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To Kill a Mockingbird: A Historical Perspective

Library of Congress/Kathleen Prody & Nicolet Whearty

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Note that this resource was reviewed during the Spring 2014 review period. The resource may or may not have been updated since the review. Check with the content creator to see if there is a more recent version available.


This resource was reviewed by OSPI in Spring 2014. Learn more about the review process and the data analysis approach.

Background from OER Project Review Team
The Library of Congress is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution and serves as the research arm of Congress. The Library of Congress offers classroom materials and professional development to help teachers effectively use primary sources from the Library's vast digital collections in their teaching.

EQuIP (Learn more)

Revision needed (5.7)
Chart with scale of 'meets criteria' from 0 (None) to 3 (All). Alignment: 2.33, Key Shifts in the CCSS: 1.33, Instructional Supports: 1.33, Assessment: 0.67.

Achieve OER (Learn more)

Chart with scale from 0 (Weak) to 3 (Superior). Explanation: 2.0, Interactivity: 0.0, Exercises: 1.0, Deeper Learning: 1.67.

See standard error chart for the review scoring

Reviewer Comments (Learn more)

Minor (2.0)

Comments/Ideal Use:

There are some great materials in this unit that would make it ideal to supplement an existing curriculum on To Kill a Mockingbird. Within the Library of Congress there are some great collections that, with a little navigation by the teacher, he/she will be able to access and get primary source documents and pictures from the 1930’s. There are several links to other sites which a teacher may also find interesting.

The unit provides several lessons students can engage in before starting to read the novel. The lessons will help students understand the setting of the novel by having students view pictures and listen to oral history from the 1930’s in the Southern part of the United States. There are other primary sources including, but not limited to, lynching and a letter from Eleanor Roosevelt.

Although a teacher would use this material to supplement a unit on To Kill a Mockingbird, he/she may want to add to the assessments if he/she would like to align the material to the CCSS.

The ideal scenario would be to draw from the materials to supplement a unit on To Kill a Mockingbird. The materials would be suitable to ELA students in a general, or honors, class for 9th or 10th grade. Teachers who use this material would want to be fairly fluent in the CCSS as they will need to use knowledge of the standards to inform their work with students.


  • Assessments alignment to CCSS.
  • Not enough evidence based questions relating to the texts. The primary sources do not come with questions to help students understand.
  • Practice materials to help students with the novel. The unit does not have too many materials to come to a deeper understanding of To Kill a Mockingbird.


  • Create assessments that align to reading or writing standards.
  • Provide a study guide for teachers and student to use; the study guide should have evidence-based question that correspond with the primary sources students use.

Comments/Ideal Use:

Some of these lessons are ideal background for starting the To Kill a Mockingbird unit. The Farm Security Administration photos and the letter from Eleanor Roosevelt are ones that I will incorporate for next year's TKAM unit. The use of primary sources and asking students to choose their own artifacts while analyzing them, gives in-depth connections to the aspect of lifelong learning. The oral history section will also be a bonus to this unit as it could be a great extension activity for students to interview grandparents/older community members. The reading and writing activities need more scaffolding and formative assessments, but as a supplement, this is a great find.

The Library of Congress site is technically awkward and clunky to navigate. The jpegs and tiffs had accessibility problems on the iPad at school but not at home. The tiny text boxes are hard to highlight. Also, to look at a photo/music library is rather time-consuming as the interface is not up to most commercial standards. That said, the photos, music, oral histories, etc. are exemplary examples of primary documents.


  • No vocabulary activities or text-based questions for the primary sources or To Kill a Mockingbird. The few questions about the reading selections were broad-based such as “What was Roosevelt’s position on lynching?” (It's a good bet they might say she was against it.) There were no TKAM text-based questions.
  • Few formative assessments for the reading activities to see if the students are on track.
  • The writing was not process writing and did not mix on-demand with the narrative writing. The students were to produce a town poem, a found poem, an editorial and an oral history interview.


  • Include authentic text-based questions with answer guides for each reading selection.
  • Include more formative assessments for the reading activities to make sure that the students understand the concepts (such as lynching), the setting, and the cultural attitudes.
  • Make sure that each piece of writing has rubrics given with the assignment sheet, then work through peer revising, more revising, editing and finally publishing.

Comments/Ideal Use:

This isn't a group of lessons on To Kill a Mockingbird, but instead, a group of lessons to be used to enhance the student's experience of the novel by giving them a much clearer picture of the historically significant events that occurred leading up to and surrounding the time frame of the book.

The ideal use for this resource is as a supplemental piece to use with an already fully developed unit on the novel itself. It would require a great deal of planning on the part of the teacher to implement this well, so not a good unit for novice teachers.


  • Includes standards for Speaking, Listening and Language as part of overall document.
  • Includes background building information for students to assist in understanding the context for when the novel was written.
  • Includes links to Primary Source documents ranging from pamphlets, to oral history documents, to photographs.
  • Includes Primary Source Analysis Tool to assist students and teachers in viewing a wide range of Primary Sources.


  • No teaching of the actual novel addressed. All information included refers to the Historical Perspective and the aligned materials.
  • Gives time frames for completing the required tasks, though they may not be realistic, given the complexity of the topic for discussion/learning.
  • No final rubrics included or examples of student expectations related to the written assignments.
  • Very little direction to the teacher regarding any instruction that should go on to assist students with the tasks included as part of this lesson/unit. No specific guidance for working with struggling or ELL students.
  • Very little instructional support included for teachers. No specific questions requiring students to use the text explicitly for citing evidence. Very little reference to the actual novel, but, the focus is on the informational text that aligns with the major themes in the novel.
  • Makes a statement at the end that students should do a final examination on the book, but no examination included. There are no rubrics included, nor any examples of possible student responses.
  • No vocabulary instruction or strategies for teaching vocabulary included.
  • No teaching of writing process.


  • Create rubrics and example student responses to guide teachers in getting the quality of written response expected for this unit.
  • Incorporate the teaching of the novel along with the materials included here.
  • Include instruction/guidance to the teacher regarding writing instruction and the tools with which to teach writing process.
  • Include suggestions and/or scaffolding ideas to assist teachers in working with students who are far below grade level or non-native English speakers.

Creative Commons License
This work by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.