Tried, tested, and Type A approved!
Over the years I have added on, tweaked, and perfected this package in order to most effectively guide my students into an in depth understanding of not only Steinbeck’s classic, Of Mice & Men, but several facets of the setting and themes. These are easily my favorite activities of my entire catalog. I wouldn’t put it out there if I didn’t think it was the best I could produce.
• Pre-reading activity: Students rotate to 6 stations to obtain background knowledge on various elements of The Great Depression (basics of a depression and The Great Depression, Black Tuesday, Bank Failures, Dust Bowl, FDR & The New Deal, and background on one of the projects of Public Works). Information is obtained through videos on the topic (most of which are from History.com). All information is organized in topic maps (student handouts). Of Mice & Men PowerPoint reveal answers and historically, have brought on individual questions and whole class discussions.
• Allusions to Of Mice & Men activity: I’m really excited about this lesson! I created a worksheet that covers various examples of allusions to Of Mice & Men from pop culture. It took some work, but my students went crazy for this lesson, which makes it totally worth the effort! Complimentary video provided which exposes students to a total of 14 examples of allusions from various cartoons, television shows, and movies (VIDEO IS 10:30 IN LENGTH!). The worksheet allows students to identify, reflect on, and respond to a total of 11 examples (NOTE: not all videos involve a response and worksheet includes a comic for whole group warm-up. Additionally, you may feel that some examples are not appropriate for your students. It is advised that you screen each example before introducing it in class). For the worksheet, students may be asked to identify similarities between characters, dialog, or “inside jokes” as we like to call them). This was really a success in my class and I hope you see the same excitement with your kiddos!
• A “Dream Deferred” & Of Mice & Men activity
NOTE: I used this activity for a Compass Evaluation and received a Highly Effective rating as a result.
In this activity, students work in small groups to first obtain a solid foundation of understanding of the poem before connecting the elements to characters from Of Mice & Men.
For the poetry comprehension and analysis portion of the activity students tap into a plethora of knowledge and Common Core standards that go deeper than just “what is this poem about.” Students use context clues to define unfamiliar words, discuss each reaction to a dream deferred, organize the imagery of the poem in a graphic chart, analyze the tone, theme, and figurative language use, and its intended effect.
Students then cooperatively discuss how the various reactions to dreams deferred connect to specific characters from Of Mice & Men (George, Lennie, Candy, Crooks, Curley, & Curley’s wife). The thing my students love the most about this part is there is no wrong answer as long as you successfully back up your claim. This activity simultaneously combines students’ understanding of both texts while giving teachers and insight on your students’ interpretations of the novella and its characters.
• Steinbeck’s “Harvest Gypsy” articles: This activity requires your class to be divided into 7 small groups. Each group will read one of seven articles entitled, ”The Harvest Gypsies.” These articles were written by Steinbeck and discuss various hardships faced by migrant workers. Groups should make annotations on their assigned article for the purpose of presenting to their peers what they learned. It is, of course, up to you how this is done (perhaps you have a favorite Kagan structure your kids are familiar with). I, personally, have my groups create PowerPoint presentations (to tap into the often neglected SL5 standard). I find this helps all students absorb the knowledge more effectively than an explanation of the topic. Set includes group guides that emphasize key details of each article, sources, and student worksheet. I suggest you give out the student worksheets at the start of presentations rather than at the start of this activity. I feel that in doing this, groups are less inclined to “fill-in-the-blanks,” therefore providing more meaningful and authentic presentations.
• The Grapes of Wrath BINGO: As you walk around helping groups with their “Harvest Gypsy” presentations, you may note similarities in the information within each article and John Steinbeck’s classic, The Grapes of Wrath. Why not tap into that resource while also exposing your students to a cinematic treasure? I find showing this movie in class helps make the information from “The Harvest Gypsies” articles more real for my students. To make this a meaningful activity, we play BINGO using information from the seven articles. I have created a BINGO card and a set of cut-and-paste cards to ensure valuable class time isn’t wasted and key information isn’t overlooked.
• Cain & Abel activity. Connect the question "am I my brother's keeper" to George Milton. This activity includes a short background on the biblical story of Cain and Abel as well as an exit slip. I find this best to introduce this activity at the conclusion of the story.
• John Steinbeck's dedication to East of Eden is a beautifully written and touching gesture. I left this activity open to interpretation. You could connect Steinbeck's writing style, create a writing prompt on the power of non-materialistic gestures, ,metaphors, or even to connect the idea of Cain & Abel (handout includes background of the story as well as details on allusions).
• Film analysis.. Rather than have a bland and meaningless conversation on differences between the novella and the 2003 film version of the story, I give students options that open up conversations worth having. These options may include how/why a character was portrayed differently or how certain moments were made more (or less) emotional. I have students write their analysis for a test grade.