Words, Words, Words: What is the effect of them in Of Mice and Men?

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SWBAT determine the impact of specific choices of words and details on meaning and tone by working in annotation groups

Big Idea

Sticks and stones may break their bones, but words help students make meaning!

Do Now:

15 minutes

Since my students did not get an opportunity to finish the chapter 2 perceptions, action, and power chart during the last lesson, I am giving them some time to finish the chart as part of the "Do Now." I am adjusting the instructions a bit and I am  only requiring that they do Curley's wife on page 4, and Curley on page 5. I need to make this adjustment because I think students can show mastery of the objective from the previous lesson without completing the chart for every single character--and quite frankly my teacher sense tells me that it is time to move on.

Building Knowledge: Interactive Mini-lesson on the Effect of Organizational Pattern

25 minutes

For this portion of the lesson, I will quickly review the organizational patterns used in Of Mice and Men: chronological order, spatial order, order of sensory description, and order of importance.

In order for my students to analyze how language evokes a sense of time and place (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4), I have prepared several flipchart slides to help students understand why an author might choose a particular pattern. Students will be working in pairs throughout this activity. Here's a summary of what students do for each slide:

1) Analyze the picture in order to list the details from least to most important.

2) Work with a partner to discus which pattern is most appropriate for creating the "Dagwood" sandwich in this picture. (sequential/chronological order)

3) Describe the picture of this room from top to bottom. (spatial order)

4) Select an item from this picture (actual item provided by me) and describe it using at t least 3 of your senses (sensory description).

 Check out these videos of some of my students working on their sensory descriptions: Order of Sensory Description 1; Order of Sensory Description 2

Building Knowledge: Annotation Model

10 minutes

Now that my students have had a chance to develop an understanding of each of the organizational patterns, we'll transition to close readings of passages from Of Mice and Men to see if they can apply what they have learned about organizational patterns AND to practice analyzing the impact of word choices on meaning and tone.

For this part of the lesson,  I will model a think aloud of a passage from chapter 3 of Of Mice and Men, showing students how I mark up the text to help me determine the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4). In my think aloud, I will also analyze the impact of the how the language evokes a sense of time and place by looking closely at the organizational pattern of the passage and marking it up with my thinking because I want students to know that authors are purposeful in their choices.

During this model, I will really act as if I am talking to myself--I won't ask for student input or hear them during the model because this is all about how I make meaning. I'll admit, I will be quite self-absorbed in this model in order to make my point about how they should be working when they work independently. I'll tell them that they will get their turn in just a moment when I ask them to do the same with a partner and a passage from chapter 3 of Of Mice and Men. This picture shows my marked up passage. Warning: It's not pretty, but it shows how I modeled my thinking.

I am doing it this way because I want my students to pay attention to my thought process and how I use my annotations to note my thinking. This isn't just an assignment, it is a way of sifting through a text to uncover meaning.

Application: Applying Annotation Skills in a Pairs

15 minutes

In this section of the lesson, I will provide enlarged copies of different passages for each group from Chapter 3 of Of Mice and Men. Each pair of students will use markers and highlighters to mark up the passages, annotating for words and organizational structures that impact meaning (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4). They will also analyze the passage for tone, mood, and author's purpose.

I have noticed that my students' annotations are sometimes superficial, so I think the model will be helpful. While their individual annotations may be good, I am hoping that the opportunity to annotate with a partner will make them great and improve the overall usefulness of their annotations in the future.

Check out some of the samples of my students' annotations.

Annotation Sample 1

Annotation Sample 2

Annotations in progress video clip


15 minutes

For the assessment for this lesson, I will ask my students to complete an assessment that I found in a copyrighted literature unit that can be purchased at http://www.4secondarysolutions.com/Of_Mice_and_Men_Literature_Guide_p/lg24334.htm

I chose this assessment because it hits just about every part of the standard (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4).  You can create a similar assessment by doing the following:

1) Select two passages from chapter 3

2) Have students underline the word choices that appeal to the senses.

3) Have students identify the type of organizational pattern Steinbeck uses for the paragraph.

4) Have students determine the author's purpose of each of the passages.


For homework, I am asking my students to complete a summary (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2) and note-taking worksheet for chapter 4. I found this worksheet on a copyrighted literature guide, but you can create your own organizer to capture this information. This isn't the typical summary.

Students have to:

  • develop questions about the text that they want to have answered by the end of the chapter/book
  • predict what will happen next in the store
  • connect to the chapter by describing a similar situation experienced by the reader or a friend
  • summarize the chapter (5-7 sentences)
  • reflect (find quotes that are appealing and interesting and explain why)

I am choosing to have them do this for chapter 4 because I want my students to have a note-taking tool to keep track of their ideas while they read at home. I fear that some of my students may not read as closely or may not read at all if there is no accountability, so this is one way of holding them accountable for the reading.