Of Mice and Men

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.

Unit Summary

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.

Texts and Materials

Core Materials

Supporting Materials

Assessment

This assessment accompanies Unit 3 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

?

Theme Questions:

  • American Dream: Can the American Dream be for everyone? What is the line between dreams and reality?
  • Power: How do power dynamics affect the lives of people? What is the role of an outsider in text? In life?
  • Friendship: What is true friendship?
  • Betrayal and Compassion: When is the hard decision the right one? The compassionate one? When is it betrayal?

Skill Questions:

  • What techniques does Steinbeck use to convey his ideas in fiction? In nonfiction? 
  • What role does conflict play in a novel? How does the author use it to establish mood? Theme? Characterization?

Writing Focus Areas

?

English Lessons Writing Focus Areas

  • Thesis: clear and relevant thesis 
  • Evidence/Details: effectively uses best evidence/details to support topic/position (In literary analysis writing it means they use multiple specific details and quotations from the text to support a position.)
  • Analysis: context clearly and sufficiently frames evidence (In literary analysis they will give context -- who, what when -- for their evidence.)
  • Diction: includes precise language and advanced vocabulary 
  • Professionally Revised: complete and follows guidelines; adequate revisions

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.

Composition Projects Writing Focus Areas

  • Thesis: clear and relevant thesis 
  • Evidence/Details: effectively uses best evidence/details to support topic/position (In narrative writing, this means students will focus on using vivid details, dialogue, and powerful anecdotes to develop their characters. In literary analysis writing, it means they use multiple specific details and quotations from the text to support a position.)
  • Analysis: context clearly and sufficiently frames evidence (In narrative writing, students will be able to weave their anecdotes and details together to clearly characterize the person about whom they are writing. In literary analysis, they will give context—who, what when—for their evidence.)
  • Diction: includes precise language and advanced vocabulary 
  • Professionally Revised: complete and follows guidelines; adequate revisions

Vocabulary

?

Literary Terms

foreshadowing, symbolism, characterization, character motivation/relationships, mood, power dynamics, conflict (external and internal)

Roots and Affixes

sub-, dis-

Text-based

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)

Idioms and Cultural References

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)

Intellectual Prep

?

  1. Read and annotate the novel with the thematic questions in mind.
  2. How would you expect students might answer these questions on day one of the unit? How should their answers grow and develop over the course of the unit?
  3. Read and annotate “The Harvest Gypsies” article, considering what it reveals about Steinbeck’s views on migrant workers and their plight. Also consider what skills students will need to develop in order to independently make meaning of such complicated nonfiction text.
  4. Take the exam and write your mastery response to the essay portion of the exam.
  5. Read the Lesson Map and begin to consider where the spiraled skills from the last unit will fit.
  6. Read the paired composition projects and plan for where they will be sequenced with the unit.

Content Knowledge and Connections

?

Great Depression, migrant workers, American Dream

Previous Connections

  • The theme of the 7th grade ELA course is The American Dream and the teacher can draw on students understanding of this concept and its limitations. Students who completed the 7th grade course will have read many novels and short stories with which the teacher can draw connections.

Future Connections

Lesson Map

1

  • “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.

2

  • Migrant Mother

  • “John Steinbeck Biography”

  • “Of Mice and Men clip”

  • “Robert Burns”

Draw conclusions about the setting of the novel and the impact that the setting will likely have on the characters and plot.

3

  • Of Mice and Men pg. 1 – 3

Infer characters’ motivations and relationships by closely reading the introductory pages in Of Mice and Men.

4

  • Of Mice and Men pg. 4 – 16

Examine the first chapter of the text to interpret characters’ motivations/ relationships.

5

  • Of Mice and Men pg. 17 – 24

Make inferences about characters' relationships and the mood of the chapter.

6

  • Of Mice and Men pg. 25 – 32

Identify the techniques Steinbeck uses to set up the power dynamics on the ranch.

7

  • Of Mice and Men pg. 33 – 37

Analyze the character of Slim and explain his role in the story.

8

  • Of Mice and Men pg. 37 – 44

Explain the impact of Steinbeck’s subtle use of foreshadowing.

9

  • Of Mice and Men pg. 44 – 55

Explain how the author builds tension in these pages. 

10

  • “The Harvest Gypsies”

Explain how the author develops his central idea/theme.

11

Writing

Complete the mid-unit writing assignment.

12

  • Of Mice and Men pg. 56 – 65

Make inferences about characters’ motivation and relationships through author’s description

13

  • Of Mice and Men pg. 66 – 74

Explain the purpose of Steinbeck’s deliberate choices around his characterization of Crooks.

14

  • Of Mice and Men pg. 74 – 83

Explain how Steinbeck’s decision to bring together the “outsider” characters in this scene helps to communicate theme.

15

  • Of Mice and Men pg. 84 – 93

Explain how the author develops the conflict in these pages.

16

  • Of Mice and Men pg. 94 – 107

Connect Steinbeck’s deliberate choices at the conclusion of the novel to his larger message and themes.

17

  • “Letter to My Son”

Identify how the author of the article develops the idea that the American Dream is not for everyone.

18

Assessment

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.9-10.1 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

  • L.9-10.3 — Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

  • L.9-10.3.a — Write and edit work so that it conforms to the guidelines in a style manual (e.g., MLA Handbook, Turabian's Manual for Writers) appropriate for the discipline and writing type.

  • L.9-10.4 — Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 9—10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

  • L.9-10.4.a — Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence, paragraph, or text; a word's position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.9-10.1 — Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • RI.9-10.2 — Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • RI.9-10.6 — Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.9-10.1 — Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • RL.9-10.2 — Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • RL.9-10.3 — Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.

  • RL.9-10.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).

  • RL.9-10.6 — Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.9-10.1 — Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9—10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

  • SL.9-10.2 — Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.

Writing Standards
  • W.9-10.1 — Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

  • W.9-10.1.a — Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

  • W.9-10.1.b — Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience's knowledge level and concerns.

  • W.9-10.2 — Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

  • W.9-10.3 — Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

  • W.9-10.3.b — Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, description, reflection, and multiple plot lines, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.

  • W.9-10.3.d — Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.

  • W.9-10.5 — Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.

  • W.9-10.6 — Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology's capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.

  • W.9-10.9 — Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

  • W.9-10.10 — Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.