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Teaching Guide

Teaching Our Town

We hope you enjoy your stay.


Our Town is probably nothing like your town—or any of your students' towns. This play is like Pleasantville; and just as Reese Witherspoon learned to appreciate that black-and-white town's inhabitants, your students can learn to love the residents of Grover's Corners.

No Tobey Maguire here, but you will find

  • an activity about tombstones and mortality.
  • modern pop culture connections, like a version of Our Town starring that woman from the Mad About You marathons on late-night Thursdays (Helen Hunt).
  • essay questions exploring what makes Our Town so gosh darn American.

When you visit Our Town, don't forget our teaching guide. It's more valuable than Fodor's.

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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: As the title suggests, the setting in Our Town is one of the central concerns of the play. (Go to the "Setting" section for more info.) It's not always easy to get students to realize the importance of place in this play though. In this activity you'll facilitate this understanding by having the students create their own travel brochures for Grover's Corners. This way they'll get a hands-on feel for how Grover's Corners functions as the all-important environment in which the characters of Our Town live their lives.

Thorton Wilder provides plenty of description of Grover's Corners in the opening monologue of the Stage Manager. He addresses everything from the longitude and latitude of the town—it's in New Hampshire—to the location of the churches and the composition of the crops in the Gibbs' garden. The students can really mine these rich descriptions for content for their travel brochures. Also, it'll give them a launching off point to expand the world of Wilder's play and add their own elements to Grover's Corner. This way, they'll learn to make distinctions between the kinds of things that make sense in the world of Our Town (e.g. a fair) and those that could never happen there (e.g. an alien abduction).

Materials Needed: A copy of the play (duh); access to a computer with internet-capability for research; either word-processing software on their computers or pens and paper (old-school style); alternatively, you can also use a free online brochure-making site such as this one.

Step 1: Introduce assignment. Students will each create a travel brochure for Grover's Corners. The brochures should be a mix of sights and events mentioned in the play and attractions and things-to-do invented by the students.

Step 2: Show an example of a travel brochure. Free New Hampshire brochures can be ordered in advance here.
If you don't have time to order brochures in advance, here is an example of an online brochure for Toronto.
Have students identify the important components of the brochures, such as word choice, fonts and colors, photos and illustrations, and of course factual information.

Step 3: Have the students get into groups of three or four and go through the script, making a list of all the sights of Grover's Corner.

Step 4: Now students have a week to create a brochure that touts Grover's Corners as a tourist destination. The brochure should be a mix of information taken directly from the play and information invented by the student, though it should be consistent with Wilder's Grover's Corners.

Brochures should include: 

  • A short article explaining why the town is a worthy tourist destination
  • Pertinent facts about the town
  • Attractions
  • Events
  • At least three photographs or illustrations

(California English Language Arts Standards Met: 9th & 10th grade: Literary Response & Analysis: 3.3, 3.4, 3.11, Writing: 2.2, 11th and 12th grade: Literary Response & Analysis: 3.2, 3.4, Writing: 2.2)

Instructions for Your Students

Have you thought much about the setting of Our Town? It's almost like Grover's Corners itself is a central character of the play. Somehow, Thornton Wilder manages to capture the universal feel of all small towns in this imaginary place known as Grover's Corners. What better way to get a feel for a place than to be in charge of advertising it? Imagine you work for the Grover's Corners tourist board and they've nominated you to create their new travel brochure. (Exciting, no?) You're going to want to create a brochure that really touts Grover's Corners charms to the hordes of tourists that flood this town.

Step 1: We're going to explore the setting of Our Town, by creating a travel brochure for Grover's Corners. This'll be a mix between actual sites and attractions that come up in the play and things-to-do that you'll invent. Let's begin by looking at a brochure for a modern day town.

As an example, you can check one out here.

Step 2: Now you'll get into groups of three or four and go through the script looking for any facts about the setting that you might want to mention in your brochure. Dig deep and really look for details.

Step 3: Now, it's time to begin working on your brochures. Try to include all of the following:

  • A short article explaining why the town is a worthy tourist destination
  • Pertinent facts about the town
  • Attractions 
  • Events
  • At least three photographs or illustrations

Make sure to include the facts that the play gives us about Grover's Corners. But don't be afraid to be creative. The play may not give a specific fun event that might attract tourists, but it's perfectly okay for you to expand Wilder's world by making up something of your own. Just make sure it something that would actually happen in Grover's Corners (i.e. no aliens landing).


Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

Intro    Summary    Themes    Quotes    Characters    Analysis    Questions    Quizzes    Flashcards    Best of the Web    Write Essay    
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