Students Analyze Steinbeck's Stance on Euthanasia

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SWBAT re-read the episode in which Candy’s dog is killed, and will discuss whether or not Steinbeck excuses or condemns the act, supporting their arguments with textual evidence.

Big Idea

Is euthanasia excused or condemned in the episode with Candy’s dog?


10 minutes

As students enter the class and pick up their folders,  I ask them to answer the questions on the ACTIVATOR values questionnaire.   Students are asked to agree or disagree with each of the following statements, and give reasons for opinions:

1. If one has an animal, one has a responsibility to put it out of its misery if it becomes too old or sick to be any good.

2. Mercy-killing should be legalized for human beings.

3. People who are a burden to society should be euthanized to spare both them and society a waste of time and tax dollars.

I ask them to answer these questions to explore their personal values for the lesson which will ask them to analyze Steinbeck's stance on mercy killing and euthanasia.  After students answer each of the 3 questions,  I facilitate a short discussion about their responses SL.9-10.1.


Building Knowledge

20 minutes

After discussing their answers I ask, "What is the definition of euthanasia?"  I facilitate a short discussion until we come to an accurate definition.  I then project slides of my Euthanasia  power point.  I ask students to look at the slide, think about its meaning and comment on it with a learning partner.  I begin with slides #1-2.  I pause and ask:

  • What is physician assisted suicide? 
  • Is their an inherent contradiction in this definition?  If so what is it?

When I give my students the facts they require, they will memorize the facts and use them to serve their short-term goal of answering assessment questions after reading an informational article on Euthanasia. he purpose of having them looking at these slides and commenting on them is to activate their critical thinking skills,  because I know when I do this, they will be able to find the necessary information for themselves which will have deeper meaning. They will also be able to evaluate the merits and consequences of the information that they'll be reading in the article; and they will be able to utilize that information to analyze the author’s stance on euthanasia.

After a brief reporting out I then continue with slides #3-8 pausing after each slide asking interpretive questions as students use the Think-Pair-Share cooperative learning strategy to interpret, discuss and report out to the class SL.9-10.1.

Student Learning Activity

25 minutes

I now hand out and and ask students to read a Euthanasia document. Using a Reading Guide, students answer text dependent questions RI.9-10.1.  I scaffold the assignment by giving those students who struggle with their reading skills an Euthanasia article that has every paragraphed numbered as well as a differentiated Reading Guide (p.2) that includes the paragraph numbers in which the answers can be found. I adapted an article. Those students who are competent readers receive the article and Reading Guide without the page and paragraph numbers.  As students are answering their questions I circulate while checking for understanding.  

I explain the purpose of today’s reading buy telling students that the last part of this activity is synthesizing the information about euthanasia and the shooting of Candy's dog. I explain that they are going to have a class discussion in which they argue that Steinbeck excuses euthanasia or condemns it in the reading.

I begin reading p. 44-49 out loud as students follow buy reading silently while jotting down page numbers and paragraphs/lines that indicate that Steinbeck either supports or opposes euthanasia.  This is followed by a short discussion of students evidence from the text that supports their answers RL.9-10.1.  

Short Debate

10 minutes

Before the wrap up activity,  I ask students to refer to their notes reading pages 44-49 that give evidence of how John Steinbeck felt about Euthanasia.  I then ask all those who think he supported it to give a reason for his stance followed by those who think he did bot support its use.

While debating this, I ask students to use Accountable Talk Stems that are displayed on a large poster in front of the classroom SL.9-10.1.

Wrap Up

10 minutes

I clarify for my students that when Carlson first suggests the idea of euthanizing Candy’s dog to Slim in chapter two, there is a moment when Slim is listening to Carlson’s argument, and George is watching Slim. I then tell them to reread the second paragraph at the top of page 36 and answer these questions:

 “Why do you think George stares so intently at Slim? And what do you think that slow ringing of a triangle in the background – a ringing that grows louder and louder and then stops is really symbolizing?” (RL.9-10.4)

Then I facilitate a group discussion by referring to an illustration of the characters and their roles in the decision to euthanize Candy's dog RL.9-10.3.

Students are asked to read chapter 4 for homework.