To Kill a Mockingbird: Growing up in the 1930s

A Language Arts WebQuest

Introduction |Task | Resources |Process | Evaluation| Conclusion


Welcome to the world of Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird. You are living in the 1930s. Your home, neighborhood, school, activities, clothes and social interactions are vastly different than anything you are familiar with in the 1990s. This WebQuest will take you back in time to learn what your life is like as a young person growing up in the 30s. Using what you learn, write a series of pen pal letters to someone living in 1998.

The Task

You are going to begin by researching the resources listed below to learn about your life in the 1930s. Using the information you learn, you will write four letters to your pen-pal living in 1998. Each letter will focus on the following four aspects of your life.


To Kill A Mockingbird, Chapter One.

Interview: Growing Up White in the South in the 1930s
The women in this interview grew up in the deep South of the 1930s. All three were members of prominent southern families.

Interview: Growing Up Black in the 1930s
Interview of Mrs. Peacolia Barge who grew up just outside Birmingham, Alabama, in the 1930s.

"I Remember . . . " Reminiscences of the Great Depression
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, some Michiganians bartered and traded for food, clothes, shelter and services. Sharing and "making do" became a way of life. People who lived during the Depression have interesting stories to share about how they coped with hard times. The following reminiscences were published in Michigan History Magazine, January-February, 1982 (Vol. 66, No. 1).

Federal Writer's Project: Interview Excerpts
The Federal Writers' Project of the 1930s recorded more than 10,000 life stories of men and woman from a variety of occupations and ethnic groups. This site is a sampling of these interviews.

Then and Now: Prices
This site compares 1930s prices with prices today.

The Great Depression and the New Deal
Read about the Federal Works Progress Administration started by the federal government during the Depression.

The Great Depression
Read a report written by a student on life during the Great Depression.

The Process

The following instructions will make completion of your task easy!

  1. Read the first chapter of To Kill a Mockingbird to familiarize yourself with the setting and characters in this novel. This preparation will help you as you begin to research life in the 1930s.

  2. You are going to write four letters in the voice of a person growing up in the 1930s. Before you begin your research, consider the sex, race, and age of the "character" that you will become as you write these letters. You may also want to decide on a name for your character. Also decide who you are going to address your letters to. You might consider writing to a friend, family member or even to your teacher.

  3. Begin your resarch by writing the following topics on the top of 5x8 index cards: Home and Neighborhood; Family and Standard of Living; School and Friends; and Social and Political Events in the 1930s.

  4. Begin exploring the resources listed above. You will find that the first four sites focus on personal interviews of people who grew up or lived in the 1930s in various parts of the United States. The last three sites focus on information concerning social and political events in the 30s.

  5. As you explore the sites record facts on the appropriate card. Some tips to make notetaking more effective include printing excerpts from sites that you find useful and using highlighters to mark pertinent information. This information can then be recorded, in your own words, on your notecards.

  6. When you have collected information about each of the four topics, you are prepared to begin the writing process. This process begins with brainstorming and prewriting followed by the actual drafting of your letters. Remember, you are writing from the perspective of a person living in the 30s. You are explaining your life to a person living in 1998. Your letters should include enough detail and description for your reader to gain a good sense of what your life is like.

  7. When you have drafts of all four letters, you will share your letters in two conferencing sessions, one with your teacher, and the other with a member of your class. After conferencing, you will have time to revise your letters and enter them into a word processing program.

  8. After your revisions, you and a classmate will work to edit your letters before final publication.

  9. You will be required to turn in your four published letters, your notecards, all writing drafts, notes, and highlighted copies of your research. These materials should be presented in an organized, labeled folder.


This WebQuest will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  1. Do you have four complete, revised, edited and typed letters?

  2. Is each letter focused on the subjects described in the Task section of this WebQuest? Do your letters acurately describe facts about life in the 30s?

  3. Has each letter been written using the writing process? (Brainstorming, Prewriting, Drafting, Response, Revision, Editing, Publication). Do your letters show improvement from first draft to final copy?

  4. Is the presentation of your folder containing your letters, note cards and drafts neat and professional?


    When you complete this WebQuest, you will be able to identify and understand the setting of To Kill a Mockingbird. As you read the novel, you will have a greater understanding of the personal, social, and political issues which are dealt with in the story.

    Last updated April 1, 2000.

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