Lesson Plan

A Study of Theme in To Kill A Mockingbird

Stories have many themes, but determining a theme is not always easy.
Karen L.
Technology coordinator
Santa Clara County Office Of Ed (San Jose, CA)
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EdTech Mentor

Students will be able to...

  • determine the theme of a story
  • use evidence from the story to support their theme
  • understand how setting influences theme
  • choose appropriate images to enhance a presentation on their findings
English Language Arts
text analysis
using supporting evidence
Grades 7 - 9
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

Activity: Conversing

It may surprise us to learn that authors may have more than one reason for telling a story.  These reasons may relate to his or her own experiences, or reflect the time or setting of the period.  We are going to investigate the themes inherent to TKAM so to better understand why this book was so critically challenged at the time it was published.

2 Direct Instruction

Prezi is an easy to use and visually engaging tool to present the following new concept:

How to Determine A Theme of the Story: 

  1. Note the characteristics of a character (physical characteristics, personality, emotional state of mind)
  2. What was his/her problem 
  3. How was it resolved  
  4. Based on all that, what generalization is the author trying to share with us? (This generalization is a theme.  It should be a complete sentence with an action verb.)

3 Guided Practice

Free to Try, Paid

Popplet is an easy to use brainstorming tool that will give small groups the opportuntity to brainstorm and fine tune the procedure they just learned.  Because they can share their work with the teacher, it can be easily checked and assessed for understanding.  Students should have the opportunity to "ideate" at this step of the process - brainstorm, gain input, readjust, then repeat until satisfied with the results.

  1. Select a major character from the story
  2. Using Popplet, complete the process (introduced in Direct Instruction) with your team.  
  3. Once complete, export your Popplet by emailing the teacher a jpeg.  (I prefer this option, as I can save it in my Photo Library).


4 Independent Practice


Students then "divide and couquer" on the following strategy:

With this theme, you and your team will do the following:

  • Select 6 quotes from the story that support the theme
  • Find 6 pictures from the era (the Great Depression for example) which illustrate the general setting of your novel.  Use copyright friendly images, and cite the source on each slide.
  • Create a brief caption that describes each photo.  Each needs to be specific to the photo.
  • Compile your photos, captions, and quotes to construct a collage.  Your collage will be made in VoiceThread.  Each photo/caption and one quote will go on one slide.  BE SURE YOUR THEME IS ON THE INTRO SLIDE!!
  • Narration must be included, and should pertain as to why this quote supports the theme.  You may choose to include background music (properly selected and cited).
  • Including the intro slide, there will be a total of 7 slides.
  • Share your work with the teacher by email. 

It should be clear by the end of the activities that students know how to determine the theme of a story, find evidence to support their claims, be able to collaborate as a team, and produce a quality presentation.  

5 Wrap-Up

Students will be required to set daily goals and manage their own tasks.  They will use Google Cal as the tool to track goals and progress on tasks.  When complete, they will use the Brag sheet (Google Form) to evaluate their team and own participation in the project. Finally, there will be class time dedicated to viewing the presentations, discussing the themes and to conclude why it was important for Harper Lee to include them.