Establishing context and teaching vocabularyI am an English teacher preparing to teach TKAM for the first time. I love the novel and am thrilled to be teaching it, but I am a bit apprehensive...

Establishing context and teaching vocabulary

I am an English teacher preparing to teach TKAM for the first time. I love the novel and am thrilled to be teaching it, but I am a bit apprehensive about two things that I see as potential obstacles to understanding.

I'd like to ask experienced teachers (and any students who want to throw their hat in the ring) for suggestions on effective pre-reading activities to establish the historical/cultural context. I have ideas for using reading on the Scottsboro trial, Harper Lee's biography, and some oral histories from the 1930s south, but am a bit adrift into how to incorporate these things into student-centered activities.

My other dilemna is how to handle the vocabulary in terms of class review and quizzing. I plan to give my students a link to the TKAM Student Survival Guide and suggest they read at home with that link open to look up any unfamiliar words as they read. But in terms of assessment, I am also at sea.

Any guidance/suggestions would be most appreciated by this rookie!

Expert Answers
linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The lesson plan materials available here at eNotes include very good suggestions for pre-reading activities and vocabulary study. Here is a link to a page where you can access all those materials:

Teacher's Pet Publications provides word search puzzles, crossword puzzles, and other vocabulary activities. The Prestwick House study guides include a list of key vocabulary words at the beginning of every study chapter. I haven't used it, but Prestwick House a resource called Vocabulary from Literature, which has a link on that site as well.

parkerlee eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The enotes study guide and lesson plans would be a great help in scheduling the time allotted for the various chapters in the book. 

As for an effective vocabulary study, an excellent user-friendly site (put together by a high school literature class in the United States) is the following: 

My students find doing pre-reading task sheets using this site very helpful, as once we do read the text, we don't have to stop at every other line to explain something.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Enotes is always a wonderful source of teaching materials and notes. Check out their materials on To Kill a Mockingbird. That being said, make sure that the vocabulary is understood before the chapters are started. This will make students more receptive to what they're reading if they understand the language being used.

cbarnaby608 | Student

As far as the vocabulary piece, I would suggest that you work in a way for the students to use the new vocabulary in their own writing. Ask them reading review questions in which the vocabulary words could be part of their response (or include the vocabulary in the question). The more they use the new words in a meaningful way, the better off they'll be.

You may want to consider pulling in other fictional texts from the same time period or that deal with the same ideas. Have your students read some Twain?

In regards to the other texts you were thinking about using, you could do a jigsaw. Assign a text to the students (7 read about the trial, 7 read about Harper Lee, 7 read the oral histories) and then the students become the teacher and teach the rest of the class about what they read.

lnb4881 | Student

Have you thought about It has entire unit devoted to this text.  This includes vocabulary activities and quizzes by section of the book. I used it when I used the book "The Pictures of Hollis Woods" and it worked out great. This site does require a yearly subscription but it is well worth the $30 when you have all of those resources in front of you. It will definitely save you some time also. As teachers, we all need more of that.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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