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Lesson Plan

Creating Psychological Profiles of Characters in To Kill a Mockingbird

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Creating  Psychological Profiles of Characters in To Kill a Mockingbird

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Six 50-minute sessions plus additional time for collaboration and presentations
Lesson Author

Lauren A. Gibbons

Lindenhurst, New York


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Session One

Sessions Two and Three

Session Four

Session Five

Session Six (and additional sessions as necessary)


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • analyze the psychological background of a character from To Kill a Mockingbird.

  • identify the factors that most significantly impact a character to create a psychological profile for a character in To Kill a Mockingbird.

  • apply what they have read in To Kill a Mockingbird and communicate their understanding of the work by assuming the persona of their character.

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Session One

  1. Begin the lesson by asking students to respond to this question about the novel that they just finished, To Kill a Mockingbird: "Why does Boo save Jem and Scout at the end of the novel?" Have students write continuously for about five minutes on this topic independently at their seats.

  2. After giving students time to respond to the question, students should discuss their various answers to the question in pairs or small groups, then as a full class.

  3. Introduce the concept of a psychological profile.  For the purposes of this assignment, a psychological profile of a character is a list and explanation of the various factors that affect a character's motivation and decision making throughout the course of the novel. 

  4. To begin the psychological profile activity, ask the class two discussion questions:

    • What specific factors influenced Boo throughout the novel?

    • What specific factors must a reader look at to understand why characters act specific ways?
  5. Record responses on the board, overhead, or chart paper as the class collaborates to determine the factors that can make up a character's psychological profile.  Possible answers may include: family, emotions, historical events, interactions with a specific environment, physical traits, social influences, and religion, and so forth.

  6. Now demonstrate how one of these factors is evident in the characterization of Boo Radley.  One such example would be the influence of family on Boo's decision making.  See the Example of Psychological Character Profile Factor.

  7. Inform students that they will soon begin work in groups to create a psychological profile for a character from To Kill a Mockingbird.  Distribute and  explain the Psychological Character Profile Assignment handout to the class.   Answer any questions students might have, and making reference to the sample to clarify the expectations of the assignment.

  8. After explaining the project, arrange the students into groups of three, in which there will be an evidence finder, a quote finder, and a symbol selector. Group will self-assign roles (evidence finder, quote finder,and symbol selector) and select a character from To Kill a Mockingbird to use for the psychological profile.

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Sessions Two and Three

  1. Enable the students to start thinking critically about their group's character and the way in which this character behaves by directing students to the Character Trading Cards interactive.  Ask each student to create his or her own card for the character that their group selected.

  2. Have students print their cards and meet in their groups to share their different interpretations of the character.

  3. Clarify expectations for the project by reviewing the Psychological Character Profile Assignment handout and sharing the Psychological Character Profile Rubric with the class.

  4. Students will use the remainder of Session Two and all of Session Three to explore the Social Psychology Website.  This Website offers information on "social psychology topics such as prejudice and discrimination, gender, culture, social influence, interpersonal relations, group behavior, aggression, and more."

  5. After researching on this Website, each group should determine the five factors (from both the list that the class created the previous session or any other factors found on this Website) that they feel most influence their character's behavior.  Ask students to print any relevant research found on this Website and highlight the important part of the articles that link to their character.

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Session Four

  1. Have groups review and refine the five most influential factors they determined in the previous session.

  2. For each factor on their list, groups will now look for evidence of the factor's influence, a quote to support or illustrate each factor, and a symbol that represents how this character manifests this factor.  Distribute copies of the Graphic Organizer for Psychological Character Profile to help students record their thoughts and keep track of their progress toward completion of the project.

    • The evidence finder will write the paragraph explaining why the group chose the specific factor and how this factor was influential for the character during the course of the novel.

    • The quote finder must find a quote for each factor that best exemplifies this factor's influence on the life of a character and then link the quotation to research found on Social Psychology Website in a paragraph. 

    • The symbol selector is responsible for selecting a symbol for each factor and finding a means of depicting this symbol on the final project; the symbol selector must write a paragraph regarding the significance of the symbol and its relation to the factor.  The students may wish to utilize the Symbols in Literature Website to aid with this part of the final project. Students may wish to use free online clip art or pictures from magazines for the visual component.
  3. Give students the remainder of this session, and time in additional sessions as necessary, to complete their research and interpretation.

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Session Five

  1. After gathering and writing all of the necessary information and interpretations, each group will create a poster that contains all of the information for each factor. Students should begin thinking about how they will organize and visually present their findings.   

  2. Familiarize students with the ReadWriteThink Printing Press tool, which students may use to design the layout of each factor. They can decide whether they wish to present their paragraphs using a flyer, booklet, brochure, or newspaper format. 

  3. Remind students that they should then print their ReadWriteThink Printing Press product and attach it to the poster.

  4. Students can also use the Literary Graffiti tool to create the visual representation of their symbol.  This must also be attached to their poster.

  5. Give students time to complete work on their research and poster.

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Session Six (and additional sessions as necessary)

  1. Each group will present its findings to the class.  In the spirit of Atticus' profession, each group will act as if the character that it selected for the profile is testifying in a trial.  Each group member will take turns acting as the character that the group selected. 

  2. Each member will have to explain one of the factors that influenced the characters actions, speaking as if he/she is the character.  Each student will have to testify for approximately 5 minutes, with each group participating for 15 minutes. At the end of the presentation, the other students in the class will be able to "cross examine" the group by asking any questions.

  3. Give students time to select which factors they will present.  They should also collaborate on how the character would present this information. 

  4. After all groups have presented and answered questions from their classmates, have students complete the Psychological Profile Reflection Questions. These questions may be begun in class and finished as homework.

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  • As another reflection activity, the teacher may ask the students to create a psychological profile for themselves.  The students will select the factors that affect their own decision making.

  • If the teacher would like to create groups of four instead of groups of three, the teacher may add the role of "characterization classifier."  It will be this person's responsibility to examine whether direct characterization or indirect characterization is more closely associated with each specific factor. He or she should offer several examples to support and illustrate the classification.

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  • Student performance should be evaluated based on the poster, presentation, and reflection aspects of the project.  Use the Psychological Character Profile Rubric to provide individual feedback to students.

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