The Outsiders Pre-Reading Activities

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

When you incorporate thoughtful pre-reading activities into your literature instruction, you set your students up for success with the book. This lesson offers you some pre-reading activities pertaining to S.E. Hinton's ''The Outsiders''.

Why Pre-Reading Activities?

If you are reading The Outsiders with your students, you probably know that it can be an incredibly moving book, but also an emotionally difficult one. In addition to having some old-fashioned language and social dynamics, it also includes more tragedy than many students might be accustomed to in their curricular literature. One way to set students up for success with and enjoyment of this text is by helping them engage in pre-reading activities before beginning the actual book. Pre-reading activities both activate and supplement the prior knowledge that will help your students make the most of the text. If you do a few of these activities before beginning The Outsiders, your students will be prepared to understand the plot and talk about the most pressing themes in the story.

Setting Research

One of the most challenging aspects about The Outsiders is the setting, both in terms of where the story takes place and when it takes place. Understanding certain aspects of Middle American culture and norms can be a crucial part of comprehending this text, as can understanding the social milieu of the mid-1960s. Split your students up into 'where' and 'when' groups. Each group should take responsibility for researching either the geographic or temporal aspect of the book's setting. They should find out not only facts about the time and place, but should come up with a list of other films, books, or artworks from the time and place that might help them feel more familiar. Have the groups share their findings with one another via presentations before they begin reading the text.

Fitting In

One of the major themes in The Outsiders is that of fitting in. The characters struggle so intensely with intergroup conflict in part because they want so badly to feel like they belong to their own groups. This is a theme that is familiar to many young readers, but they may or may not have had the chance to reflect on it or even articulate that it happens. Ask your students to write journal entries about what it feels like to fit into a group and what it feels like not to fit in. If they claim not to have experienced one of these phenomena, tell them they can use their imaginations and describe what they think it would feel like. If students want to share their writing, make a time and space for them to do so safely; however, many students may choose to keep this particular work private.

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