For our final novel of the year, my sophomores are reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I love this novel, and we don’t have a lot of time left in the school year to spend on it. I didn’t have the time or the energy to develop an in-depth PBL unit, and I’ve been on an “authentic learning experience” kick lately, so I decided we’d read the book, talk about it like normal people, and keep the literature activities to a minimum. While looking for new resources for teaching the book more simply, I came across wonderful materials from Facing History and Ourselves. So far we have had some great discussions about identity and stereotypes, and it is giving my students a good framework for understanding the novel. It also gives them a bridge to the work they are doing in American History as they learn about the Progressive Era and complete a project on modern progressive movements. They will be visiting The Root Cellar in Lewiston, an organization that serves a large immigrant population. It is my hope that they will be able to develop a stronger sense of their own identity and awareness of stereotypes.
Today in class I gave them 6 questions, taken from the Facing History curriculum, to answer about their reading of the first 7 chapters. I need to check their reading and comprehension. They paired up to discuss the questions with directions to record their discussion using the voice memo app on their iPhones/iPads, and then email me the audio file. The pairs went off to relatively quiet places to complete the activity. When they all came back together, one group told me that it wasn’t until they were working through the questions that they realized Calpurnia was black. They assumed because of the role she plays in the family and the amount of authority she has in the children’s lives, that she was white. The rest of the class replied, “Oh, I knew she was black.” So we talked about the things in the story that clued them in to that. It was a fabulous conversation about characterization, reading, and stereotypes.