The Many Faces of Loneliness in OMAM & Outlining for Success

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SWBAT connect Steinbeck's characterization with larger themes in the novel, evaluate his choices and their impact on readers, and collaboratively create a thorough argumentative outline to guide their research process.

Big Idea

Major reveals for today: George didn’t ever plan to buy Lennie rabbits, Curley's wife is just lonely, & outlining is USEFUL! Whoa, big day!


30 minutes

Today we will start off our class period by discussing the Chapter 4 reading homework from Of Mice and Men.  We were supposed to have a quiz over this material, but since we didn't get a ton of discussion time last time, I want to talk about it instead.  I always have a quiz on stand-by if students are not actively discussing the material, however, just in case they didn't do their reading homework.  They were to read this chapter with an eye toward three aspects:

  • How pervasive & in what ways the theme of loneliness is shown in the book
  • Lennie's cognizance and motivations as a character
  • The complexities of Lennie & George's relationship

Our discussion today will be largely student-guided and centered around these topics, but as always, I will open my question and answer session by asking students if they have any specific questions about the reading assignment, if they had any trouble with the content or the structure of the assignment, and what reading strategies they employed to overcome these struggles.  Since it's such a routine now, I would imagine that students will come to class with ideas to talk about and thoughtful questions to guide discussion.  I will keep a list of items I want to definitely discuss (in the resources section) and mark it off as students cover these topics, and if they missed any topics, we'll circle back at the end.  Discussion seems the most organic in this fashion and really puts the emphasis on propelling and responding to ideas on the students, which is most consistent with the Common Core's Speaking & Listening strand of skills.

After our discussion, we will move to our research task for the day, but I will tell students that we will continue reading Chapter 5 later in the hour.

Building Knowledge

20 minutes

To introduce outlining in a unique way, we will watch the first 2:37 minutes of the following video about the writing process.  While it's not an RSA Animate video (which I will plug to my students as being an awesome, interesting source for research in a contemporary format!), it's still animated and very valuable.  I will encourage my students to finish watching the video at their leisure as we continue moving through the research process.


Next, I will use my projector to pull up and project a copy of the Preliminary Outline Format & Directions handout to build on the ideas from the video.  In this section of the lesson, I want to get students free-thinking about their research topics and organizing those thoughts into the seedlings of structure for their research paper.  Many of my students avoid writing outlines whenever possible, so I'm taking time in class today to make it impossible to avoid writing one!  The Common Core really stresses approaching writing as a process, so I want to be sure my students see the value of process writing, both for school and their lives beyond school.  So many inexperienced writers think that an outline is an extra step that doesn't have value, and unfortunately, this skipped step makes their writing a whole lot more difficult (and usually worse)!  To make sure that my students understand how to outline properly (and in a flexible format that is suited to their needs), we will first model an outline.  

  1. I will explain that our outline doesn't have to be pretty or researched, but that it's here to organize our thoughts only.  I will also announce that this is a collaborative effort, which will make all of our work easier, and that if they see how true that is, they can employ the same kind of "discussion as idea-generation" format with their small group to help them write their own outlines afterwards!  
  2. We will select a thesis statement as a group, then launch right into the next section.  To spur discussion about this, I will ask students, "So what kinds of things does the audience have to know about this topic or its history in order to get what we're arguing about?"  We will list several options as a class, being certain to tailor our background to our particular audience and to add more information with subpoints were necessary.
  3. Next, we will follow the same format to fill in the claim and counterclaim section.  If students immediately have a counterclaim or rebuttal at this time, I will list it in the appropriate section (only after students tell me where it should go).  This piece of the discussion should come quickly in an organic, natural way.  Students will propel it entirely, and I will just note their responses.
  4. If we are short of claims, counterclaims, or rebuttals, I will ask students to consider those things more deeply and perhaps play devil's advocate if time demands it!  We will verbally note where "concessions" had to be made, and we will alter the thesis with qualifiers if we get too many counterclaims.  
  5. After our chart is filled in, I will reiterate that it does not have to be in an exact order at the moment, but that we will instead be using it as a guide for our continued research.  Areas that they are lacking research in will be the ones we focus our research and notecard-making time on later today.


15 minutes

When our collaborative sample outline is complete, I will ask students to use the Preliminary Outline Format & Directions handout to create their own Preliminary Outline to organize their argument and help guide their research.  They will have approximately 15 minutes to work on this in class, and after getting down their initial thoughts, they may ask their peers for their input.  If they get this completely done in 15 minutes, they need to use the remainder of this time to continue taking and tagging notecards in Evernote towards their goal of 40 notecards for next class period.  During this time, I will walk around the room to make sure all students have started this project and answer questions as they arise.  This outline shouldn't take very long to complete, but it needs to be completely done by the start of next class period if students do not get it done during this time.  I've attached a sample student outline in the resources section to show the holistic level of thought I will be looking for in this assignment.


25 minutes

In the remainder of the class period, we will return to Of Mice and Men.  To prevent students from slacking off on the reading homework this weekend, we are going to get started reading Chapter 5 in class.  This will also allow us to evaluate how Steinbeck uses a repeated structure at the beginning of chapters to describe the setting and highlight the tone before jumping into the dialogue-heavy chapter.  We will compare this to a play's formatting where the opening setting is like the scene description and the words describing how characters physically SAY things (like "whined," "snarled," "cried," etc.) are like the stage directions.  After reading about the setting at the beginning of Chapter 5, I will ask students to describe the tone of this chapter, using evidence for what makes them feel that way.  I will also ask them to briefly flip back and see how the descriptions of the setting has evolved since the first chapter.  Typically students don't notice this trend of becoming bleaker and more formidable on their own, but they can easily show how it progresses once alerted to the structure.

After our discussion of the setting, we'll only have about 15 minutes left to read, so I will use our adjusted popcorn reading format where students volunteer to read for a character for the entire period of time (so in this section, we will just need Lennie and Curley's Wife character volunteers), and all other students will be available to popcorn read the narrator's parts.  Like always, students will need to know where we are in the novel when called on, and they must read at least a sentence and no more than an entire page of the narrator's part.  Students really seem to like this format, and with the intense emotions that show up in this scene, it's a great chapter to utilize your best voice-actors! Whatever does not get read in class from Chapter 5 will become homework to complete before next class period.

Next Steps

At this point, we've got a lot going on with the novel and the research paper, so I will be sure to make the homework clear for students before they leave my classroom from this period.  I also maintain a website for my students to use, so they will have access to this homework and deadlines even if they do not write down this information.  


Assigned last class period:

  • Annotated Working Bibliography (due NEXT CLASS PERIOD in Google Drive)
  • 20 tagged notecards (due TODAY...I'll be checking Evernote)
  • Continue finding, clipping, & tagging sources (ALL SOURCES DUE THE CLASS AFTER NEXT IN EVERNOTE)

Assigned this class period:

  • Preliminary Outline (Finish this before you continue your notecards to make the most use out of it!  I'll be checking Google Drive NEXT TIME.)
  • 20 additional tagged notecards (due NEXT TIME...I'll be checking Evernote)
  • Finish Reading Chapter 5 (by the CLASS AFTER NEXT)


I will be checking in with students who have not met their notecard goals and are not showing progress with their bibliographies & outlines using a combination of Google Drive, Gmail, and Evernote.  Switching over to this digital format has allowed me to keep such better track of progress and catch things before they spiral out of control, and I highly recommend to any English teacher!