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The Grapes of Wrath Project Ideas

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.

This lesson provides a variety of group and individual project ideas to help students get more involved with 'The Grapes of Wrath' and its important message.

The Grapes of Wrath

John Steinbeck's story of the Joad family and their journey from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl to California is one of oppression, greed, constant trials, and a small amount of hope. The Joads endure a great deal of hardship as they travel from camp to camp in search of work, losing family members and witnessing much violence and human suffering. Although the Joad family and their story is fiction, the book is based on interviews Steinbeck did on Californian migrant workers during the Great Depression. The Grapes of Wrath serves as a poignant portrayal of the life of the migrant worker.

The following activities will expand the students' understanding of the classic book and provide some context to help them relate to the characters and their plight.

Group Projects

Group projects can be a great way to engage students by teaching them about the responsibilities of working cooperatively with different personalities. The following group projects are meant to engage students for the entire time the book is being read and analyzed.

  • Videos - Have students make a video depicting scenes that they think represent the most important themes from The Grapes of Wrath. They can do this in groups of 4-6, allowing for as many characters to be addressed within the video. This makes the students think about the main ideas, and acting them out will also help the students remember them.
  • Newspaper - Break the students up into groups of 4-5. Have them create a multi-page newspaper containing articles, ads, and images relating to The Grapes of Wrath. Each student should come up with one journalistic article addressing a specific incident involving the Joads. Then, they can come up with an ad to be placed in the paper, like a job announcement for California farmers or an ad for a product being sold during the Great Depression. This project will not only reinforce their knowledge of the book, but also teach about journalism and the depression era.
  • Debate - Have students break into pairs. One student chooses the trials of the Joads in California, and the other student chooses the trials of people in a larger city like New York. Then, have each student research the impact of the Great Depression on both areas. This should result in a debate as to which area was more affected, providing good context for the story.
  • Website - Have students work together in groups of 4-5 to create a website on The Grapes of Wrath. They can work together in the classroom, then work on the pages at home alone, making it the best of both worlds. Have them create a page on symbolism, on the main topics of the story, and on the characters. They should use images and words to convey the story in a web page format. The benefit of this group project is that once the website is online, each student can go in and add their piece of the project without the others being around.

Individual Projects

Individual projects allow students to do the work in their own time and create less conflict.

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