K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

  • oral communication
  • empathizing with characters
  • understanding differences

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

90 minutes


  • To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • small Post-It Notes (ten per student)
  • 3×5 note cards and tape (one card per student)


  • Students should have read through Chapter 21. The lesson could work at other times, but after the trial is ideal.
  • Students might generally discuss the verdict and the trial before entering into this activity.
  • Using the list of characters on page 2 of the handout, cut up names to draw and allow students to select randomly a character. Some can be used more than once depending on class size.


All student directions are included on the handout.

  1. Distribute a few Post-it notes to each student. They should use these Post-its to “Search through your book and place at least seven post-its on pages that highlight different aspects of your character. On that Post-it, write a sentence explaining what this passage teaches you about this character” (from the handout). While they are working, you can distribute a notecard and tape to each student to make nametags.
  2. Once the students have researched the characters, they should “Write two diary entries from this character (200 words each). One should come from any part of the novel before the trial and one should be written immediately after the trial verdict” (from the handout).
  3. Finally, students should “Prepare a series of questions you would like to ask other characters in the novel. If you had a chance to talk one on one with these people, what would you want to know? You should come up with at least ten questions” (from the handout).
  4. Next, brainstorm together on the board topics of conversation beyond the trial that might come up at this event — what is Maycomb talking about these days?
  5. Go over the ground rules for the pig pickin’ (from the handout):
    • You should only have one-on-one conversations.
    • When I say “mingle” you should shift to speak to another person at the pig pickin’.
    • You must ALWAYS stay in character.
    • Keep in mind basic Southern rules of politeness; even mortal enemies wouldn’t make a big scene at a pig-pickin’.
    • Have fun — it’s a pig pickin’!
  6. Let them go at it! I think 2–3 minutes for each “mingle” is fine, and you can let it go as long as you’d like. I found with a class of 28 students that 15–20 minutes was enough.
  7. Debrief the experience with the kids. You can ask questions like these:
    • Whose characters were most difficult to play?
    • Were there tense moments between certain characters?
    • Were there any surprises today?
    • Who played their character with the most accuracy?

    It is important not to skip this part. If you run out of time, come back to it the next day.


This rubric is also included on the handout:

___/15 points. Did your Post-its and comments focus on key developments in character?

___/15 points. Were your diary entries realistic representations of what that character was thinking?

___/10 points. Did you accurately represent your character?

___/10 points. Did you stay in character throughout the pig pickin’?

___/50 points TOTAL

I found it useful to enlist a couple of students as evaluators. These students did not have a role but simply were “ghosts” listening in and reporting back to me their observations.

Supplemental information


It is most important that students stay in character. I’d suggest visibly taking the first student who doesn’t follow through out of the role-play. Others will choose to have fun with the roles instead.

If you really want to go all out with this, you could make it a Southern food day and incorporate a mess into the whole thing!

We also had an Academy Award vote at the end for best actor and actress.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Reading: Literature

        • Grade 9-10
          • 9-10.RL.3 Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
        • Speaking & Listening

          • 9-10.SL.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 9

  • Goal 1: The learner will express reflections and reactions to print and non-print text and personal experiences.
    • Objective 1.02: Respond reflectively (individually and in groups) to a variety of expressive texts (e.g., memoirs, vignettes, narratives, diaries, monologues, personal responses) in a way that offers an audience:
      • an understanding of the student's personal reaction to the text.
      • a sense of how the reaction results from a careful consideration of the text.
      • an awareness of how personal and cultural influences affect the response.
  • Goal 5: The learner will demonstrate understanding of various literary genres, concepts, elements, and terms.
    • Objective 5.01: Read and analyze various literary works by:
      • using effective reading strategies for preparation, engagement, reflection.
      • recognizing and analyzing the characteristics of literary genres, including fiction (e.g., myths, legends, short stories, novels), non-fiction (e.g., essays, biographies, autobiographies, historical documents), poetry (e.g., epics, sonnets, lyric poetry, ballads) and drama (e.g., tragedy, comedy).
      • interpreting literary devices such as allusion, symbolism, figurative language, flashback, dramatic irony, dialogue, diction, and imagery.
      • understanding the importance of tone, mood, diction, and style.
      • explaining and interpreting archetypal characters, themes, settings.
      • explaining how point of view is developed and its effect on literary texts.
      • determining a character's traits from his/her actions, speech, appearance, or what others say about him or her.
      • explaining how the writer creates character, setting, motif, theme, and other elements.
      • making thematic connections among literary texts and media and contemporary issues.
      • understanding the importance of cultural and historical impact on literary texts.
      • producing creative responses that follow the conventions of a specific genre and using appropriate literary devices for that genre.