Tortilla Flat - Activities

Hedy Lamarr in Tortilla Flat Movie 1942

Tortilla Flat (1942) publicity still. Hedy Lamarr (Dolores “Sweets” Ramirez). Some critics have called the film version of Tortilla Flat "an unreasonable sepia-toned sham."

 


 

Movie Comparison

Difficulty level: Easy to difficult, depending on level of discussion

Time: 105 minutes (run time of movie) plus discussion time, which can vary

Learning type:  Visual/discussion

Materials:

  • Copy of 1942 movie of Tortilla Flat (can be found in some libraries, but only in VHS format, as of 2009)
  • Paper and writing utensils for note taking, if desired
  • Copy of Tortilla Flat book, for comparisons

Comparing a novel with its screen adaptation can be extremely interesting, and it is a means to test readers' knowledge of the original novel and to create opportunities for discussion.  Viewers can see the novel come to life, and also note the changes that have been made in the movies, and speculate why the changes were made.  Critics have called the film version of Tortilla Flat "an unreasonable sepia-toned sham that could have only happened in Hollywood," and many remark on the difficulty of adapting Steinbeck novels for the movies (Millichap).  Participants should be prepared to agree or disagree with this view.  You can create a list of specific discussion questions after viewing the movie as well.   


 

Journal of Key Terms

Difficulty: Easy
Time: Moderate
Learning Type: Visual and Hands On
Materials:

o            Journal/Pieces of blank paper
o            Writing Instrument

o            Dictionary/Encyclopedia

Keeping a journal of Key Terms is one of the easiest ways to make the text interactive.  Anytime that you come across a word or phrase that you do not understand, jot it down in your journal.  Right after you have written down the word, you have the option of either looking up the word/phrase at that moment, or after you've finished the chapter.  

Write down the definition or explanation of the word/phrase in your journal so that you have it as a reference throughout the rest of the story. 


 

List of Characters

Difficulty: Easy
Time: Moderate
Learning Type: Visual and Hands On
Materials:

o            Journal/Pieces of blank paper  
o            Writing Instrument

Keeping a List of Characters is another way to make the text interactive. Anytime you come across a new character, write their name down in your journal.  Keep a bulleted list prepared underneath the name of each character and write down defining characteristics of their personality or significant events that they are involved in.  

This will help you create a clearer idea of each character and their purpose in the story. 


 

Map of Tortilla Flat

Difficulty level: Medium

Time: Moderate

Learning type: Hands on

Materials:

  • Large sheets of paper
  • Markers/colored pencils/crayons, etc.
  • Copy of Tortilla Flat

Create your own map (would work best a as a group activity of 2-4 people) of how you see Tortilla Flat, based on Steinbeck's descriptions in the book.  Look through the book to find important locations, such as Danny's house, other characters' houses, the forest where Pilon and Big Joe look for treasure, and places in town.  This is a good way to remember important settings, which also helps with remembering key plot points.  No two maps will be the same, and comparing the different versions will make the setting of Tortilla Flat come to life for readers. 

 


 

Create your own Round Table

Difficulty level: Medium

Time: Moderate to Lengthy

Learning type: Discussion, hands on (if desired)

Materials:

  • Paper
  • Markers, colored pencils, crayons, etc.
  • Information about King Arthur and Camelot from The Camelot Project website, listed under the Guides to Further Learning

Comparison between Danny and his friends with King Arthur's Round Table is a major part of Tortilla Flat.  After reading information about King Arthur and the original Round Table, in small groups, create your own version.  Decide on a leader, and a motto/mission statement.  What would the purpose of your group be?   If desired, create a group crest/shield that represents all the members and the mission statement. 

 


 

Be a character in the book for a day (sort of)

Difficulty level: Easy to Difficult (depending on the person)

Time: Takes place throughout an entire day

Learning type: Hands on, discussion

Materials: no materials are needed

Danny and his friends live largely without possessions, and seem quite happy with this arrangement.  Would you be able to do the same?  Decide on what possessions are necessities (house, food, clothes, etc.) and what are merely conveniences (television, iPods, computers).  This will vary from person to person, and will be up to each individual to decide.  For an entire day, try and live without your "material" goods.  Keep track of what you do with your time.  Discuss your experience and what, if anything, you noticed about not relying on your possessions for an entire day. 


Setting | Character Summaries | Plot Synopsis | Critical Reception
Cultural References | Key Terms and Concepts | Major Themes