Students read John Steinbeck's classic novel Of Mice and Men, as well as other complex articles and poems, and discuss the author's portrayal of the “other”: those on the fringes of society.
This novella is written in much less complex language than that of the short stories assigned in the first unit of the year, and it is much shorter than The Bluest Eye. Therefore, students should be asked to do much more independent reading and analysis in this unit. They will work to apply the close-reading skills they have gained to independently make meaning of this classic text. There are several complex articles and poems woven into the unit so students continue to see and tackle advanced writing.
Students can have a hard time picturing the time period and setting of the novella Of Mice and Men. Photographs, a short clip of the movie, and background information will help them better understand the challenges faced by migrant workers in California during the Depression, and this knowledge will allow them to better access the themes and conflicts of the novel.
Your teaching/guiding of discussions for this text should emphasize Steinbeck’s portrayal of the “other”: those on the fringes of society. Explicit connections to “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves” and The Bluest Eye should be made in class in order to help students see the connections between the texts. Note: Crooks, the one black man on the ranch, is often referred to by the “n-” word and lives in the horse stable. Lennie is mistreated and mistrusted based on his mental disabilities. Candy, the old man, is seen as handicapped. Curley’s wife, the only female character, is not given a name; rather, she’s referred to simply as “Curley’s wife.” Considering Steinbeck’s purpose in making these decisions and the message he is conveying through these decisions will be a key teaching point of the unit.
At Match, students have a Composition class 4 days per week in addition to English class. Below, we have included Supplementary Composition Projects to reflect the material covered in our Composition course. For teachers who are interested in including these Composition Projects but do not have a separate Composition course, we have included a “Suggested Placement” to note where these projects would most logically fit into the English unit. While the Composition Projects may occasionally include content unrelated to English 9, most have both a skill and content connection to the work students are doing in their English 9 class.
In the literature lessons of this unit, students will be analyzing the deliberate choices made by Steinbeck to develop his characters. In these supplemental Composition Projects, students will be working toward writing their own narrative pieces where they are able to develop a particular character. Students will read excerpts from Barack Obama’s memoir Dreams from My Father, analyzing his use of detail and dialogue to craft a powerful narrative. Students will then write their own short reflection on a powerful moment they experienced with a person in their lives. After crafting their own narratives, students will examine the iconic photograph Migrant Mother and read two articles about the moment captured in this image. Upon reading them, students will write a reflection on the mother from the perspective of one of her grown children.
Some of the links below are Amazon affiliate links. This means that if you click and make a purchase, we receive a small portion of the proceeds, which supports our non-profit mission.
Book: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Photo: Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange
Article: “Letter to My Son” by Ta-Nahisi Coates
Article: “Friendship in an Age of Economics” by Todd May
Article: “The Harvest Gypsies: Article I” by John Steinbeck (San Francisco News, 1936)
Video: “Of Mice and Men (1/10) Movie CLIP - Lennie's Dead Mouse (1992) HD” by Movieclips (YouTube)
Article: “John Steinbeck Biography”
Poem: “To a Mouse”
Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama
This assessment accompanies Unit 3 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.
As homework or Do Nows, the teacher should assign narrative writing that asks students to consider events from the story from the perspective of another character. If students will also be completing the supplementary composition projects, such additional assignments may not be necessary.
foreshadowing, symbolism, characterization, character motivation/relationships, mood, power dynamics, conflict (external and internal)
morose (4, 23), resignedly (5), skeptically (19), mollify (24), pugnacious (25), receptive (37), subdued(49), entranced (55), reverently (57), subsided (58), bemused (6), aloof (64), disarming (69), scornful (102), ego (81), crestfallen (83), console (87), belligerently (102)
tramps (2), “jes’,” ranch (6), “sock you” (8, 30), bindle (10), “poundin’ their tail” (13), “live off the fatta the lan’” (14, 56), “Western magazines” (17), bunkhouse (17), bindle (19), swamper (28), jerkline skinner (28), jail bait (32, 51, 56), solitaire (34, 55, etc.), “whingding” (46), “out of his misery” (47), euchre (48), grammar school (56), “scairt” (56), “two-bit” (79), Luger (96)
Great Depression, migrant workers, American Dream
“Friendship in an Age of Economics”
Consider personal definitions of friendship, using evidence from your own life, the article, and a class discussion to help form definitions.
“John Steinbeck Biography”
“Of Mice and Men clip”
Draw conclusions about the setting of the novel and the impact that the setting will likely have on the characters and plot.
Of Mice and Men pp. 1 – 3
Infer characters’ motivations and relationships by closely reading the introductory pages in Of Mice and Men.
Of Mice and Men pp. 4 – 16
Examine the first chapter of the text to interpret characters’ motivations/ relationships.
Of Mice and Men pp. 17 – 24
Make inferences about characters' relationships and the mood of the chapter.
Of Mice and Men pp. 25 – 32
Identify the techniques Steinbeck uses to set up the power dynamics on the ranch.
Of Mice and Men pp. 56 – 65
Make inferences about characters’ motivation and relationships through author’s description
Of Mice and Men pp. 66 – 74
Explain the purpose of Steinbeck’s deliberate choices around his characterization of Crooks.
Of Mice and Men pp. 74 – 83
Explain how Steinbeck’s decision to bring together the “outsider” characters in this scene helps to communicate theme.
Of Mice and Men pp. 94 – 107
Connect Steinbeck’s deliberate choices at the conclusion of the novel to his larger message and themes.
“Letter to My Son”
Identify how the author of the article develops the idea that the American Dream is not for everyone.
Write a first-person narrative in which you reflect on an influential person in your life, including the effect that this person has had on you. Be sure to use specific details and events that help to portray the person about whom you are writing.
An effective essay:
Read pp. 5–10 of Dreams from My Father, by Barack Obama, to write an essay in response to the prompt below.
Analyze the techniques Obama uses (vivid descriptions, dialogue, powerful anecdotes, precise diction, specific details), to convey information about his father in this excerpt. Explain both the type of person his father was and how Obama conveys his character.
An effective essay:
For this question, you will write a narrative response based on Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck. Your writing should:
Based on the events and characters in John Steinbeck’s novella Of Mice and Men, write a reflection on Lennie from the perspective of George, including the effect Lennie has had on George’s life. Be sure to use what you know about the characters, settings, and events from the book to develop your reflection.
An effective essay:
For this Composition Project, we have students read two passages and answer a prompt from the MCAS Grade 10 Computer-Based Practice Test available on TestNav because it is relevant to this course and provides our students with additional practice on MCAS passages and questions. We are unable to reproduce the content online here; however, teachers can find the passage and questions here. See passages 1 and 2, and the prompt on page 9.