Focus on Theme

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SWBAT analyze the events of chapter four in Of Mice and Men to determine what themes are most evident.

Big Idea

Loneliness may be most obvious, but what else will students discover in chapter four?

Reading Quiz

10 minutes

I begin class with a reading quiz on chapter four of Of Mice and Men, since my students were assigned this reading over the weekend.  Whenever I assign reading of a core text to be completed outside of class, I follow-up with a reading quiz, in order to compel my students to keep up with the reading. Such quizzes are not meant to be analytically probing, but rather a way to easily spot who may not be keeping up.

I have created two versions of the quiz, so that I can vary them from class to class, in order to curb the answers being spread around school all day.  For this quiz, I have isolated lines of dialogue that I think are fairly obvious, and that should be relatively easy for my students to identify, especially considering the work we have done with each character as an archetype.

Quiz Review

10 minutes

When my students have completed the quiz, we spend a few minutes reviewing the correct answers as a whole group, as a means of bringing the events of chapter four back into focus.  The whole-group review gives my students an opportunity to revisit and briefly discuss the events of their assigned reading before I transition them into an activity that relies on their understanding of the reading.  The review helps clear up any lingering confusion that some students may have, and even gives those who may not have completed their reading a general sense of what they missed, so that they are able to participate in the planned activity. 

Small Group Work

35 minutes

The end-of-unit essay that I am requiring from my students for Of Mice and Men will ask them to identify and defend a theme that they believe is inherent in the text.  Today's lesson is designed to provide an opportunity for my students to identify a theme found in chapter four and to use evidence in the chapter to support it. This will allow my students to practice with developing theme beyond a single subject ("loneliness") and into a complete sentence about that subject.  The small group approach gives them the support of each other before they will be required to produce an essay on their own.

After the quiz review, I explain to my students that they are going to work in small groups to investigate and identify a theme that they suspect is developing in chapter four.  I arrange them into groups of four, conscious of spreading out my high and low performers so that groups are not lopsided.

I give each group a copy of the template and a half-poster size piece of butcher paper. I explain to them that now that they have read chapter four, they should be able to identify a subject that is central to the chapter.  In order to help them settle on a subject, they should consider the roles that the four key characters of chapter four play in the chapter--Crooks, Lennie, Candy, and Curley's wife.

I instruct my students to recreate the template on the butcher paper, so that it is large enough to serve as a presentation tool.  When they determine a subject of chapter four, they will write it in the center of the diagram, and then use the four designated areas to support their subject with evidence from each of the four characters.  Through this process, they should be able to determine a theme.  I remind them again not to confuse their single subject with their theme, but to be certain to express their theme as a complete sentence about their subject.  What does Steinbeck want them to notice or realize is important about their subject?  Their theme is then written at the bottom of their poster.

As student groups are working, I move from group to group, addressing questions and/or concerns.  I anticipate that most groups will need steady reminders about formulating a viable theme and will want to run their ideas past me.

Whole Group Sharing

15 minutes


If time permits, then student groups will begin presenting their theme posters to the rest of the class. This will give my students the opportunity to hear the thematic expressions of their peers, and for the whole group to engage in conversation regarding whether or not each group has identified a viable theme that is sufficiently supported with evidence.  Such sharing reinforces the language and theory of identifying theme in a text, as it requires that my students not only express their themes to the group, but defend them with the evidence they have gathered.  Providing opportunities for my students to speak as "authorities" on the concepts we learn nudges them along their way towards true acquisition of the skills I need them to acquire.

However, if time does not allow--which is often the case when my students are working on group projects-- then we will begin the following class with their presentations.