Mirroring Atticus: A Text-Complexity Circle Highlights Unconventional Heroes


  • Jason J. Griffith Arizona State University




To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch, text-complexity circle, text set, unconventional heroes, literature, unit plan, empathy


This article outlines the arrangement of a text circle in an eighth-grade English language arts class around the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. The author first provides rationale for examining Atticus Finch as a non-traditional hero for his going against the status quo despite consequence to do what's right. The author then establishes that mirror neurons allow student readers to experience literature and emotionally put themselves into situations they might not otherwise experience; and therefore, Atticus is worthy of direct character study. Ancillary texts to support Atticus' heroic example are shared, including the films Gandhi, High Noon, and 12 Angry Men as well as the song "I Won't Back Down. Finally, excerpts from student responses comparing and contrasting characters in the various texts demonstrate a deeper understanding of the fulcrum text (To Kill a Mockingbird) as well as personal thematic connection by students.

Author Biography

  • Jason J. Griffith, Arizona State University
    Jason Griffith is a Teaching Associate and Ph.D. Student (English Education) at Arizona State University. A National Board Certified Teacher and Fellow of the National Writing Project, Jason taught middle school and high school English for 12 years in Carlisle, PA. In 2012, Jason received NCTE's Outstanding Middle Level Educator Award, and he currently serves on NCTE's Middle Level Section Steering Committee. Griffith has presented at national conferences including NCTE, SXSWedu, CEE, and the Educator Collaborative's Gathering, and his work has been published in the Language Arts Journal of Michigan along with edited volumes by Rowman and Littlefield and the ISTE. In Fall 2016, Routledge published Griffith's first book From Me to We: Using Narrative Nonfiction to Broaden Student Perspectives, which features critical reading and writing strategies for creative nonfiction in secondary English class. He can be reached at Jason.J.Griffith@asu.edu.






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