John Steinbeck Lesson Plan

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Educate your students about legendary American author John Steinbeck with this lesson plan. Students will study a text lesson and view a video lesson, participate in two activities, and take two related follow-up quizzes.

Learning Objectives

After studying this helpful lesson plan, your students will be able to:

  • List some of the famous works by John Steinbeck
  • Describe the plots and major themes in some of his works
  • Summarize the personal life of the famous author


1-1.5 Hours


Key Vocabulary

  • Cannery Row
  • East of Eden
  • Ed Ricketts
  • Great Depression
  • Monterey Bay area
  • Naturalism
  • Of Mice and Men
  • 'Okies'
  • Realism
  • The Grapes of Wrath

Curriculum Standards


Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.


Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).


  • Inform your students they will be studying the famous author John Steinbeck.
  • Display an image of Steinbeck.
  • Ask your students if anyone is familiar with him or his notable works.
  • Review the vocabulary terms.
  • First, hand out copies of the text lesson John Steinbeck: Biography, Quotes & Facts.
  • Have your students read the introduction and the section 'John Steinbeck.'
    • What year was Steinbeck born?
    • What does the word empathy mean?
    • In what decade were his most famous novels penned?
    • What prize did he win?
  • Now, read the section 'Early Life.'
    • Did he graduate from college?
    • Where did he take up employment?
    • Who supported him while he was writing?
  • Next, read the section 'Steinbeck Hones his Craft.'
    • Can you name some of his major works?
    • Can you name some of the plots?
    • Can you name some of the major themes?
  • Next, read the section 'Fame, Friendship, and Personal Struggle.'
    • Who was Steinbeck's close friend?
    • What was his occupation?
    • Who were some other family members in Steinbeck's life?
  • Next, read the section 'Late Career.'
    • What year did he win the Nobel Prize?
    • What were some of his later works?
  • Finally, read the section 'Lesson Summary', review the entire text lesson, and answer any pertinent questions.
  • Have your students take the lesson quiz to demonstrate their grasp of the concepts.
  • Second, have your students watch the video lesson John Steinbeck: Grapes of Wrath and Other Works.
  • Start the video and pause for the first time at :53.
    • Where is the setting for many of Steinbeck's works?
    • What are some of the elements of this setting?
  • Now, restart the video and pause this time at 2:18.
    • From where are the Joad family?
    • What is their occupation?
    • In what tough era do they live?
    • Why do they move?
    • To where do they relocate?
    • What happens when they arrive there?
    • What does Tom Joad attempt to do for the workers?
  • Next, restart the video and pause at 4:16.
    • What style and themes represent his works?
    • How are realism and naturalism part of his novels?
  • Restart the video again and play until the end.
    • What are some of Steinbeck's other major works?
    • What are their plots and major themes?
    • What did Steinbeck do in 1960?
    • What were some events of that year?
    • When did he die?
  • Review the entire video and answer any relevant questions.
  • Have your students take the lesson quiz to also demonstrate understanding.

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