Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Blog Post #4--UNIT TOPIC: Finding Character through the Exploration of Friendship and Relationships in Of Mice and Men

(Adapted from Joshua Friendly, Erika Wanczuk, and Jennifer Franey)

1.     UNIT CONTEXT     

Content Area: English

Course: Literature analysis (reading and writing)

Grade Level: Freshman
Length of Unit:
Highlight from one week (2 block period days)      

Number of class periods and length of periods: Six weeks, thirteen two-hour-block classes, from November 5 to December 17, 26 total hours.

Year plan: This is the second unit of the school year, following Short Stories. We’ll end this semester with this unit. When we come back after the winter break and through to the end of the school year, we’ll focus on three or four more novels, mini lessons, nonfiction, essays, and writing projects. 


Whole Class Information

·         Number of students in class: 36 (13 girls, 23 boys)

·         Demographics: Class is an ethnically diverse group.  White students make up a bit more than half of the class.  The remainder of the class comes from African, Asian, or Hispanic descent. Thirteen students are females, two of the students receive free or reduced lunch, four students are English Learners with Spanish and Vietnamese as their first languages, three students in the class have an IEP for attention deficit, one of those also has autism and Cerebral Palsy.

·         Developmental Needs:

·         Readiness: intermediate, students are mostly at grade level for English, a few are slightly lower than grade-level with reading comprehension and fluency.

·         Interests – this is a highly social group with interest in ASB, football, running, cheerleading, soccer, water sports, skateboarding, volleyball, hanging out with friends, and video games.

·         Learning profile – most of these students work well in small groups, but there are a few that prefer to work independently, many are easily distracted, four need constant reminders to stay on task due to being overly social or unaware. Some love reading and writing while others struggle or don’t like it. They are mostly multimodal (kinesthetic and visual) learners.

Individual Student Information and Differentiation Strategies

·         Elena, Early Intermediate Level English Language Learner

·         Identity: Tenth grade Mexican American with Spanish as her first language. Her parents are educated professionals. Elena has a large family and visits her grandparents in Mexico during the summers. She is shy, but likes to work in small groups.

·         Developmental Needs:

                                                  i.      Readiness: She can read and write at early intermediate level, needs assistance with reading, writing and speaking specifically with vocabulary, tenses, and pronunciation.

                                                ii.      Interests: She loves reading, dancing, and Mexican heritage.

                                              iii.      Learning Profile: Elena has multiple intelligences, with an emphasis in kinesthetic and linguistic learning modalities. She likes working in small groups.

·         Differentiation Strategies

                                                  i.      Content/Readiness: Provide material in Spanish to build her Spanish literacy skills.

                                                ii.      Process/Readiness and Profile: Work in small groups with both English and Spanish bilingual students.

                                              iii.      Product/Readiness: Allow Elena to use vocabulary sheet to complete assignment.

·         K.M., Intermediate Level English Language Learner

·         Identity: Fourteen-year-old ninth grade Mexican American with Spanish as his first language. He was born in San Diego, and his parents were born in Mexico. His father works in newspapers and media and his mother stays at home to take care of the younger siblings. Both of them didn’t graduate high school.  His extended family includes a brother, cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents.

·         Developmental Needs

                                            i.            Readiness: Kevin is literate in Spanish and can read either Spanish or English literature.  K.M.’s family speaks Spanish at home. He can read and write in both languages; He uses Spanish with friends and family. He thinks in Spanish, and still moves in and out of two languages when learning in different content areas. He feels the most comfortable speaking, reading, and writing in Spanish.

                                          ii.            Interests: He loves to play video games and soccer. K.M. imagines himself attending a four-year college. After a long day of school and soccer. This summer, to earn money, he would like to, “work with dad, cut grass, and sell things.” His favorite food is pizza (even though he thinks it’s not that good for him).

                                        iii.            Learning Profile: Kevin’s strengths are humor, oral and visual skills, kinesthetic, his sense of friendship and community. Kevin’s weaknesses in English class are staying focused, grammar, spelling, writing, and syntax. Kevin doesn’t like English because, “I’m not that good at it.” He wants to learn, “how to spell better.” He likes to work in groups because, “I work better with others than by myself.” Kevin also said that in English class, “The writing could make the class hard for me.” Kevin doesn’t enjoy reading, “gets bored after about ten minutes,” and thinks “kids younger than I am read better than I do.” He does not have access to many books (English or Spanish) at home.

·         Differentiation Strategies

                                            i.         Content/Readiness: Provide graphic organizers and cloze notes. Provide books in Spanish and English.

                                          ii.         Process/Interest: Work in a group with native English speakers and with students that are achieving at the same level as him. Check for understanding.

                                        iii.         Product/Readiness: Provide clear step by step instruction orally and visually. Provide models. Check for understanding. 

·         Alex, a tenth grade student with a specific learning disability

·         Identity: Alex speaks English as his first language, he’s white, and needs medication for asthma (inhaler).

·         Developmental Needs

                                            i.            Readiness: He struggles with literacy skills (acquisition of decoding, the relation between sound and symbol, and word identification in reading and writing). He reads two years below grade level (at the seventh-grade level).

                                          ii.            Interests: Alex prefers to be on the outside looking in when it comes to discussion and group work. He is often alone during breaks and lunches.

                                        iii.            Learning Profile: Alex self-isolates.

·         Differentiation Strategies

                                       ii.               Content/Readiness: Provide audio of reading, offer movie versions of books, and provide vocabulary with images and definitions.

                                     iii.               Process/Interest: Group Alex with understanding and kind peers, select roles for group activity with Alex’s role matching his skills and interests (less vocal, more independent role).

                                      iv.               Product/Readiness: Check in to confirm understanding. 

·            K.P., a ninth grade student diagnosed with ADHD.

·                     Identity: Kaya speaks English as her first language, she’s white

·                     Developmental Needs

                                         iv.            Readiness: She reads at grade-level, but struggles with paying attention. She often looks off into space and takes longer than the other students to respond, transition, stay on task, and prepare for assignments.

                                           v.            Interests: Kaya didn’t list any interests in any of the surveys, in class, or outside of class discussions. She does like to read.

                                         vi.            Learning Profile: Kaya has several friends in the class and likes working in groups where she says it’s easier for her to focus, concentrate, and get the work done. She is social, isn’t shy, and participates when called on.

·         Differentiation Strategies

    1. Content/Readiness: Check for understanding, check to make sure she’s prepared, slow down, bring her back into the discussion by calling on her.
    2. Process/Interest: Kaya has preferential seating and I frequently check to make sure she’s on task and getting into and through the work, activities, and assignments. I have Kaya work in groups.
    3. Product/Readiness: Check in to confirm understanding and progress. Pair her with focused students. Review homework.                                                                            

·         M.P., a ninth grade student with autism and Cerebral Palsy.

·         Identity: Morgan speaks English as his first language and he’s white.

·         Developmental Needs

                                       vii.            Readiness: He struggles with processing speed, working memory, illegible handwriting, and near-sightedness. Morgan reads above grade level.

                                     viii.            Interests: He loves reading. Morgan wishes he could read more in class. Morgan loves music, is an artist, hikes, and loves the outdoors.

                                         ix.            Learning Profile: Morgan is funny, but sometimes doesn’t know why. He made friends quickly after transferring from a different state. He actively participates and enjoys class, group, and paired conversations.

·         Differentiation Strategies

                                        v.               Content/Readiness: Provide copy of notes and feedback. Allow him to correct his mistakes. Provide vocabulary with images and definitions.

                                      vi.               Process/Interest: Group Morgan with understanding and kind peers who understand his autism. Repeat instructions, give him extended time, and check for understanding.  

                                    vii.               Product/Readiness: Check in to confirm understanding. Access to word processing software and computer.  


This unit follows our unit involving short stories. This unit includes the first novel we’ll read together in our freshman English class. Drawing meaning from a text through reading, discussion, analysis, listening, and writing are essential skills students need throughout high school, college, their careers, and lives.  

Enduring Understandings (EU)

Students will understand the concept of “friendship” and, more generally, the contrast between unity and isolation. Students will consider what it means to be a good friend and what things in society might push us away from each other and keep us from uniting in friendship. Understanding our own ideas about what friendship is will allow us to understand better how Steinbeck is presenting that idea.

Of Mice and Men, and many stories (fiction and nonfiction accounts) throughout history, takes place during the Great Depression, it is important to have background information about the Great Depression and how this might affect the characters in the novel. During the Great Depression, people dealt with issues of migrant farmworkers and economic crisis. History repeats itself, or never quite resolves itself. We again or still discuss migrant labor and economic crisis today, similar to people in the 1930s.

It’s helpful to understanding the meaning of a symbol or metaphor in literature. A recurring symbol, and conclusions generated about the symbol are critical to analyzing a novel. Steinbeck, and many authors continue to make references to symbols, and our understanding of this symbol will change as we read from beginning to end of the novel. Our understanding of the major themes of the novel will be greatly enhanced by bearing in mind how this symbol functions throughout the story.  

Essential Questions

1.      What makes someone a friend? What is the purpose of having a friend?

2.      How do you know when someone is your friend? (Is George Lennie’s friend? Is Lennie George’s friend? Is Carlson Candy’s friend?)

3.      Does our society and technology encourage or discourage loneliness or isolation? 

Reason for the Instructional Strategies & Student Activities

            Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize for Literature stands as a testament to his ability to illustrate and dramatize some of the most fundamental questions that we ask about ourselves. What are our dreams? How can we bring them to fruition? What dreams do we share? If we are fundamentally similar in our ideals, why do we constantly battle one another as we try to realize those ideals?

            Steinbeck’s novels have remained a staple of the high school canon for decades precisely because they explore these issues that are as relevant as they were seventy years ago. Of Mice and Men is particularly appropriate for the ninth grade classroom because it presents a very familiar, human side to these problems. It is specific, rather than epic. Our simple characters are a part representing the whole, which makes it a very accessible story. Both the prose and the vernacular dialogue of the novel are relatively simple, though powerful and expressive. At the same time, the questions raised by the novel are rich enough to merit attention and inspire dialogue, debate, and learning.

            This unit is worthwhile for students because the ideal of Unity is something that we should strive for both inside and outside the classroom. Students can benefit from thinking about Steinbeck’s compelling case for cooperation, and about the forces he sees that threaten that ideal.         


Content Standards

Grades Nine and Ten Reading Standards
3.0 Literary Response and Analysis
Narrative Analysis of Grade-Level-Appropriate Text

3.3 Analyze interactions between main and subordinate characters in a literary text (e.g., internal and external conflicts, motivations, relationships, influences) and explain the way those interactions affect the plot. (C,P)

3.4 Determine characters’ traits by what the characters say about themselves in narration, dialogue, dramatic monologue, and soliloquy. (C,P)

3.5 Compare works that express a universal theme and provide evidence to support the ideas expressed in each work. (C,P,A)

3.6 Analyze and trace an author’s development of time and sequence, including the use of complex literary devices (e.g., foreshadowing, flashbacks). (C,P) 

Grades Nine and Ten Writing
2.0 Writing Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)

2.4 Write persuasive compositions:

a. Structure ideas and arguments in a sustained and logical fashion. (P,C)
c. Clarify and defend positions with precise and relevant evidence, including facts, expert opinions, quotations, and expressions of commonly accepted beliefs and logical reasoning. (P,C,A) 

ELD Standards

Cluster 2: I: Apply knowledge of text connectors to make inferences. (C)

Cluster 2: I & EA: Use decoding skills and knowledge of both academic and social vocabulary to read independently. (C, A)

Cluster 3: EA, Apply knowledge of language to achieve comprehension of informational materials, literary texts, and texts in content areas. 


·         Students provide examples of each of these literary terms in the novel: character, plot, setting, theme, symbol, doubling, foreshadowing, literal and figurative meanings, and metaphor. Students use this terminology and vocabulary to speak and write about the text. (ELD/2.4c, 3.6)

·         Students use reading strategies such as predicting outcomes, character mapping, and journaling to gain fluency with this text. Students will be able to apply these strategies to other texts. (ELD/3.5)

·         Students summarize as a technique to construct meaning from the text. (ELD/2.4a, 3.4)

·         Students construct meaning using context clues. (ELD/2.4a, 3.4)

·         Students develop their writing ability through effectively organized essays through drafts and revision. Students format when documenting citations in their essays. Students transition between ideas and paragraphs in their essays. (2.4a, 2.4c)

·         Students engage in meaningful and purposeful dialogue in the classroom, developing their abilities to articulate their ideas and listen to others. (ELD/3.4, 3.5, 3.6)

·         Students analyze how race and gender groups are represented and how they interact with one another in this text. Students evaluate these representations and analyze how these representations relate to today’s society. (ELD, 3.5, 3.6)

·         Students explain how history repeats itself and themes are universal (friendship, isolation, financial crisis, migrant workers, depression/recession, sexism/racism). Students construct of a better future for themselves by understanding the past. (ELD, 3.5, 3.6) 


Reading Journal Students keep journals as they read.

·         Formality: informal

·         Type: diagnostic, formative

·         Purpose: assess skills, knowledge or concepts

·         Implementation Method: written

·         Communication of Expectations: modeling, supports

·         Evaluation Criteria: journals turned in periodically as a way of monitoring student reading.

·         Feedback Strategies: written feedback and student conferences

·         Student Self-Assessments: Provide one rubric for the unit.

Vocabulary Quizzes weekly quizzes on vocabulary from Of Mice and Men in order to facilitate reading and enrich their vocabulary.

·         Formality: formal

·         Type: diagnostic and summative

·         Purpose: assess knowledge or concepts

·         Implementation Method: written

·         Communication of Expectations: modeling

·         Evaluation Criteria: correct answers

·         Feedback Strategies: re-teaching, marking up quiz, allowing students to redo

·         Student Self-Assessments: ability to redo, ability to use in essay writing and assignments

Essays (grammar and mechanics) Transition words, introduction, body, and conclusion are all valuable to students in their writing and allow them to effectively organize their ideas in an essay. They help students understand the relationships among the ideas they present in their essays.

·         Formality: informal and formal

·         Purpose: formative

·         Implementation Method: written

·         Communication of Expectations: modeling, marking up papers

·         Evaluation Criteria: rubric

·         Feedback Strategies: peer review, teacher review, student and teacher conferences

·         Student Self-Assessments: peer review, self-review with rubric, compare to examples, ability to redo

Whole Group Discussion Students interact in discussions about the questions and issues raised in the text. Questions are valuable and promote learning. There are no right answers. Students learn socially and consider global themes. 

·         Formality: informal

·         Purpose: formative

·         Implementation Method: verbal

·         Communication of Expectations: modeling, frameworks/scaffolding done previously, include reminders

·         Evaluation Criteria: watching, listening, questioning, facilitation

·         Feedback Strategies: peer review, teacher questions,

·         Student Self-Assessments: peer review, participation, reflection 

Small Group Discussion Generates diversity of opinion that is stymied occasionally by the whole group discussion.

·         Formality: informal

·         Purpose: formative

·         Implementation Method: verbal

·         Communication of Expectations: modeling, frameworks/scaffolding done previously, include reminders

·         Evaluation Criteria: watching, listening, questioning, facilitation

·         Feedback Strategies: peer review, teacher questions,

·         Student Self-Assessments: peer review, participation, reflection

Direct Instruction/Lecture: Must be used infrequently and for short bursts of time and information.

·         Formality: informal

·         Purpose: formative

·         Implementation Method: verbal

·         Communication of Expectations: modeling, frameworks/scaffolding done previously, include reminders

·         Evaluation Criteria: watching, listening, questioning, facilitation

·         Feedback Strategies: peer review, teacher questions, verbal approval

·         Student Self-Assessments: peer review, participation, reflection 

Writing prompts Trigger background knowledge and helps students formulate ideas before presenting them. Allows students to have a private conversation with the teacher.

·         Formality: informal

·         Purpose: formative, assess prior knowledge

·         Implementation Method: written

·         Communication of Expectations: modeling, marking up papers

·         Evaluation Criteria: visual, written comments

·         Feedback Strategies: peer review, written comments

·         Student Self-Assessments: peer review  and compare to examples and peers



I’ll hook the students through their own friendships and have them consider what friendships mean. We’ll discuss why we have friends, how we keep friends, and how society is structured for friendship or isolation. We’ll look at why we’re reading Steinbeck’s novel, why he’s important, what it means to be a Pulitzer Prize winner. We’ll look at the Great Depression of the 30s and 40s and compare that with today’s recession and financial crisis.  

I’ll hook them through a guide reading of the first few pages of the novel and discuss Lennie and George, why the author does what he does, what decisions the author makes, Steinbeck’s meaning and intent through authentic and student-focused mind maps and global questions that impact their lives. I’ll make them love George and Lennie so that they are impelled to keep reading—to want to read the story. I’ll help them connect their views on friendship with the relationships in the story. How would it be to have a friend who “thinks like a small child” but is also incredibly strong and big?

As we start the reading, I’ll introduce Socratic seminar style debates and journaling (with journal prompts). These skills relate to other classes. I’ll help students see the interconnectedness of the units, other content areas, and their lives. We’ll discuss, write about, present, and synthesize topics, themes, and characters that merit great consideration and various readers may well make strong opposing arguments. Our work will focus on issues central to our morality, humanity, human rights, and ethics.


As we move through the story, and the way the author brings about social change through a variety of topics, we’ll look at migrant farm works today, in comparison with the 1930s. We’ll come upon racism and sexism in the story, and discuss how that has changed or stayed the same since the 1930s. The topics of euthanasia and justice are also present in the story and provide opportunities for rich debate. Mini-lessons and opportunities to connect and deepen help students invest in and flow through the story. All throughout the reading, activities, and beyond, students work with language, literary devices, themes, and vocabulary—building on our previous unit, and moving them forward to future units.

Week 1, Day 1 (11/5)
Week 1, Day 2 (11/7)
Week 1, Day 3 (11/9)
Week 2, Day 4 (11/14)
Week 2, Day 5 (11/16)
Introduction to Steinbeck, Pulitzer Prize. What is it? Why does that matter?  Social change. 1930s and Stock Market Crash and
Great Depression and Migrant Farm Workers—Now and Then
Mention how this unit builds toward character essay at the end of this unit.

Small groups summarizes and takes a position on four short articles: one about The Great Depression (1930s and 40s), one about The Great Recession (2008 to today), one about migrant farm works of the 1930s and 40s, and one about migrant farm workers today. Introduction to Socratic seminar?
What do you know about the Great Depression? Think of your family members over the age of 75. If they were in alive in America during the 1930s and 1940s, how might they or their parents have been impacted?
Should people who are poor rely on their friends, family, or church for help—not the government?
Read through page 6. Discuss.
Help students like Lennie and George. Inspire them to read the book. Read the back cover…the quote about Lennie thinking like a small child. What does that mean? What would it be like to be friends with someone like Lennie? Is George Lennie’s friend? Why?
Introduction to journals and prompts. 

What does Robert Burns’ mean in his 1785 poem, "To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough,” from the line, “The best-laid schemes [plans]
o' mice an 'men Gang aft agley [often go awry]?” How are “mice” and “men” or “people” similar?
Why might this allusion be appropriate for a novel set in the Great Depression? (3) Based on this allusion, make a prediction about what might happen with George and .
The whole book will be assigned. Give them two days to read each chapter.
Is it better to be big, strong and dumb than it is to be small, weak, and smart?
Is life today is more difficult that it was in the 1930s? Is society is more tolerant and accepting of people with disabilities (physical and mental) today than it was in the 1930s.
Who are the two main characters? What is their relationship? Where are they? Where are they going? What topic dominates their conversation?
Friendship and Isolation
Character Maps—Main Characters
Students use quotes and evidence to create character sketches of George and Lennie and their relationship

Assessment: Character Maps. Exit Slips: Predict whether their friendship will last
Discussion of journals, note-taking, and reading
(1) What do mice, rabbits and puppies have in common? (2) What references are made to mice or rabbits or dogs in the title and chapter 1 of the novel? Please write down the page numbers where you see either of these mentioned in the novel. (3) What is a symbol?
Rabbits, Mice and Puppies
Discuss poem.
George and  Students discuss and write to understand the complexities of George and Lennie’s relationship.

Chapter X. Why a flashback? Why so late in the novel? Why not chapter 1 [so reader will like Lennie – if they don’t they won’t want to read they won’t care].

Discuss what happens on Sacramento River, and Weed.
Students compare and contrast George and Lennie.

Of all the common characteristics of mice, rabbits and puppies, list the three you believe are the most important ones for Steinbeck. Why do you believe these three are the most important? By using this symbol, Steinbeck is conveying this important message: People are ______________ because ________________.
What is a symbol? What does the story have to do with the mice? (2) What does this tell us about? (3) Are these animals particularly fragile or vulnerable? How does this relate to what Steinbeck is saying about men? How are mice used in scientific laboratories? Is this similar to the way George relates to ? (5) How do rabbits figure into George and ’s dream for the future? Who will tend the rabbits? Why do we think this is important to ? (6) Who in the class has owned a puppy or rabbit? Describe that experience (7) What two animals is  likened to in Chapter 1? (Ans: a dog and bear) Are these similar or opposing metaphors?


Week 3, Day 6 (11/27)
Week 3, Day 7 (11/29)
Week 4, Day 8 (12/3)
Week 4, Day 9 (12/5)
Week 4, Day 10 (12/7)
Character Maps—Secondary Characters
Students use quotes and evidence to create character sketches of Candy, Curley, Curley’s wife and Slim (jigsaw).

Discussion and rating characters based on the perception of power and size (big versus small and powerful versus powerless).
Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia
Students read two short articles about the pros and cons to euthanasia. Million Dollar Baby, international perspective, in relation to Carlson killing Candy’s dog.

Is it okay to kill an animal if it’s sick, dying, or suffering without possible healing or remedy?  Is it okay to kill a person who is sick, dying, or suffering without possible healing or remedy?
Ticket out of class: Was Carlson right to shoot Candy’s dog?
Racism and Sexism (in the 1930s and 40s and today)
Students examine how Crooks, the stable hand, and Curley’s wife are characterized.
It’s never okay to use the n-word. It’s more offensive than other racial slurs?
Are women today often treated by men as equals rather than as objects, or second-class citizens?
Friendship/Isolation Students discuss some social factors that keep the characters at odds.
“Ain’t many guys travel around together, I don’t know why. Maybe the whole world’s scared of each other.” Students work in small groups to complete a character chart that says “People are scared of (Character 1) because . . . . (Character 1) is scared of people because . . . .”
Whole Class Discussion
To develop an understanding of the complexity and ambiguity of George’s shooting Lennie. Is this an act of Friendship? What forces his hand?
Mindmap major themes – use different colors for different themes.
Mindmap of different characters and how they support the theme.
Victims and family of criminals should be able to take the law into their own hands? Do states with the death penalty have lower murder rates? Is justice best determined in a court of law? Is breaking the law justified to make sure justice is served?


Week 5, Day 11 (12/11)
Week 5, Day 12 (12/13)
Week 6, Day 13 (12/17)
Character Analysis
Students choose a character to analyze and begin writing.
Students are given rubrics for essay. Model paper and rubric review.
Students look at coordinating and subordinating conjunctions and use them to develop complexity in their writing. Students will learn how to link ideas with appropriate conjunctions.
Students work on essays.
Students conference with the teacher.
Peer Review and Editing. Unit Evaluation
Students review their peer’s work using the rubric.
Students evaluate and critique unit plan.
Presentations Students read short excerpts from their papers.
Vocabulary Quiz













 Student Activities 

Reading Journals

I ask students to keep a running journal as they read this novel. I will explain that they need to make entries in the journal every time they read. I will ask that the journals be turned in periodically as a way of monitoring student reading. Primarily though, I will tell students that these journals will be a way for us to center our class discussions on the issues that are of interest to them.

Every time that a student reads some portion of the text, they will be asked to note the pages read and the amount of time spent. Then, they should dedicate some time (10 minutes on average) to writing down what I will call “Locks and Keys.” Locks are any questions the students have about the reading that prevented understanding. I will give the students examples, including vocabulary words, plot points, character motivations, et cetera. Keys are any revelations or understandings the students come to during or after reading. Again, I will provide examples, including connections to prior knowledge, life experience, and so on.

I plan to dedicate some portion of instructional time to answering questions from these journals or exploring the ideas and understandings of the students. I will ask that students raise questions as they emerge, but will allow time each week for the explicit purpose of discussing the journals.  

Vocabulary Quizzes

I incorporate weekly quizzes on vocabulary words from Of Mice and Men in order to facilitate reading and enrich their vocabulary. 

Grammar and Mechanics: I selected concepts to incorporate in this unit. I chose transition words because they are valuable for students in their writing and allow them to effectively organize their ideas in a longer essay. I also think it will help the students understand the relationships among the ideas they present in their essays. 

Whole Group Discussion                                                               

This is an essential part of the teaching during this unit. Students learn through interactive and authentic discussions about the questions and issues raised in texts. These discussions should be premised on the following. Questions are valuable and promote learning. No student need be embarrassed about difficulty in comprehension. We rely together on the collective resources of the students and the teacher to find answers and generate understanding. We rely on close reading of the text to support opinions about an author’s contentions. We rely on our knowledge of literary terms such as, plot, setting, character, theme, symbol, allusion, etc. as both a lens through which we look at texts and a specialized jargon that allows us to articulate with precision our ideas about those texts.

Small Group Discussion

This is also a key activity in facilitating learning, but it adds a component of intimacy and privacy that some students thrive on and some topics necessitate. Also, this kind of learning activity can generate a rich diversity of opinion that is not elicited as easily by the whole group format. Further, by thinking about how I might divide the students into groups, I can manipulate the learning and the interactions in a positive way. 


There is a place for the lecture format in the classroom, but it must be used sparingly, for limited lengths of time, and derive from the teacher’s informed opinion that the lesson plan necessitates this less interactive (thus, less desirable) format. 

Writing prompts        

These do not have to be used daily, but I think they can be a good way to assess prior knowledge and a good means by which students begin to crystallize their ideas before presenting them in a whole group discussion. Writing prompts allow students a private forum through which they can address a teacher directly. Writing prompts give students practice in expressing thoughts on paper that may be easier to convey verbally.

There are many ideas at the core of this novel. I have decided to plan this unit around the central idea of Unity (Friendship) in opposition to Isolation (the social forces at work that promote division). I chose to work with this idea for several reasons. First, George and Lennie’s relationship is obviously paramount to the way readers construct meaning from this text. This relationship is complicated and somewhat ambiguous. For instance, George is both protective and manipulative in the way he interacts with Lennie. He is alternately loving and demeaning. I think the question of what motivations we ultimately attribute to George is at the heart of how we interpret his ultimate act, when he shoots Lennie. For my part, I find George a sympathetic character, and I read him as man who is pressed into an unwelcome act, a mercy killing, to protect his friend from greater harm and hardship. I believe his action requires both bravery and love. Nonetheless, this question is rich enough that it merits great consideration and various readers may well make strong opposing arguments. I also believe that this question goes directly to very important, larger questions that are central to our morality, humanity and ethics.

The question of Dreams undoubtedly stands at the heart of this novel as well. Characterizing George and Lennie’s shared, utopian vision is crucial to making meaning of this text. Establishing the modesty of this vision allows students to learn about how pragmatic considerations about society impinge on our ideals, and the historical context of this novel helps to illuminate this. That is, the economic realities of the Great Depression changed people’s visions of what they could expect from life. Establishing the ubiquity of their dream also serves to emphasize our interconnectedness and our similarities. Steinbeck argues through his work that the migrant workers of the thirties all shared a vision, and the great tragedy of the novel is the power of the social forces that divide them and keep them from realizing their collective potential. In this way, the idea of Dreams can be tied back to Unity and Isolation. 

Racism and Sexism are undeniable and explicit in this novel, and must be referenced and unpacked for students to make meaning from this text. These are powerful and divisive forces at work can be interpreted as important elements in creating the tragedy of the storyline. Not only are these ideas central to Steinbeck’s work, they are ideologies that are very much alive today, and can be connected easily to student experiences. Race relations and gender politics are considerations that every student should be forced to grapple with in high school, college and beyond, and are present, either implicitly or explicitly, in every text in every curriculum in every nation of the world. Steinbeck uses politically charged, degrading terms such as “jailbait,” “rattrap” and “poison” to describe Curley’s wife. Crooks is called the “stable nigger” throughout the novel. These epithets need to explored and confronted, lest the indecent and inhumane sentiments behind these names remain unchallenged in the classroom and in society. Racism and sexism can be tied back to our central theme if we view them as ideologies that prevent the kind of solidarity for which the characters long.

Power and Powerlessness is a central theme of this novel. Students should be asked to explore the question of who wields power in this text, and to what ends. Steinbeck makes little reference to the “boss” of the ranch, yet this omission is in itself worthy of the students’ consideration. The characters we see are all toiling for a man who controls things from a distance, protected from the dangers to which the ranch hands are subjected. The boss is characterized implicitly, through his son, Curley, who is unquestionably the least sympathetic character in the book. He is pugnacious, mean-spirited, untrusting and hard-hearted. Again, this theme is easily tied back to the central theme of the unit, as students are asked to explore how Unity might alter an entrenched power dynamic. 


·         Character analysis essay and presentation

·         Close of unit reflection and discussion of what students learned

·         Scaffold and continually refer to examples, building on finding character through the exploration of friendship and relationships in Of Mice and Men in other text as we move on to other elements of fiction and non-fiction in the upcoming unit’s texts.  

I would like students to come away from this unit with the ability to speak and write about the themes at play in Steinbeck’s novel. I see all the texts in the curriculum as competing voices in a dialogue about the questions that we ask about ourselves. Steinbeck’s voice is stridently proletariat and humanitarian. Steinbeck deifies compassion as the ultimate human capacity. This contention must be analyzed and evaluated. Students need help in understanding what Steinbeck is arguing before they can begin to evaluate it in terms of their own experiences. In this unit, I strive to connect explicitly the issues at play in the novel to student experiences, and ask that the students do likewise.
I would like students to consider how Steinbeck represents issues such as friendship, racism, sexism, power, euthanasia in the novel and suggest that they are matters of importance today. I would like students to explore how the historical context of the Great Depression affects these considerations. Further, I would like students to compare Steinbeck’s voice with those of the other authors in the curriculum, to look for common threads of interest and points of debate.  

Though the use of reading journals, I would like to help students understand that the work of teaching and learning in the high school classroom should be guided explicitly by their questions and the ways they construct meaning from the texts they are offered. Also, I would like use these journals as a way to suggest to the students that uncertainty (i.e. questions) is a valued resource in education. In this way, authentic curiosity becomes the driving force behind the learning.  


A week’s worth of lesson plans include two, two-hour block classes (see one lesson plan attached).  



·         John Steinbeck/Pulitzer Prize 1930s and 2010s

·         Great Depression/Stock Market Crash 1930s and 2010s

·         Racism/Sexism/power 1930s and 2010s

·         Friendship/isolation

·         Migrant farmworkers 1930s and 2010s


·         John Steinbeck/Pulitzer Prize 1930s and 2010s

·         Great Depression/Stock Market Crash 1930s and 2010s

·         Racism/Sexism/power 1930s and 2010s

·         Friendship/isolation

·         Migrant farmworkers 1930s and 2010s

Graphic Organizers

·         John Steinbeck/Pulitzer Prize 1930s and 2010s

·         Great Depression/Stock Market Crash 1930s and 2010s

·         Racism/Sexism/power 1930s and 2010s

·         Friendship/isolation

·         Migrant farmworkers 1930s and 2010s


·         Essay Writing 1

·         Essay Writng 2


·         Assessing essays


·         Essay models


·         Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother

·         Migrant workers  1930s and 2010s


·         Robert Burns’ poem,  and translation

Primary sources

·         John Steinbeck/Pulitzer Prize 1930s and 2010s

·         Great Depression/Stock Market Crash 1930s and 2010s

·         Racism/Sexism/power 1930s and 2010s

·         Friendship/isolation

·         Migrant farmworkers 1930s and 2010s


·         Of Mice and Men


·         John Steinbeck/Pulitzer Prize 1930s and 2010s

·         Great Depression/Stock Market Crash 1930s and 2010s

·         Racism/Sexism/power 1930s and 2010s

·         Friendship/isolation

·         Migrant farmworkers 1930s and 2010s


·         John Steinbeck/Pulitzer Prize 1930s and 2010s

·         Great Depression/Stock Market Crash 1930s and 2010s

·         Racism/Sexism/power 1930s and 2010s

·         Friendship/isolation

·         Migrant farmworkers 1930s and 2010s 

10.  REFLECTION        

·         My strengths are creativity and understanding of how to tie the Unit into authentic real-world skills that link to Bloom’s Taxonomy in ways that matter to the students, no matter what content area or course.

·         This unit plan would be more relevant for me if I could plan for it with my co-teacher. There hasn’t been time to discuss the next unit, as we are knee-deep in the current unit. For now, since this is my first unit plan, it feels like a possible map I could follow. Until I collaborate, received feedback, and implement this unit plan I won’t know for sure. I’m just doing my best with the knowledge I have."


See the highlighted criteria on the unit plan rubric that I believe best describes my unit plan (see attached).


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