I have several general goals I would like to achieve in the creation of this unit. It is really meant to be a large-scale nonlinguistic element of learning in which students are allowed for a week or so before reading, to turn the classroom into a living, imagery-based learning community that will not only enhance the reading of Steinbeck (or other authors that the reader may choose to focus on), but also transform the classroom itself into a sort of museum of image-driven background knowledge utilizing cooperative learning and student choice.
The materials assembled will serve as a focal point throughout the reading of the novel. We will turn to our images for journal writing (see below), clarification when reading, class discussion and a classroom display of students' work.
I am also interested in creating a unit that can be utilized by a large number of teachers in a variety of subjects. This unit would work well as an interdisciplinary one on which Language Arts and History or Social Studies teachers could easily collaborate. I believe both Language Arts and History teachers can easily adapt this unit to make it fit their curriculum.
The unit is also designed to help teachers build their background knowledge on Steinbeck and the Depression era. I provide some materials for teachers to explore so that they can become experts on the era and will be able to guide students through their exploration of the ideas and facts of a time long past. Although I expect the implementation of this unit will and should be a learning experience for teachers as well, they should be somewhat versed in the knowledge of the period before the project begins so that they will be able to provide guidance and insights for students as they explore the material. Providing insightful background knowledge to students will help them interpret and understand the literature and the images of Steinbeck's world. It will also provide students with the material needed to make connections and read between the lines as they might otherwise not be able to do.
Words alone will not suffice in an explanation of the devastating facts of the Great Depression, the brutal nature of the Great Dust Bowl, or the need for "Okies" to travel across the country in search of a better life in California's "Salad Bowl." Images of these and other subjects are pivotal in really understanding what is going on in
Of Mice and Men
and other Steinbeck novels such as
East of Eden
The Grapes of Wrath
Finally, I hope that this unit will encourage teachers to explore the technology that has taken over our world and is slowly making its way into America's classrooms. The technology is here to stay (at least until something more advanced replaces it), and our students have embraced it. It is our duty as teachers not only to embrace it, but also to find ways to utilize technology in the classroom, to find ways to stay ahead of the curve, to find new ways to teach today's students.