“Of the Coming of John” Lesson 3


  1. Students will perform a close-read, view media clips and statistics in order to understand the difference between empathy and sympathy.

Prior to Instruction:

  1. Project statistic on board, make sure media clips work.
  2. Make copies of close reading questions (if students are working in pairs)


  1. Do Now: Should inmates with families receive abbreviated sentencing to lessen the burden of those left behind?  Explain your response.
  2. Explain to students the difference between empathy and sympathy.
    1. Empathy: Ability to experience the feelings of another person
    2. Sympathy: Having compassion and understanding for another person’s feelings.
  3. View media clip
    1. Ask students to respond:
      1. What is the purpose of this clip?
      2. Why might Mr. Stevenson include a chapter about family?
    2. You can choose to read pages 92-104 as a class and stop to ask close-reading questions as you go along OR print out the worksheet with questions and have students read in pairs.
      1. Circle words on page 92 that contribute to the story’s mood (descriptions or words that create a story’s atmosphere/readers’ emotions).
      2. What do readers learn about Bryan Stevenson when he visits Walter’s family?(93)
      3. List some stresses or difficulties Walter’s family endures while he is in prison. Do you think these are typical of families ‘on the outside?’  (97)
      4. Do you think many lawyers make family visits like this one? Would it change    anything? (97)
        1. Is Bryan Stevenson’s visit an example of empathy or sympathy? How do you know? (Answers can vary; students may say empathy because of an earlier story about his grandfather in the criminal justice system; others may say sympathy because he doesn’t experience the struggles of the family.)
      5. What is the catalyst that propels Stevenson’s and McMillian’s relationship to a new level? Explain your answer. (102-4)


  1. How do elements of empathy and sympathy shape pages 92-104? What is Mr. Stevenson’s purpose for including a chapter devoted to the families left behind?

Extension Activity:

Many films detail the criminal justice system in America (Dead Man Walking, The Life of David Gale, True Crime, and The Green Mile).  Choose one to watch and write a two page analysis on whether or not the judicial system portrayed in the movie was fair and also if it was a reasonable representation of the law.