Cooperative Group Work to Discuss and Identify the Theme of Loneliness in Of Mice and Men

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SWBAT analyze how complex characters in Of Mice and Men interact with other characters and advance the plot or develop the theme by reading Crook’s experience with loneliness and chart how it affects other characters.

Big Idea

"One is the loneliest number..." An oldie but a goody that sets the stage for Steinbeck's theme of loneliness.


10 minutes

Journal Writing

Having students think about and discuss the idea of loneliness will prepare them for the lesson's learning objective.  I first tell students that this quote is from a Christian missionary named Mother Teresa who cared for the weak and sick in India.  I tell them that one of the prevalent diseases that she encountered was people young and old inflicted with leprorsy which is a chronic skin and nerve disease.  I ask students to respond to this quote that is projected on a screen using my docucamera:

“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or cancer. It’s the feeling of being uncared for, unwanted – of being deserted and alone”

                                                                                                             (Mother Teresa)

I then ask students to verbally share their response to the quote with a learning partner after which I select a few students to report out to the class SL.9-10.1.

Building Knowledge

20 minutes

Loneliness is an ongoing message in this novella, and today's focus on this theme will assist students in analyzing how the author sends this message to his or her readers.  I begin this activity by showing a video of the band three Dog Night singing the song, "One is the Loneliest Number" after which I ask what was the message in the song and how do you know?  Next I give a quick review of the themes that we discussed in previous lessons in this unit: Racism, Power versus Powerlessness, Individual versus Community, Dreams, and Ageism, and how they can create a feeling of loneliness RL.9-10.2

I then ask students to turn to p.18 and find evidence on this page where Steinbeck describes how many men must have walked through this road to enter a lonely life, moving from ranch to ranch finding mindless work ("an ash-pile made by many fires") RL.9-10.1.  

To assist students with analyzing the theme I next I pass out the Loneliness Character graphic organizer and project mine on the docucamera. To model the next activity I then read a quote from George in Chapter 1 when he tells Lennie that their job, that of a migrant farm worker, is the loneliest in the world and ask why they think this is true?  After a short discussion of the isolation that occurs on these ranches and traveling from job to job, I explain that Steinbeck creates a lonely and sad atmosphere at many times in the novella. I say, "He begins with the name of the town near the ranch which is called...?"  I then say, "Yes 'Soledad', which means loneliness" and write George's quote next to his name on the organizer with a sentence describing why he said this to Lennie.

I then say that the author makes it clear that all the men on the ranch are lonely, with particular people lonelier than others such as Crooks.

Student Learning Activity

35 minutes

Task 1:  I then ask students to form groups of two and/or three to work together to discuss and find evidence which depicts the characters on the organizer who suffer from loneliness in the chapters we read so far but especially Crooks' experiences in chapter 4, RL.9-10.1. They are instructed to write a sentence beside each character, that examines why they are lonely and what this reveals about their character as I modeled for them during the Building the Knowledge activity RL.9-10.3

While students begin locating evidence I move around the room and listen to the discussions while encouraging them to stay on task.

Task 2:  Students who complete their Loneliness organizers will continue working together to fill out the Chapter 4 passage assessment.  I circulate among them as they complete this activity to check for understanding and prompt them to discuss the correct answers reminding them that this assessment will count as a grade SL.9-10.1D.

Wrap Up

10 minutes

Ticket to Leave

To summarize today's learning I use the technique, Cold Call, to quickly select random students to share one characters experience of loneliness and how the character Crooks exemplified this theme .

To prepare for the next day's lesson, students are asked to read Chapter 5 for homework.