Of Mice and Men Lesson Plans

Pre-Reading Activities | Ongoing Activities | Cumulative Activities | General Activities

Pre-Reading Activities

Controversial Issues

Even though some of the controversial issues in Of Mice and Men may not seem as controversial today as they were in the 1930s, students still need to be prepared for what they will encounter in the classroom.

Of Mice and Men Introduction

Through a brief PowerPoint presentation, students will be introduced to John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men, its characters, the setting, and the contextual background, including the Great Depression.

Controversial Issues – Jim Crow and Lynch Law Introduction

A PowerPoint introduction to lingering racist attitudes in the United States since the Civil War, especially relating to the treatment of Crooks.

Migrant Workers and the Great Depression – Leaving Home

This activity is meant to expand students’ analytical skills and to give them a greater understanding of life during the Great Depression. The experiences that they will read about are those of teenagers during the 1930s. Like George and Lennie, these teenagers are on the move finding temporary work where they can.

Migrant Workers and the Great Depression – Why California?

Several hundred thousand people fled North and West during the 1930s. Yet these regions were not immune from the effects of the Depression. Why then did so many people uproot their lives and head to California and the West? Using first hand accounts archived in the Library of Congress, students will attempt to help answer this question.

Ranch Life

Understanding ranch life in the 1920s/1930s and the migrant ranch experience from that period, and today, are essential for understanding the novel.

Plot and Theme 

Plot and theme are often easily confused. This activity challenges students to create and act out their own skits that demonstrate the differences between plot and theme.

Riding the Rails

This activity incorporates the PBS American Experience documentary “Riding the Rails.” Students will see, hear, and read about life riding the rails and looking for work in the 1930s. The experiences that they will see and read about are those of teenagers during the 1930s. Like George and Lennie, these teenagers are on the move finding temporary work where they can.

Symbolism

Steinbeck’s novels are rich with symbolism, and Of Mice and Men is no exception. It is important that students are able to distinguish between literal and figurative concepts. This activity helps students to understand symbols, and to track the use and meaning of symbols throughout Of Mice and Men.

The American Dream

The “American Dream” is a constant theme in Of Mice and Men. This concept is important to understanding the novel and the motivation of the characters. In this activity, students will reflect upon the meaning of the “American Dream,” what it meant during the 1930s, to George and Lennie, and to themselves.

Ongoing Activities

Of Mice and Men Discussion by Section

A section by section breakdown of the major events, themes, and discussion topics. This is a rich source of information to help frame an entire unit plan for Of Mice and Men.

Characters

This activity helps students to understand characters and their motivations through the use of a graphic organizer.

Identity Charts

This activity helps students to understand characters and their motivations through the use of a graphic organizer.

Character Webs

Character Webs are graphic organizers that help students to gain a deeper understanding of the characters. The purpose of a Character Web is to show the connections between characters. Character Webs can also be done autobiographically; that is, a student can create a web about him/herself.

Character Reactions – Crooks's  Quarters

Students tackle issues of race and gender in this activity centered around the scene in Crooks’s quarters.  Students work together to create internal monologues for the characters present, challenging the student to consider issues of race and gender, but in the context of the 1930s.

Favorite Passages

This activity creates a “message board” where students can post and comment upon important, entertaining, and interesting passages from Of Mice and Men. The message board can be displayed in class and expanded as reading through the novel continues.

Interviewing Characters

A great way for students to get to know the characters in Of Mice and Men is for them to actually inhabit the personalities of those characters. In this activity, students are challenged to use what they have learned about the characters to script and perform an interview with the character.

Literary Terms

A rich resource to help build students’ knowledge and understanding of the literary elements present in Of Mice and Men. This guide includes a comprehensive list of literary terms, their definitions, and examples of their usage as found in the novel.

Vocabulary

This activity provides a list of slang terms used in Of Mice and Men as well as an interactive, student driven, “word wall” to help students understand the new vocabulary encountered in their readings.

Sentence Fluency

To increase the level and complexity of students’ writing, students can improve their sentence fluency by emulating the sentence structure of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and those of their classmates. This can work with all levels of students’ writing abilities. Essentially, students will learn to “paint” with words and create powerful sentences.

Correcting the Grammar of Others

Besides students’ usual grammar exercises in English class, they can learn literature-based ways to enhance their grammar capabilities. One of the best ways to complement grammar study in the classroom is to correct the errant grammar of characters in novels. Obviously, Of Mice and Men reflected the language and vernacular of mostly under-educated migrant/ranch workers in the 1930s; as a result, the novel is rich in non-standard language. Finding examples to “correct” will be plentiful. Includes an optional “grammar walk” where students seek out and correct grammatical errors outside of the classroom.

Found Poetry

This is a fun and creative activity during any time of the year, but teachers can apply this specifically to Of Mice and Men. Through spontaneous poetry, students will learn more about Of Mice and Men.

Period Music

Music is important to any generation; in the 1930s, people listened to not only big band music, but folk music, including Woody Guthrie. John Steinbeck was a fan of Woody Guthrie, and vice versa. Understanding the rich connection between period music (using lyric sheets as well as listening) of the 1930s and Of Mice and Men is an important complement.

Adapting Scenes from the Book to a Play

Of Mice and Men has a natural dramatic structure and is perfect for an adaptation to the stage (after all, Steinbeck himself wrote a successful version for the stage). In this activity, students will choose scenes from the novel to adapt into a short, dramatic reproduction. 

Brochures, Posters, Illustrations

This is a fun activity, especially for those students who are not yet proficient in writing. Students can graphically “speak” about Of Mice and Men by creating brochures, posters, and other illustrations about the novel.

Eulogies

Eulogies are powerful, and should be taken seriously, even though they may contain some elements of humor. This exercise can provide students with empathy, sympathy, and a greater understanding, during any point in the novel, of the characters and situations surrounding death.

Understanding Lynching

Lynchings were illegal acts of vigilante “justice” that have been a part of United States history since the Colonial Period. The theme of lynching appears several times during Of Mice and Men, and is integral to understanding the conclusion of the novel. In this activity, students examine the lynching of Emmett Till to better understand the state of race relations prior to the major accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement.

Mining for Examples

In this ongoing activity, students work collaboratively to create an in-depth study guide to understanding key scenes, quotations, and themes in Of Mice and Men. Includes a sample project created by students examining some of their favorite scenes.

Study Guides

This activity provides additional structure and guidance to that found in “Mining for Examples.” Students create their own study guide for the novel. 

Short Writing Prompts

An in-depth, section by section breakdown of short writing prompts for use in journal assignments, assessments, and discussion starters. 

Cumulative Activities

Jeopardy Interactive Review Game

An interactive PowerPoint game modeled on the popular quiz show. A fun way to review.

Radio Plays/Podcasts

In this activity, students create radio play adaptations of scenes from Of Mice and Men. This activity can be done simply as live, unseen performances (behind a room divider or curtain). Or, for teachers with access to some basic recording equipment, the radio plays can be recorded, edited, and turned into a podcast.

Placing Characters on Trial

This activity works well for many books, but it especially lends itself to Of Mice and Men because there are so many “alleged” crimes committed during the course of the novel. The classroom will be converted into a courtroom (as elaborate or simple as time permits). Students will begin to understand the legal system and its implications.

Passport to Literacy

Passport to Literacy is a cross-curricular project that examines life on a farm in the 1930s and today.  The project, originally done using The Red Pony, has been here adapted for use with Of Mice and Men.  Language Arts, History, Science, Math, Entrepreneurship, and Art are all components built into this project.

Critical Analysis Essay

This essay assignment is a major step in developing the students’ critical analysis abilities. It can be modified per grade level/ability, and is a perfect introduction to scholarly papers.

General Activities

Steinbeck Club

A fun way to expose interested students to more of the writings of John Steinbeck.

Document Analysis

Analyzing documents of any kind is a skill that will aid students in multiple subject areas. This activity provides a structure that students of all abilities can utilize to build their analytical skills. 

Jigsaw

The Jigsaw method is a way to help students understand and retain more information by working collaboratively with classmates. Students work in small groups to analyze and dissect a reading, then report back to the class. This collaborative method aids students in understanding material that at first seems complex and dense with new facts and information.

Four Corners

A four-corners debate requires students to show their position on a specific statement (strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree) by standing in a particular corner of the room (signs will be posted) or by responding to four choices to one question. This activity gets everyone involved and requires full participation by taking a position.

The Final-Final

The Final-Final is designed to reinforce feedback on student writing. Too many times students ignore or forget the feedback given to them on their writing assignments. The Final-Final requires students to take action on that feedback and to resubmit their work for a last round of teacher feedback.