“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
– Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird
As we began reading the trial of Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird, I wanted a way for students to truly immerse themselves into the scene of the courtroom. I wanted them to see and feel what it was like to be involved in the story. To see things from Scout’s perspective, from Atticus’s viewpoint, and then from the perspective of Tom Robinson, as he awaited his verdict.
I located the actual courtroom where the movie was filmed on Google Street View, then had students use Google Cardboard VR viewers I purchased on Amazon to immerse themselves into the scene. They studied the view from different positions in the courtroom – the balcony, where the “colored people” sat, the lower level – where white spectators sat, from the view of the jury, as well as the view from the defendant’s chair.
Later, students wrote about their experience from the perspective of a character in each of the sections of the courtroom. Then, they chose one perspective to discuss, and recorded a video response on the class FlipGrid.
Allowing students to do as Atticus Finch says, “climb into their skin and walk around in it,” truly helped students understand the perspective of others in this story. It was an excellent learning experience!
“I feel like looking at things from Tom’s perspective, sitting in the witness chair looking out at the courtroom, gave me a glimpse into how he might have felt during the trial. To be on trial for your life, knowing you did nothing wrong, that made me very sad for him, and angry at the way people were treating him.”