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Unit Overview
I.

Essential Question:
To what extent does America promote liberty and justice for all?

II.

EQ Rationale:
Core text: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Set in the 1930s racially tense American South, this novel allows the reader to understand
a variety of complex issues (notably identity and justice) and how they are viewed
through a childs eyes.
a) To Kill a Mockingbird reveals moral development and loss of innocence through a
child narrators eyes. In elementary school, many children are taught the Pledge
of Allegiance, which includes the line with liberty and justice for all. Instruction
typically follows the same thinking: in America, everyone is equal. This is true
for Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird: at the beginning of the novel, she is a very
young child and observes events with childish wonder, not realizing that there are
inequalities in the world, and instead believing what adults tell her. As Scout
matures throughout the text, she learns that America is less just than she thought.
When Scout sees an innocent, kind man convicted of a crime that he did not
commit solely because of his race, she learns more about the evils in the justice
system, and that the supposed justice system is quite unfair. This text allows
students, most of whom are in a stage of rapid maturation much like Scout in the
novel, to understand complex issues of race and other identities (gender, social
class), as well as the injustices associated with identity. Ninth grade is a time
when students are beginning to develop their adult identities, and this text will
allow them to develop their understanding of the injustices that exist in the world,
solely based on ones identity, and how they as future adults (and even now as
adolescents) can work to alleviate these injustices.
b) My target audiences are two classes of ninth grade students in an Intro to
Literature course at Community High School in Ann Arbor. Ninth grade is a time
when students are beginning to develop their own morals, moving through the
conventional stage of Kohlbergs Stage Theory of Morality (unquestioning
obedience to all authority figures, making decisions to please others, looking to
society for right and wrong, and understanding that rules maintain a societys
organization) and approaching the beginning of the postconventional stage
(rules are useful but changeable ways to maintain order and protect human rights,
but they arent absolute dictates that should be obeyed without question). These
students also live in a society in which many justice issues similar to those in To
Kill a Mockingbird still exist today, including the prevalence of white privilege,
English dialect privilege/discrimination, and the events in Ferguson, Missouri.
c) In chapter three of the Wiggins and McTighe text, the authors write that good
questions are ones that pose dilemmas, subvert obvious or canonical truths or

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force incongruities upon our attention (107). This essential question requires
students to re-consider the standard narrative about justice in America that
everyone, regardless of identity, deserves justice and think about what justice
means when there are many injustices around us. This goes to the heart of the
English discipline by allowing students to consider the injustices in the text in the
context of their own lives. To Kill a Mockingbird was set in 1933-1935, but many
of these injustices still exist today. This raises other questions as well what has
caused people of certain identities to receive more justice than others? Why does
discrimination still exist today, even when Barack Obama is president? What can
we, as US citizens and future voting and career-holding adults, do to make further
progress in eliminating these injustices in our world? The essential question has
no one obvious right answer, since the question begins with to what extent,
allowing students to explore the degree to which the justice system protects, but
also does not protect.
III.

Learning Targets
Reading
Students will be able to identify narrative gaps in the story, knowing that these
gaps are caused by the nature of the narrator, and use context clues to fill in the
blanks of the gaps, understanding the story beyond what the narrator reveals.
1. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.1
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text
says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
Rationale: One of the most prominent complexities in the text involves the
narrative gaps that Scout, as a child narrator, presents. The text presents moments
when the reader does not get the full story, but only the story as told through
Scouts limited perspective. As a result, student readers must work to fill in the
blanks of the story. Students will be able to explain the ways in which Scouts
childhood innocence leads to her status as a semi-unreliable narrator. Students
will be able to identify gaps in the text where readers do not receive information
about everything that is going on (ie: Who killed Bob Ewell?) and use context
clues to make logical inferences about the plot beyond Scouts narration.

Students will understand that a narrators voice can develop and mature
throughout the text, increasingly proving readers with a more detailed and justiceoriented perspective and be able to analyze how this change affects the
information presented to readers. Students will be able to identify passages
throughout the text that demonstrate a changing narrative voice by talking about
the complexity of content that the narrator reveals.
2. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.3

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Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting
motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters,
and advance the plot or develop the theme.
Rationale: Building off of narrative gaps, it is also important to note that Scouts
voice as a narrator changes throughout the text, and this affects the story that she
tells readers and how much readers can know about what is going on in
Maycomb. It is important that students understand the ways in which Scouts
storytelling changes throughout the text, as it affects how readers understand the
text as well. Understanding Scouts changing narration also allows students to
understand how the books events are linked to her growing maturity, and how
this (along with growing up) in turn affects how much of the real events are
revealed to readers. Applying this skill to other texts will allow students to
evaluate the narrator and determine their strengths and weaknesses.
Language
Students will be able to identify differences in characters language, including
speech patterns, commonly used words, and dialect. Students will understand how
characters use language to shape their experiences, as well as why characters
make certain language choices when interacting with other characters.
1. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.9-10.3
Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in
different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to
comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
Rationale: There is a moment in the text when Scout and Jem attend church with
Calpurnia, and Scout notices that Calpurnia begins to speak in tones I had never
heard her use (code switching). Students will be able to explain the privilege,
power, and discrimination associated with different dialects, despite the
grammatical and syntactic validity of each. Students will identify how dialects
affect character interactions, and how language shapes identity in the text.
Writing
Students will be able to write from a characters point of view, taking what they
know about the character from the text and adapting it to create new narratives.
Students will pay close attention to a characters speech and actions throughout
the text, including words that the character commonly uses, speech patterns,
accent, and perspective on important issues. Students will build off of what they
already know about the character in order to make predictions about what a
character would do in a new situation.
1. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.3
Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using
effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event
sequences.

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Rationale: Since To Kill a Mockingbird leaves many narrative gaps that the reader
must interpret, writing narratives to develop imagined experiences fits in with one
of the texts central features. This also connects to my Learning Target that
involves considering how the narrative gaps affect the story, and allows students
to take an active role in sharing another characters perspective (therefore, they
must have a solid understanding of that character).
Speaking and Listening
Students will be able to participate effectively in a variety of discussion formats,
knowing discussion norms and how to respond to other students comments (with
additions, disagreements, and questions for clarification). Students will also be
able to consider a classmates point of view in relation to their own, and then
share their own in an appropriate way.
1. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1
Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (oneon-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10
topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own
clearly and persuasively.
Rationale: Since this is their first semester of high school English, it is important
that ninth grade students are explicitly taught norms for discussion and how to
engage in a discussion appropriately. I also want students to understand that
sufficient discussion participation is essential to their understanding of and
engagement with the text, and also have the ability to participate in the class
discussion in a way that is best for them. I think that it is important for teachers to
avoid privileging one style of participating in discussion (ie: teacher asks
question, calls on first few hands that are raised), because students are not used to
that and it also does not give many students the time to think through what they
want to say and contribute meaningfully. The themes and ideas presented in To
Kill a Mockingbird can be revealed through discussion, but since this text deals so
heavily with issues of race, identity, and growing up, it is also important that all
students contribute their own thoughts and personal experiences in order to get the
most out of the text and class discussions.