What might Dill (Charles Baker Harris) have had as a homework assignment in To Kill A Mockingbird? I have to create a scrapbook for him as a project and one of the must-haves is a homework...

What might Dill (Charles Baker Harris) have had as a homework assignment in To Kill A Mockingbird?

I have to create a scrapbook for him as a project and one of the must-haves is a homework assignment. Scout and Jem's curriculum is mentioned in the book, but not Dill's since he doesn't go to school with them.

1 Answer | Add Yours

herappleness's profile pic

M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Before we conclude what homework he may have been asked to do, consider the following:

Dill's Teaching Methods

The educational system mentioned by Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird is erroneously identified as the "Dewey Decimal System." Keep in mind that this is a misnomer. The Dewey Decimal System is a cataloging system for books invented by American librarian Melvil Dewey. The educational reform that Jem talks about was initiated by John Dewey, and it aimed to reform teaching methods by using isolated blocks of learning in the form of sight words, pictures, and very basic strategies to teach new concepts.

This miscue by Jem basically shows that this "reform" may not have been as successful as people thought it to be at the time. Harper Lee's criticism against the reform is further shown when she demonstrates the technique will inevitably push Scout, who can read, write, and think creatively, way backwards. After all, the first asinine request that Miss Caroline makes is for Scout to stop reading and writing at home. Lastly, John Dewey's reform spread widely during the 1930s and particularly in the rural USA. It is likely that Dill was taught the same way as Jem and Scout.

However, according to Geraldine Rodgers's The History of Beginning Reading (2007), very popular teaching strategies in the 1930s included the whole word method, and Thorndike's "Teacher's Word Book" list of the 100,000 most common words in English. These are all "controlled vocabulary" activities that can be used for all elementary levels. Since Dill likely went to a one-room schoolhouse, he would have been with children up to the 5th grade, and sometimes older. These activities would have been a good fit for all students. 

The Dick and Jane series also started out in 1931. Considering Dill's young age, it is more than likely that this could have been used as a resource as well. 

Homework

All this considered, a common homework activity that matches the objective behind controlled vocabulary and word lists is listing words with similar phonetic structures. He would have likely been asked to list words, and perhaps even illustrate them, although he may or may not have the tools to do this at home. 

Either way, he could have been introduced to a word like "cat" and then he would have had to come up with words with the same ending, such as "bat," "fat," "hat," "mat," "sat," "rat," "vat," and so on. One thing that was beneficial about breaking down words this way, according to Rodgers, was that the students ended up showing excellent reading and spelling skills.  

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,947 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question