I am going to teach To Kill a Mockingbird to 10th graders next year, and would love to gather short stories, songs, poems, and other possible supplemental materials that go well with the themes, characters, setting, background or plot of the novel. Do you guys have any materials that fit well? Thanks for your help!
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If you are also teaching anything by Truman Capote, you can go into the friendship between him and Harper Lee. I remember being stunned the first time I heard that the character of Dill was based on Capote as a child. Watching the movie "Capote", with the adult Lee as a character and references to TKAM coming out during the time she helped him w/In Cold Blood, was enormously interesting!
I like Billie Holiday's song, "Strange Fruit" to discuss the issues of racism and prejudice in the book. Have them listen to it several times before you discuss its meaning...it has a haunting melody, and the mood and tone are clear before the words ring a bell. When the students discover that that "fruit" is hanged slaves in the trees, the discussion really livens up!
You might also look up any newspaper articles or media transcripts you can on James Byrd in Texas, I think. It was several years ago, and a couple of white boys tied this particular black man to their truck bumper and dragged him for miles before leaving him to die. Another clear and sad story of racism and prejudice.
There is a group of songs called the "To Kill a Mockingbird Suite," composed by Philip Aalberg on his album Field Notes (Sweetgrass Music, 2000). I have not listened to it--just recently discovered the title--but I believe it is in the New Age style. You might want to hunt it down and give it a listen. You can locate it at allmusic.com. You can purchase a copy from amazon.com.
The movie Finding Forrester is a neat look at a reclusive author (who I think is similar to Lee in that regard) who has a similar one hit wonder. It also takes on the issues of race and prejudice in a modern day New York. It is an inspirational story about writing and friendship. I think you could even find some characters to compare as the recluse has a kid who longs to bring him out, and actually befriends him. It just might be a nice after reading idea. It would certainly provide topics to write about as well as inspiration to write.
Poetry by Langston Hughes such as “Dinner Guest Me” or “I Too Sing America” would be a good way to tie into the themes of prejudice and demonstrate the scope of the issue. Black Like Me (can’t quite place the author’s name) is a good nonfiction account of a white man who disguised himself as a black man so that he could travel through and experience the deep south as a man of color.
I always use the real-life Scottsboro trials somewhere in the course of teaching this novel.
Sometimes I lead with it, to introduce students to the realities of such racial injustice they thankfully have trouble even believing. It's a relatively foreign concept to them that a white person's word was always taken as truth over a black person's. This case displays that concept in all its ugliness and unfairness. It's also specific to a rape case and is something Harper Lee, living in the South, could not have missed.
As a follow-up study, it's interesting to watch them pick apart the arguments of the case with such passion--almost as if they were speaking for the innocent Tom Robinson.
Literature should always be placed in its historical context, so use it as you wish, but I would encourage you to use it.
There is some really interesting Bonus Feature information on the DVD of the movie. It interviews the actors who played the various roles, and interviews with other people involved in the movie. There is a very insightful commentary about how Harper Lee was involved in the movie and how she felt about the final product. There are features about the historical background of the story including footage of the actual town and courthouse that Lee based her stuff from. It is definitely worth previewing and showing some clips to your students, even if you don't show the whole film.
My mother is an English teacher (actually, she and I teach in the same school!), and she published an article about incorporating poetry into a To Kill A Mockingbird unit in the English Journal in 2002. Here's a link to a reproduction of the article on enotes:
Hope it goes well!
Oh, and like auntlori, I love using information on the Scottsboro Trials. I show the A&E biography (it's wonderful!) after we've finished reading the Tom Robinson trial, and the kids end up writing a comparison essay. I've also used articles on the murder of Emmett Till.
I like using information from primary sources to supplement the key ideas. For example, I have them look at pictures of southern towns during the Depression. You can also show films depicting the Depression. I give them information on trial law and the criminal justice system, as well as famous civil-rights trials. The Scottsboro case is an import one to mention. You can also bring in information on Emmett Till. I like to use other fiction, such as Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and nonfiction such as Warriors Don't Cry. What you use and why really depends on your audience. Inner-city kids of color will need different instruction than middle class white kids, to a certain extent. The former experience racism on a daily basis, while to the latter it is historical and academic.
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