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To Kill A Mockingbird

Discussion in 'English' started by DalekTeacher, Jul 29, 2011.

  1. DalekTeacher

    DalekTeacher New commenter

    I am teaching Harper Lee's 'To Kill A Mockingbird' next year to a Year Eleven class that I am taking over. As it is quite a lengthy text, how is it best to get through it all and does anyone have any advice on how they make it interesting and fun as I want the class to enjoy it?
    Thank you,
  2. GloriaSunshine

    GloriaSunshine New commenter

    They won't all love it. Some will but will pretend that it's booring. If you love it, they'll pick up on that. As an exam text, you are constrained by the demands of the assessment objectives but they'll like the story if you don't drag out in the first reading. I have always found students are shocked by reports of lynchings and I always show pictures accompanied by 'Strange Fruit' for Mockingbird and Ch 4 of 'Of Mice and Men'. I never used to think of it as lengthy, but increasingly it is seen as so, and this is an issue with difficult classes. What ability group will you be teaching?
  3. DalekTeacher

    DalekTeacher New commenter

    It is a high ability group with the target grades being everything above a C. I have been given the class to take over into Year Eleven, and wanted to ensure that they enjoyed it as much as possible especially as they will reading texts of this length later on in life. Its the length of the chapters that I was wondering on how best to handle especially getting through one a lesson.
  4. Let them read it at home and focus on discussing it in lessons? You'll have to ensure they're actually reading it with some sharp questioning but if it's a top (ish) set then they should be able to read independently.
  5. You need to give them a pep talk. You're year 11 now, this is the last year before your exams, we don't have time for the kiddy behaviour which was maybe acceptable lower down the school. I expect everyone to have pens and books - if you don't have a pen, borrow it from a friend - I expect homework in on time - if you don't do your homework, it's your own exam grade you are destroying. If a book is set to be read, I expect it to be read. It takes maybe five hours to read To Kill a Mockingbird ...
    The books' quite readable. You don't have to enjoy or agree with a book to get a good mark on it. A lot of black readers, for instance, find the book depressing. That's legitimate response. But you do have to read it. And you have to criticise it intelligently.

  6. GloriaSunshine

    GloriaSunshine New commenter

    If they're a top set, I'd read the first two or three chapters in class, focussing on one or two things. For example, you could look at the town and how it's portrayed and look at language used by the children. Set reading at home and go over some key passages in class to consolidate understanding and point out what they're looking for. I try to go through the first reading as quickly as I can and discuss some key features along the way. I used to do ten questions to test reading and do detentions for miscreants but now I just say it's their loss if they don't do it. Second reading is all at home and looking at different aspects in class. Middle and bottom sets, I read every word in class but with more able I might read a chapter if it's really important in a lot of ways but mostly, it's reading and analysing extracts.
  7. Crowbob

    Crowbob Established commenter

    You want advice on how to make a text about racism, prejudice, courage, innocence and justice interesting to high achievers?
    Sometimes I despair, I really do...
  8. DalekTeacher

    DalekTeacher New commenter

    I was asking for general advice on the approaches that more experienced teachers have used for the teaching of the novel especially as it is very large. The purpose for asking was to ensure that I do make it as interesting as possible for them.
  9. manc

    manc New commenter

    I find the large-print version particularly large.
  10. Vivmillion

    Vivmillion New commenter

    Crowbob, is it really necessary to be so caustic? I am also starting to teach GCSE and I am concerned that I may have issues getting the students to relate to Mice and Men. Are you also in despair of me? Would you speak to someone like that face to face?
    There was an article in the Gaurdian that raises the issue of people hiding behind the anonymity afford them by the net;

    <h4 class="article-title">
    How the internet created an age of rage

    worldwide web has made critics of us all. But with commenters able to
    hide behind a cloak of anonymity, the blog and chatroom have become
    forums for hatred and bile."
    OK I don't think your coment is full of hatred or bile, but it's not very nice.
    Manners cost nowt; do as you would be done by; treat others as you want to treated; if you wouldn't say it to my face.., etc. I could go on but think I've made my point.

  11. gruoch

    gruoch Occasional commenter

    I'll be very surprised if you do. Pupils love OMaM
  12. manc

    manc New commenter

    On the other hand, such a Confusion philosophy on talkboards would make for very dull reading.
  13. I think Crowbob's was a fair comment, although I also think that Mockingbird tales a wee while to get going so I'd be clear about introducing the themes before you start reading and talking about present day examples. That'll give you a bit of context and a chance for comparison with the novel.
  14. manc

    manc New commenter

    I'm confused... OMaM dull reading?
    You're easily confused. My comments were obviously a response to two posts previous - another poster got in a few seconds before I posted.
    I agree with airy. Great book - but the first few chapters - sheesh.
  15. No, children should read the book through before criticising it. As a concession to poor readers, you might want to read and discuss portions at a time, in sequence. However they shouldn't be introduced to critical materials on chapters they haven't read. That destroys the artistic integrity of the work.

  16. I wasn't suggesting they look at critical materials but that the OP tells them they will be reading a novel which deals powerfully with the themes of prejudice/innocence etc. and asks them to think about what those things are. I'm not sure where you got the idea that I would suggest reading criticism before reading the novel but it absolutely wasn't what I meant.
  17. Context is entirely different to critical material. There's no way I'd teach a whole text without putting it into context first. My first lesson on TKAM would be one exploring key aspects of historical context (laws, segregation, lynching, limited opportunities for black people etc etc). I'd also give some context about the author and her concerns. As Airy says, you've misunderstood him/her, but your reply to him/her is a bit brusque!
  18. manc

    manc New commenter

    Yeah - let's hear it for sample passages and character studies - so much more interesting than actually reading anything! [​IMG]
  19. Crowbob

    Crowbob Established commenter

    Sometimes I think it is necessary. Not all of the time. In other places on this forum (particularly Workplace Dilemmas and Pay and Conditions) I give compassionate advice and counsel.
    Sometimes. It depends on how inane the question is.
    If I happen to meet somebody who trained to become a teacher who asked me a question like the one the OP posted then yes I would probably be brusque with them. They would (in my opinion) deserve it.
    Somebody being let loose in front of a class should be able to do the basic things required of a teacher. I expect an English teacher to know how to "get through" a long book (which To Kill a Mockingbird is not). I would also expect them to be able to enthuse and engage a high ability group on issues of race/discrimination/justice. Perhaps I expect too much.
    As an aside, please don't blame my rudeness (I don't think it was particularly rude) on the rise of internet culture. I take personal responsibility for the comments I make. They are not made because I can hide behind an avatar. They are made because I believe them to be true.
    If anything the internet is to blame for the lack of independent thought that is becoming increasingly endemic in newer generations of students and teachers. There is a perception that you can "get all of the answers" almost immediately. It engenders a philosophy of asking without thinking.

  20. You have to take the situation as it is. For instance I would expect a class preparing for GCSE, predicted very creditable grades, to read the set text through the first weekend after being given it, without even being asked. But if that's not the case there's no point demanding another class. You have to deal with the pupils you are given.
    Similarly, like it or not the OP is up in front of a class, and doesn't know how to teach them To Kill a Mockingbird.So what does he do? The best thing he can do is to ask for advice. The hiring decision has been made. It's too late to change teacher, class, or set book.


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