The Grapes of Wrath

Suggested Introduction to The Grapes of Wrath

"Migrant Mother" by Dorothy LangeBegin with an historical introduction to the Great Depression using public domain images available via the Library of Congress American Memory exhibition. Select a few images - such as "Migrant Mother" by Dorothy Lange to the right - to include in a slide show and add a question or two to each slide that will encourage students to analyze and discuss the emotional toll of the Great Depression.

Direct students to read personal histories of Americans living during the Great Depression, such as those found at The New Deal Network and PBS’s Surviving the Dust Bowl. If your students are teenagers, consider having them read the stories of teenage hobos who were “riding the rails” in the 30s.

Online Resources

Steinbeck: Biography As A Tool In Teaching Reading And Writing Skills This detailed unit from the Yale-New Haven Teacher's Institute offers varied resources and techniques for presenting biography to students in secondary classrooms. Lesson Three: The Grapes of Wrath helps orient students to the geography of the novel and reviews its historical background. The lesson also provides background information on Steinbeck’s winning the Pulitzer Prize and helps explain the Phalanx Theory, which many critics feel is crucial in understanding The Grapes of Wrath. There is also emphasis on relating the novel to contemporary America and teachers might adopt one or several of seventeen Grapes of Wrath writing topics.

Creating Dramatic Monologues from The Grapes of Wrath This High School lesson plan from Discovery School aims to help students understand the universal nature of Steinbeck’s characters' struggles and some of the complex forces affecting their lives. It also emphasizes the value of primary source material in presenting an authentic picture of an given period in history. Students are encouraged to explore Web sites about the Dust Bowl and develop a monologue. There are six discussion questions, a monologue evaluation guide, reading suggestions, and a vocabulary list. Can be used with or without the video available from Discovery School.

"A Day in the Life of a Hobo" Interdisciplinary Blogging Activity This activity, created by EdTechTeacher's Tom Daccord, has students write blog posts from the perspective of a Hobo who is "riding the rails." Students use their knowledge of the period and their creativity to create a story (250-500 words) about a day in your life as a Hobo. Students post their blog and read everyone's work. Students then comment on the posting and state what they liked about the story they read -- and what made it seem authentic. The blogs serve to provide a public form to present and share student work without undue stress on the student. There is no "right" answer, students are allowed to express themselves creatively, and each student receives positive feedback about their posting. Resources for this assignment include:

  • Riding the Rails Part of PBS's American Experience television series, this site focuses on the plight of more than a quarter million teenagers living on the road in America. There is a timeline, maps, "tales from the rails", Hobo songs, a teacher's guide, recommended resources and more
  • New Deal Network The Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute (FERI), in collaboration with the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, Marist College, and IBM, launched the New Deal Network (NDN). The site features 20,000 items: photographs, speeches, letters, documents, and exercises from the New Deal era.
  • Listen to actual audio interviews of Americans who lived during the Great Depression. Visit the Library of Congress’ “Voices from the Dust Bowl” collection for mp3 files.
  • Listen to a “Fireside Chat” by President Roosevelt and discuss what impact these chats had on the American public. You can find select Fireside Chat audio recording at the American Rhetoric web site.
John Steinbeck - Nobel Prize Speech

Reading the Grapes of Wrath This teacher's discussion guide from the California Council for the Humanities provides an introduction to the novel, a biography of Steinbeck with a timeline of his life, suggested vocabulary, expressions, discussion of the music used for the dramatic production, and discussion questions.

Teacher Cyberguide: Grapes of Wrath This supplemental unit to The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck was developed as part of the Schools of California Online Resources for Educators (SCORE). You could assign any of the activities as small group or individual work for students. After reading The Grapes of Wrath students chart the conditions and circumstances leading to the displacement of the Dust Bowl refugees and the experiences of Dust Bowl refugees after their relocation. They also study the conditions and experiences of the Kosovo refugees and compare and contrast the conditions and experiences of the these refugee groups.

The Grapes of Wrath NPR's report on the story behind the creation of the Grapes of Wrath. Listen to the report as well as Woody Guthrie's 1940 song "Tom Joad" and watch a scene from the 1940 film The Grapes of Wrath

Classic Note on the Grapes of Wrath A detailed student guide from GradeSaver. Offers an introduction to Steinbeck and the book, summaries and analysis of each chapter, a list of characters.

Grapes of Wrath Teacher's Guide This Penguin teacher's guide questions, exercises, and assignments on these pages are designed to guide students’ reading of the literary work and to provide suggestions for exploring the implications of the story through discussions, research, and writing. There are five pre-reading questions, dozens of chapter questions, twelve "digging deeper" questions, nine "writer responses" questions, and ten questions for further explorations.

The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, and The Pearl The Great Books Foundation offers an introduction to the novel, fifteen discussion questions, and three questions for "further reflection."

Grapes of Wrath (C-Span) From C-Span's American Writers series, students explore the life and works of John Steinbeck via an electronic scrapbook and learn about the effect his work had on others. Students are then invited to use a printable page from the site to create their own scrapbook. Contains 10 questions for High School students.

Film Study of the Grapes of Wrath This New Deal Network lesson plan has students analyze the effects of the Dust Bowl on tenant farmers by using a visual document, analyze the film "The Grapes of Wrath" as a "cultural document" of its time, and view film critically by using a film guide to explore techniques and visual treatment of the migrant experience.

The Grapes of Wrath Google Lit Trip Use Google Earth to follow the Joad family as it travels to California.

The Grapes of Wrath @Web English Teacher Resources, including vocabulary lists, to help teach the novel.

Weedpatch Camp While writing Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck visited Bakersfield, California and based his book on Arvin Federal Government Camp which he portrayed as "Weedpatch Camp." There are newspaper articles about the camps, personal reminiscences, a bibliography for Dust Bowl and Migrant workers, the story behind Dorothea Lange's famous "Migrant Mother" photograph, and more.

Woody Guthrie and the Grapes of Wrath This lesson plan from the Rock & Roll Hall of Hame is designed for students to recognize thematic parallels between Woody Guthrie's music and Steinbeck's novel, develop an appreciation for The Grapes of Wrath and the music of Woody Guthrie, as works of art and historical documents, and explore the idea of the "American spirit." Students discuss the parallels between Guthrie's life and music and the experience of the Joad family as well as study lyrics of "This Land Is Your Land" and explore connections between the novel and the song.

Teaching Programme for Grapes of Wrath Offers hyperlinked outlines of teaching strategies

John Steinbeck's Pacific Grove This site provides a visual tour of local sites relating to the life and work of John Steinbeck as well as Steinbeck links.

"GRAPES OF WRATH" BANNED IN KERN COUNTY An NPR article about the August 22, 1939 decision of the Kern County (California) Board of Supervisors to ban the Steinbeck novel in the county's public schools and libraries.

Review of The Grapes of Wrath movie A Filmsite review of John Ford's 1940 black and white adaptation of the novel.