Of Mice and Men- John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men was probably one of the shortest books you ever read in high school. You are probably reading this for one of 3 reasons. 1. You are a fan and like to see how other people feel about the book. 2. You are getting ready to reread it after a span of time since you read it in high school. 3. You have never read the book because you are either still in high school or went to a high school with a poor English department. Yes, those are fightin’ words. No student should make it through high school without reading this book.

It’s literally about 100 pages and takes a few hours to read. I read this my Sophomore year of high school and loved it then. My English teacher Mr. K was so excited to have a student that would debate and argue with him. I was in a basic, college prep class so participation was usually on the lower end. I, just the year before had had to go through the trauma of putting down our beloved English Springer Spaniel Ashley because she was suffering from stomach cancer. The theme of euthanasia is the hardest theme of the book to grasp. To come to terms with. Other themes like friendship, fraternity, and the American dream also permeate through the pages.

This past semester in my Secondary English Curriculum class we had to do unit plans. These unit plans were on Of Mice and Men. I also had to do one for The Canterbury Tales in my Writing Process class. The picture below does not quite do this unit plan justice. The unit handout gives you an idea of what all I had to create as far as extra handouts and the lesson plans themselves. It was longer than the book itself- honest to goodness.

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Obviously, I myself had to reread the book for this class. I had to look at it from a different perspective. I had to ask myself teacher questions like “What could be focused on in this section?” “What is the importance of this quote?” “How would students react to this part?” Catch my drift?

I put a TON of work into this project. I also reread the book twice while working on it. I thoroughly enjoy this book. This time period of American history is one of my favorites. Also, that English teacher that I mentioned above- he presented it in a way that made me LOVE IT. I wanted to learn, I wanted to read, and he inspired me to write a unit plan that gave my students the chance to interact and get as much out of those 107 pages as I had as a student.

To speak to those 3 kinds of people I referenced towards the beginning:

1. I’m not a huge fan of John Steinbeck. I’m sorry. Grapes of Wrath is still sitting on my self not even a quarter of the way read. BUT, he captured a moment in time, and addressed some very real issues in America then and issues that still drip through society today. I enjoy this book for so many reasons. One of them is that though it is short, it can pack a serious punch depending on who and how it is being read.

2.┬áStudents and adults alike could get something out of this book. It’s one of those books where, if read more than once with a few years in-between, each time it is read, new lessons and things stick out. For example, when I read it in high school, the big deal was euthanasia. As a college student reading it, I pay more attention to the relationships and interpersonal interactions that take place on the ranch. As a teacher I see how it all can be relative in the past, in the present and in the future.

3. If you are still in high school and just getting ready to begin- I know assigned books are a drag. I spent most of my high school and collegiate career putting assigned readings and books on the back burner because they are NEVER really that good. This one is, trust me. It’s all in what you make of it. See point #2 above. If you have graduated and STILL have not read this book. I am sorry. Truly, I am. If you were forced to read something like Huckleberry Finn but NOT Of Mice and Men at some point in your academic career, that is the fault of the department. Again, I will reference point 2 above.

Yes, this was the third time since February that I have read Of Mice and Men this year. It is my fourth time over all. It takes me about 2 hours to knock out depending on how in-depth I am reading and what I am expecting to get out of it this time around. Part of my unit plan was giving the students made up scenarios that people at that time may have faced. These ranged from farmers, single guys with no prospects, families on the coast wanting a new life, and one very similar to the situation of George and Lenny. The purpose of the exercise is to engage the students in the emotion. To get their wheels turning.

What would I do? What would I have done? I ask myself these questions a number of times throughout the reading. What would I have done had someone’s aunt asked me to take care of their mentally handicapped nephew? What would I do if my dreams suddenly had the potential to actually come to fruition after years of hardship and thinking it would only ever be a dream? What would I have done if I was in Lenny’s position? Candy? Slim? Curly’s wife?

Regardless of whether you are a 1, 2 or 3, I challenge you to really READ Of Mice and Men. Don’t just let the words and sentences float by. Stop now and again and answer those questions. Do some research into the time period. If you were placed in the same situation today would you make the same choices as the characters in the book? If you were placed in the same situation during the same time period of the book, do you think you would make the same choices then?

American literature classic. Everyone should read this book at least once, if not twice in their life time.

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If you would like more info on my Unit Plan: Handouts, Worksheets, ETC feel free to ask!

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