Moral Growth: A Framework for Character Analysis

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most commonly taught books in American schools. This complex novel can be the entry point for meaningful learning, but it demands a careful and intentional approach in the classroom. We describe the key principles behind our approach here.


Teaching Mockingbird suggests a central question around which a class’s study of Harper Lee’s novel can be organized: What factors influence our moral growth? What kinds of experiences help us learn how to judge right from wrong? As students read and reflect on the novel, they return to this question and can begin to make deeper and broader connections between the novel and their own moral and ethical lives. They begin by considering the pivotal moments in their lives that shape who they are and their senses of right and wrong. Then they analyze how the characters in To Kill A Mockingbird change over the course of the story, identifying pivotal moments in the story that influence how the characters think about morality and justice.

The complete Teaching Mockingbird guide also introduces models of moral development that have emerged from the field of developmental psychology, which students can use as the basis for even deeper character analysis.



  1. Watch a reflection of growing up in the South

    What are the pivotal moments of her childhood that Strom shares in the video?  Why do you think she chose to share those experiences instead of others?  How did these pivotal moments impact her sense of right and wrong?

  2. Do Analysis: Pivotal Moments in the Novel

    Trace the moral growth of one character—Scout, Jem, or Atticus—over the course of the novel.  How does his or her sense of right and wrong change as the story unfolds?  Which pivotal moments influenced the character’s moral growth?

  3. Do Personal Reflection

    What has influenced your moral growth? What people and pivotal moments have helped shape your sense of right and wrong? Choose one person or pivotal moment and describe it in detail. How did it change or deepen your beliefs about right and wrong?

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