The Grapes of Wrath Activities

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

'The Grapes of Wrath' is a serious story that may be difficult for some students. In this lesson, you'll find activities to break up this book's intensity and make it easier to analyze.

The Grapes of Wrath

John Steinbeck's novel 'The Grapes of Wrath' tells the story of the Joads as they struggle to survive during the Great Depression in an area known as the Dust Bowl. Crops are destroyed by severe drought, and as farmers in Oklahoma, the family struggles to pay the mortgage on their land and home. After being pushed off their land, they head to California where they've heard there is work for farmers. Their journey to California is difficult, and things don't get much easier once they arrive. There is barely any work, and the migrant camps are full of people starving and fighting for what little work is available. On top of that, the rich farmers in California take advantage of the workers.

Steinbeck wrote this book after he did some interviews of real migrant workers during the Great Depression. The book was published in 1939 and created immense controversy, landing it on the banned books list numerous times over the years. However, Steinbeck's novel is an insightful and relatable look into a difficult period in American history.

The activities below are set up for in-class and at home activities, allowing for a slight variance depending on the time you have to dedicate to them.

At Home Activities

These activities can be done at home or in the classroom, but they are focused more on individual work so that students can do these assignments as homework.


Have each student write an improvised interview for one of the characters from The Grapes of Wrath in which they play the interviewer and the respondent. They should create 10-15 questions for their chosen character. Then using what they've learned through that character's development in the novel, they should come up with responses to the questions. This will help students do character analysis in a creative way.


Have the students watch the movie and pick out 5 points they saw that were different from the book. Also have the students explain why they believe the movie chose to make those changes, or omit those scenes. This assures that the students have actually read the book.

Comic Book/Graphic Novel

Have the students pick a particular scene within the book and create a graphic novel version of it. The artistry does not have to be perfect; stick figures are fine. The idea is to get students to assess a scene in a different way, visualizing it so that it is more relatable and easier to remember. Each student can choose a different scene and once they are all finished, students can read each other's mini books. This will reinforce the story in a fun way.

Pick a State

Have students pick a specific state to research how that state experienced the Great Depression. They can do a short oral report, essay, or Power Point on their state. This will give context to the story, The Grapes of Wrath, which will help students understand what all Americans were experiencing during that period.

Group Activities

These activities will bring together groups of students to learn about this serious story in a fun and engaging way.

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