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The English Teacher’s Unit & Guide to East of Eden
Typical teacher scenario: English instructors find themselves tasked with teaching a work of literature they have never taught before. To prepare a unit of lessons, they start by searching for materials that will provide them a better understanding the book.
An online search will bring up an array of commercial websites such as Cliff Notes, Spark Notes, Book Rags, Grade Saver, etc. – all essentially plagiarizing each other and all offering only a superficial grasp of the work.
Another step? Searching for scholarly articles through college library sites or even driving to the college library and perusing the dusty tomes among the stacks – only to encounter dense, verbose, and professorial writing that offers few ideas and insights practical for the high school student.
Wading through videos, reading through notes from teacher editions, asking help from colleagues – it is all time-consuming and often less than rewarding. What to do?
The English Teacher’s Literary Guide to East of Eden by John Steinbeck provides easy-to-read yet engaging insights perfect for the high school classroom from an instructor who has taught literature at every level for more than 32 years.
This guide provides a variety of tips and quips, anecdotes and allusions, strategies and suggestions to bring the book alive in class. Designed as a handy, fully-editable reference, the guide will supply the busy teacher with concise yet perceptive insights into each chapter – always striving to answer the question: What was the author’s purpose?
But That’s Not All!
Also included in this guide and commentary are discussion/journal activities, an art enrichment activity, graphic organizers and study guide questions, creative writing and art project ideas, and an in-depth exam with essay prompts and key. Everything in this unit is fully editable.
The Merits of Teaching East of Eden
Steinbeck’s novel, written towards the end of his career, was an experimental work that brought together all that he had learned in the span of his lifetime. Crafting a work with a unique mix of fiction and nonfiction, an assertion-retraction format, point-counterpoint, shifting point of views, philosophical foundations, extended archetypal allusions – all constructed within a framework of a four-movement symphony – propels the reader into a memorable and meaningful experience. The novel provides rich details to capture concepts of duality, allegory, American history, manifest destiny, and modernist/post-modernist thought. East of Eden is rife with vivid characterization, setting, symbolism, and action. I have frequently heard students say it is their favorite book. It is a terrific work for instructing the Honors or AP Literature student. I find the book a pearl for teaching such literary techniques as irony, paradox, symbolism, tone shift, imagery, syntax, structure, motif, symbolism, allusion, archetype, theme and many others. According to his third wife, Elaine, Steinbeck considered East of Eden his magnum opus, even though reviews of the book were widely mixed. Nevertheless, in revisiting the novel decades later, literary scholarship has treated it with a greater level of respect and appreciation.