A Final Appeal: Resource Book

The First Amendment and To Kill a Mockingbird

By Shelagh A. Gallagher, Ph.D., Dana L. Plowden


The Resource Book contains primary source documents and other materials that teachers will need to provide to students as they work through the unit.


A teacher has been fired for using To Kill a Mockingbird in her class. She sued the district and lost. Now she is appealing to a district court. In this PBL unit, students take on the role of members of the court of appeals who must decide the case.

Based on an actual court case, A Final Appeal instructs students in the nuances of the First Amendment. Framed around the concept of continuity, students learn how court decisions are made as they address the same questions facing real judges. What speech is protected, and what is not? What are the rights of employers and employees? What is the role of stare decicis, the rule that compels judges to follow precedent cases? Students also learn about the structure of the U.S. court system—and if there is time, they read To Kill a Mockingbird, too!

This unit is perfect for middle school or high school government courses, language arts courses, or interdisciplinary instruction.