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Teaching Guide

Teaching Of Mice and Men

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Of Mice and Men is the quintessential story of the Great Depression and the (broken) American Dream. An upper? Not at all. Incredibly fun to teach? You bet.

In this guide you will find

  • an activity visualizing Of Mice and Men by turning it into a graphic novel. 
  • a glossary of terms so students won't scowl at any words they don't know.
  • literary and historical resources on John Steinbeck and the Great Depression.

And much more.

Our teaching guide will make you want to give us a hug—please just leave us room to breathe.

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Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our teaching guides will help you supplement in-classroom learning with fun, engaging, and relatable learning materials that bring literature to life.

Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop's teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

Objective: Of Mice and Men is old. We get it. But old doesn't mean outdated. We still want what George and Lennie want—the American Dream is still on everyone's mind. And just like George and Lennie, we have more and more trouble achieving it. In this three-day lesson, students will examine the state of Steinbeck's and our American Dream. And hey, maybe they can bring it back to life.

Materials Needed: You'll need copies of "Downgrading the American Dream", an article from Time magazine. You'll also need computer and Internet access to the website Chogger.

Length of Lesson: 1 class period + homework

Step 1: To even begin this quest, we have to get everyone on the same page. Start by asking them about their hopes and dreams. Yeah, we know, it's kind of clichéd, but students love to talk about themselves, so go with it.

Plus, you'll probably get some inspiring (and some hilarious) answers.

Step 2: Now that we know all about our adorable students, let's bring it back to the book.

Have them think about the following characters:

  • George
  • Lennie
  • Candy
  • Curley's Wife
  • Crooks

What is each of these character's dreams? What do they long for? (You'll probably get a good laugh out of the class when they realize how different their own dreams are from the dreams of the characters' in the book.)

Step 3: Now it's time for a harsh reality. Of Mice and Men is a depressing book, and these dreams don't really pan out with a happily ever after.

It's up to you to kick off this not-so-uplifting conversation.

Ask your students to analyze the possibility of the characters realizing these dreams and to determine the hurdles involved in achieving them.

The takeaway we want for our students is that there were more hurdles in the way of these dreams than there was help to achieve them. Bottom line: make sure your students understand that the characters in Of Mice and Men had a long, difficult road ahead of them.

Step 4: Once you have all the (pretty depressing) responses, it's time to talk about the current state of the American Dream. Fancy, right?

First, define the American Dream. Shmoop is here to help you out with that.

The American Dream, as most then understood it, was not to win fabulous wealth, but rather to achieve 'competency'—the independence that came from owning enough land to support a large family, free from debt or ignoble dependency on wage labor for sustenance. Industriousness, prudence, and frugality—not enterprise or speculation—were the traits that would allow a man to achieve his competency, maintain it, and pass it on to his children.

Step 5: So do the characters in Of Mice and Men follow this credo? Does Curley's wife believe that hard work can make her an actress? Does Crooks think that his great work ethic will get him out of the barn?

It's fun to give our own opinions, sure, but what does Steinbeck think? (Make sure your students remember that guy—he's kind of a big deal.) Here's a more specific question to ask your students:

"Evaluate Steinbeck's perspective on the American Dream. Does he believe it is a reality, or is it just a long-shot at best?Use quotes and specific evidence from the book to support your answer."

Once the students have written out their answers, have them share with their classmates so they can get a variety of perspectives on Steinbeck's viewpoint. Hopefully, they've all picked up on the fact that Steinbeck didn't think the American Dream was really all that possible to achieve.

Step 6: So, was Steinbeck right? Does the American Dream only exist for some? Is it all really just an illusion?

Have your students read the Time Magazine article "Downgrading the American Dream."

Again, have them evaluate the author's views on the American Dream. How does Dan Kadlec define the new American Dream? What evidence does he use to support his point? What kinds of arguments does he leave out?

Step 7: End this assignment on a happier note. Give the students a chance to change the fate of the characters and give them the full-on American Dream. Using Chogger, an online comic strip creator, students will rewrite the ending of Of Mice and Men so that all of the characters can achieve their dreams.

TEKS Standards: §110.33. English Language Arts and Reading, English III b: 2A, 5D, 9C, 9D, 13A, 13B, 14A, 15A(i)(iii)(iv)(v), 16A, 16C, 16D, 17B, 18, 19, 24A, 25 §110.34. English Language Arts and Reading, English IV b: 2C, 9A, 9D, 13A, 13B, 14A, 15A(i)(iii)(iv)(v), 16A, 16C, 16D, 17B, 18, 19, 24A, 25

Instructions for Your Students

Of Mice and Men is old. We get it. But old doesn't mean outdated. We still want what George and Lennie want—the American Dream is still on everyone's mind. And just like George and Lennie, we have more and more trouble achieving this dream. Trust us: you have more in common with these characters than you think. But something tells us your outcome will be much, much happier.

Step 1: To begin this quest, let's talk about your hopes and dreams. Yeah, we know, it's kind of clichéd, but just go with it. We'll start: Shmoop wants to win Survivor and meet Paul Rudd. Okay, your turn.

Step 2: Now that we have that off our chests, let's get back to the book.

Think about the following characters:

  • George
  • Lennie
  • Candy
  • Curley's Wife
  • Crooks

What is each of these character's dreams? What do they long for? Not quite the same as your dreams (or ours), right?

Step 3: Now it's time for a harsh reality. Of Mice and Men is a depressing book. But was it meant to be so? Are all the characters supposed to have these unattainable (unreachable) dreams?

Take a few minutes, and analyze the possibility of the characters realizing their dreams. Make sure you determine the hurdles involved in achieving them, too.

Step 4: Once you have all the (pretty depressing) responses, it's time to talk about the current state of the American Dream. Fancy, right?

First, what is the American Dream anyway? Shmoop is here to help you out with that.

The American Dream, as most then understood it, was not to win fabulous wealth, but rather to achieve 'competency'—the independence that came from owning enough land to support a large family, free from debt or ignoble dependency on wage labor for sustenance. Industriousness, prudence, and frugality—not enterprise or speculation—were the traits that would allow a man to achieve his competency, maintain it, and pass it on to his children.

Paraphrase this definition. What does this mean to you?

Step 5: So do the characters in Of Mice and Men follow this credo? Does Curley's wife believe that hard work can make her an actress? Does Crooks think that his great work ethic will get him out of the barn?

It's fun to give our own opinions, sure, but what does Steinbeck think? (Don't forget about him—he's kind of a big deal.)

In writing, evaluate Steinbeck's perspective on the American Dream. Does he believe it is a reality, or is it just a long-shot at best? Use quotes and specific evidence from the book to support your answer.

Step 6: So, was Steinbeck right? Does the American Dream only exist for some? Is it all really just an illusion?

Read the Time Magazine article "Downgrading the American Dream." How does Dan Kadlec define the new American Dream? What evidence does he use to support his point? What kinds of arguments does he leave out?

Step 7: Let's do our best to end this assignment on a happier note. Now's your chance to change the fate of the characters and give them the full-on American Dream. Using Chogger, an online comic strip creator, you should rewrite the ending of Of Mice and Men so that all of the characters can achieve their dreams.

You can start in somewhere before Lennie kills Curley's wife and take it from there. Oh, and take a cue from Steinbeck on this one. His entire book is only a hundred or so pages, so your new ending doesn't need to be crazy long. Just a couple of pages, comic book style, to help a few of these guys get their Disney ending. 

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Common Core Standards  

The following standards are covered in this course:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.7
RL.8.1
RL.8.2
RL.8.3
RL.8.6
RL.8.7
RL.8.10
RL.8.5
RL.8.9
RL.8.4
RI.8.1
RI.8.2
RI.8.5
RI.8.6
RI.8.7
RI.8.8
RI.8.3
RI.8.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.10
W.8.2
W.8.3
W.8.5
W.8.6
W.8.8
W.8.9
W.8.10
W.8.4
W.8.7
SL.8.1
SL.8.2
SL.8.4
SL.8.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.1
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.3
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.4
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.5
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.10
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.2
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.1
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.4
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.5
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.10
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.9
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.6
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.1
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.2
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.6
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.1
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.2
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.3
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.4
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.5
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.1
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.4
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.6
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.10
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.2

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