The Grapes of Wrath - Activities

Journal of Key Terms

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

  • Journal/paper
  • Pen/pencil
  • Internet Access/Dictionary/Encyclopedia

Keeping a journal of key terms is one of the easiest ways to make the text interactive. Anytime you come across a word or phrase you don’t know, jot it down in your journal and look up its meaning. Write down the definition or explanation of the word/phrase and use it as a reference throughout the rest of the story.


 

List of Characters

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

  • Journal/paper
  • Pen/pencil

Keeping a list of characters is another way to make the text interactive. When a new character is introduced, write the name down in your journal. Underneath each name, make a bulleted list of defining personality traits or significant events they are involved in. This will help you get a clearer idea of each character’s purpose in the story.


 

The Grapes of Wrath, the Movie

Difficulty level: Moderate
Time: Moderate
Learning type: Visual, Auditory
Materials:

  • The Grapes of Wrath text
  • DVD player or computer with Internet access
  • The Grapes of Wrath DVD (also available via some online streaming sites)
  • Paper
  • Pen/pencil

Compare and contrast the book and the 1940 film adaptation. Your discussion might include theories on why the filmmakers changed the ending and excluded certain characters and scenes. Rhetorical analysis can also be applied to the film’s imagery, such as the barren Oklahoma wasteland. Is the film effective in conveying the thematic elements of Steinbeck’s novel?


 

Pare Lorentz’s Film The Plow That Broke the Plains

Difficulty level: Moderate
Time: Moderate
Learning type: Visual, Auditory
Materials:

  • Computer with Internet access
  • Paper
  • Pen/pencil     

The Plow That Broke the Plains, a government-sponsored 1937 documentary, can be found on YouTube.

The film—one of Steinbeck’s sources for The Grapes of Wrath—details the circumstances leading up to the Dust Bowl era and the subsequent displacement of Midwestern farmers. In conjunction with reading the novel’s early chapters, this short film can be used to generate a discussion on the historical accuracy of Steinbeck’s work and how it can be viewed as a proletarian text.


 

Close Reading

Difficulty level: Moderate
Time: Moderate
Learning type: Visual, Hands On
Materials:

  • A copy of The Grapes of Wrath
  • Paper
  • Pen/pencil

Select 2-3 passages from the novel that you find intriguing. Perform a close reading on each and write a brief response. Comment on Steinbeck’s language, imagery, character development, etc. What do the passages suggest about the thematic structure of the text?  What connections do you make between these passages and the rest of the novel? Did you gain any new insights from these passages?


 

Steinbeck’s Journal

Difficulty level: Moderate
Time: Lengthy
Learning type:  Hands On.
Materials:

  • A copy of The Grapes of Wrath
  • A copy of Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath

Reading the journal Steinbeck kept as he wrote The Grapes of Wrath offers a glimpse into the creative processes and struggles the author endured while composing the novel. What experiences or people shaped the writer during this time? What kinds of doubts did Steinbeck have about the book?