeting expectations, approaching expectations, meeting expectations or exceeding expectations.  It has been added to the student resource section as well so that students are aware of the expectations for the assignment from the outset.  Teachers can add point values as needed to faciliate the use of the rubric as a grading tool, not just a tool to communicate expectations to students.



    Over the next few class periods, you will be exploring the characteristics of Southern Gothic Literature and presenting your findings to your classmates.  As you continue your reading and discussion of To Kill a Mockingbird, you'll be able to recognize Harper Lee's use of Southern Gothic elements to highlight the compassion of Atticus Finch in the flawed society in which he lived.

    Use the Research Guidelines provided in the resource section to complete your research and presentation.