Of Mice and Men Unit Plan

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

John Steinbeck's ''Of Mice and Men'' has mature themes and lots of emotion. Teaching this novella to high school students can be daunting. This unit plan explores historical context and themes through interactive lesson plans and activities.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men can be approached in many different ways. This unit plan will help you guide students from historical context to complex thematic elements and meaningful discussions. Framing the novella study within the history of the period is essential, as characters are archetypes of migrant workers, minorities, and those with disabilities. Ample time and adequate guidance for discussion of the topics within the novella is also a must. There is a lot to process when reading this novella. Journal and discussion questions will help you spur student thinking. You'll also be able to provide students an opportunity to engage in project-based learning assessments at the culmination of the unit.

Historical Context

Because the book is set during the Great Depression, it's important to explore more about this time in history in order to understand the difficulties faced by the characters. Use this Life During the Great Depression Lesson Plan to help students build knowledge about the realities of this difficult time in American history. Add in some Great Depression Teaching Activities to keep students engaged and interacting with one another. If you'd like to extend the contextual portion of the unit further, explore the Dust Bowl, as well. Use this Dust Bowl Lesson Plan to do so. Consider having students complete a graphic organizer showing the Great Depression and Dust Bowl as causes and the ensuing effects of each.

John Steinbeck

It's important to learn more about the life and work of the author to understand this novella on a deeper level. Use this John Steinbeck Lesson Plan to introduce students to the author. Consider having students compare the settings of his various literary works, as many of them take place within the same part of California. Students can also discuss how his life shows through in his work through setting and in other ways, as well.

Migrant Workers

Lenny and George, as well as most of the other male characters, were migrant workers. Help students understand this way of life using this Migrant Workers Lesson Plan. To help students grasp the urgency and difficulties faced by migrant workers during the Great Depression, specifically, consider exploring the Depression-era photograph ''Migrant Mother''. Use this Migrant Mother Lesson Plan to help students get a full view of the time. To extend their learning forward about thirty years, you can explore the changes in the life of migrant workers. Use this Cesar Chavez Lesson Plan to investigate the inception of the United Farm Workers union. Students can track the changes between the time of the novel, the time of Cesar Chavez, and the current day.


Both racial and disability discrimination play a part in the events of the novel. Use this Discrimination Lesson Plan to familiarize your students with the concept. Have them use their knowledge and apply it to the novella as you read. Differentiate for learners who need additional support using this ESL Discrimination Lesson Plan. Alternatively, challenge your advanced learners using this more complex Prejudice, Discrimination & Stereotypes Lesson Plan.

Reading Response

Consider citing the source of this novella's title by reading Robert Burns' poem To a Mouse. Ask students to predict how the characters and events will align with the words and meaning of the poem. Revisit the poem at the end of the unit to check for new insights.

Use these Of Mice & Men Essential Questions to frame student learning. Sharing and posting essential questions can help guide student thinking before, during, and after reading. You may also want to consider using student written responses to some essential questions as formative assessments to check for comprehension.

You may want to incorporate the use of a journal as students read through the book. Provide students options from these Of Mice and Men Journal Prompts to spur their thinking.

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