Analyzing Examples of Realism and Naturalism in Of Mice and Men

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SWBAT find evidence in the text Of Mice and Men, highlight and analyze naturalistic and realistic elements with comments by completing a 3 column note organizer.

Big Idea

How did Steinbeck's past experiences influence his writing?


10 minutes

In the novella, "Of Mice of Men" the deep relationship of George and Lennie is a major theme that I want students to continue to analyze and comment on . As they read each chapter they will plunge deeper into their relationship. I explain to the class that their relationship is genuine, very complex and full of twists and turns. I point out that it becomes clear that Lennie needs George but it is also very evident that George never left Lennie despite that his life would most likely have been much easier without him. 

At this point I display the activator slide on the screen from my power point and ask students to write a response in their journals to this statement: George’s relationship with Lennie is much more complicated than Lennie’s relationship with George.  How much do you agree with this statement? 1-3  3 = strongly agree and explain why RL.9-10.3.

While the students begin writing in their journals I circulate among them checking for understanding. After students complete this quick write activity,  I facilitate a reporting out of some of their answers by asking for volunteer to read their response W.9-10.10.


Building Knowledge

20 minutes

I begin this activity by explaining that the setting of the novella is highly realistic and portrays what the time period truly represented.  I remind students that Steinbeck, once a migrant worker too, lived the experience of his literature and that is why the realistic nature of the characters' interactions are imaginable.  I then read a passage from chapter 2 to illustrate my point, "Well, God knows he don't need brains to buck barley bags..." p.23.  I then ask the question, "What is the boss' major concern and why?"

Next I explain that Steinbeck, also portrays elements of naturalism through his very own insights and experiences as a migrant worker and reporter reminding them that during the Depression the author got a first hand dose of what it meant to deal with uncomfortable aspects of life.

I tell my students that characters in naturalistic literature, such as in this novella, are trapped by their heredity, such as Lennie, and their crude environment and usually end in failure. I ask those who have read the story or know the basic plot if they felt that the characters ended in failure and why?

I then say that the characters deal with many emotions and huge challenges, and that characters like George and Lennie ended in failure because of their difficult surroundings.

I conclude my explanation by saying, "In the world of Mice and Men, nothing ever seems to happen the way the characters hope and that only the 'fittest survive.'" I then read a passage from chapter 2 to illustrate my point,  "Now we got to be careful and not make no slips..." p.24 RL.9-10.1

To check for understanding I then ask why they think George is reprimanding Lennie and what is his main concern?

After facilitating a short discussion (SL.9-10.1) I project the slides from the Naturalism and Realism power point on a screen while asking students to take notes in their journals as I read the slides aloud. 



Student Learning Activity

35 minutes

Seeing what they have (or have not) read can increase comprehension and engagement in the text.  So I begin this activity by showing a short illustrated video of Chapters 1 and 2.

I then hand out the Three-Column Notes Chart and review how to fill in the information in each column.  I then ask them to re-read Chapter 2 and/or Chapter 3 depending on where they are in their reading.  While reading I instruct them to use the chart to find examples of realism and naturalism RL.9-10.1 and RL.9-10.2. I give them an option of working independently or with a partner.

As they are reading I circulate among them keeping them focused on the activity and look for several things including:

  • Are they using this strategy accurately?
  • Do their notes show active engagement in the text?
  • Do their comments reflect an accurate understanding?

In this activity the Three-Column Notes Chart or graphic organizer is the focus of student participation and understanding of the text.

Wrap Up

10 minutes

1 Example

As a wrap up, I select a few students to share with the class one example of naturalism or realism they found and a comment they made for each (RL.9-10.2 and SL.9-10.1). I do this in order to quickly check for understanding and also to make sure students are all on the same page before we move on to a new topic tomorrow.