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Activity Overview


Themes, symbols, and motifs are valuable aspects of any literary work, and they add richness to stories. Part of the Common Core ELA standards is to introduce and explain these complex concepts. However, abstract ideas are often difficult for students to analyze without assistance. Using a storyboard, students can visually demonstrate their understanding of these concepts, and master analysis of literary elements. For best practices, see our supplementary article with specific lesson plan steps on setting up your classroom and activities to teach themes, symbols, and motifs.

In the classroom, students can track the rich symbolism Steinbeck uses throughout the novel.


Themes, Motifs, and Imagery to Look for and Discuss

Loneliness

Loneliness is a common theme in literature. Throughout this novel, each character experiences a type of loneliness or isolation. It is interesting to track this theme, and its implications, as the story progresses. Some characters suffer physical isolation or loneliness, such as Crooks, while others, like Curley’s wife, feel psychological isolation.


Friendship

As migrant workers, bouncing from ranch to ranch, most men didn't keep long-lasting friendships. This is why the story idealizes George and Lennie’s friendship. Despite its unconventional nature, the theme that having someone is better than no one prevails.


Dreams

Throughout the novel, Lennie reciting their dream makes it seem attainable. It never becomes a reality because of all that stands in their way, but the hope of it keeps the men alive. It gives them a reason to keep going, working, and saving.


Rabbits

In the novel, Lennie is obsessed with anything soft and fuzzy. He particularly fixates on rabbits because they "aren’t as little as mice", so cannot be killed as easily. The reader becomes more aware as the novel closes that tending rabbits is Lennie's ultimate dream. He knows that he will never obtain his dream, because he kills everything he touches.



Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)



Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in Of Mice and Men. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the theme(s) from Of Mice and Men you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for an example that represents this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.

Lesson Plan Reference

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Rubric

(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)


Themes, Symbols, and Motifs (Grades 9-12)
Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes, symbols, and/or motifs in the story. Illustrate instances of each and write a short description that explains the example's significance.
Proficient Emerging Beginning Needs Improvement
Identification of Theme(s), Symbol(s), and/or Motif(s)
All themes are correctly identified as important recurring topics or messages in the story. Symbols are correctly identified as objects that represent something else at a higher level in the story. Motifs are correctly identified as important recurring features or ideas in the story.
Most themes are correctly identified, but others are missing or incomplete. Most symbols are correctly identified, but some objects are missing or incomplete. Some motifs are correctly identified, but others are missing or incomplete.
Most themes are missing, incomplete, or incorrect. Most symbols are missing, incomplete, or incorrect. Most motifs are missing, incomplete, or incorrect.
No themes, symbols, or motifs are correctly identified.
Examples and Descriptions
Quotes and examples are accurate to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) that are being identified. Descriptions accurately explain the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) and highlight their significance to the story.
Most quotes and examples are accurate to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motifs that are being identified. Descriptions mostly accurately explain the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s), and highlight their significance to the story.
Most quotes and examples are minimal, incorrect, or unrelated to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) that are being identified. Descriptions contain inaccuracies in their explanations, or do not highlight their significance to the story.
Examples and descriptions are missing or too minimal to score.
Depiction
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are accurate to the story and reflect time, effort, thought, and care with regard to placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are mostly accurate to the story. They reflect time and effort put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are inaccurate to the story. The depictions may be rushed or show minimal effort, time, and care put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Most depictions are missing too many elements or are too minimal to score. Little time or effort has been put into placement and creation of the scenes.
English Conventions
There are no errors in spelling, grammar, or mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions reflect careful proofreading and accuracy to the story.
There are a few errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions show accuracy to the story and some proofreading.
There are several errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. Most writing portions do not reflect proofreading or accuracy to the story.
Errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics in writing portions of the storyboard seriously interfere with communication.


How To Analyze the Themes and Symbols Present in “Of Mice and Men”

1

Identify the Themes and Symbols

Ask the students to read and analyze the story carefully and introduce them to the concept of themes and symbolism. Conduct a general discussion where students can talk and ask questions about the concept of themes and symbolism in general and make the discussion more context-specific when students start to get the gist of the idea. Help the students identify the main themes and symbols present in the story.

2

Guide Focused Readings

Guide the students to select passages that accentuate key themes and symbols in the story. Ask students to participate in close reading exercises where they must recognize the language, images, and details that support the development of these elements. Through this activity, students can also analyze the development of themes throughout the narrative.

3

Discuss the Impact on the Plot

Since themes are the central ideas present in the narrative, they directly impact and give meaning to the plot. Help the students analyze how the themes and symbols present in “Of Mice and Men” make the plot and the story more interesting and meaningful. Students can also reflect on questions such as “How would changing the themes change the plot of the story?”

4

Conduct Open-Ended Discussions

Asking open-ended questions that explore the subtleties of themes and symbols should be encouraged for the students. For instance, "How does the portrayal of the dream farm change over the course of the novel?" Students can also share their own questions and add to the discussion.

5

Assess and Reflect

Utilize a range of evaluation techniques, such as essays, presentations, or creative projects, to gauge how well students comprehend themes and symbols. Finish the discussion with reflecting exercises that let students think back on how their comprehension of themes and symbols has changed.

Frequently Asked Questions About “Of Mice and Men” Themes and Symbols

What are some key themes present in the story?

The main theme of the story centers on the struggles and goals of the marginalized during the Great Depression, delving into issues such as loneliness, chasing the American Dream, and the influence of social standards. Friendship is also another important theme mentioned in the story.

How is the theme of friendship explored in the narrative?

The bond between George and Lennie embodies the idea of friendship. It investigates the value of friendship in a world full of adversity and loneliness.

What symbolic role do animals like mice and rabbits play in the story?

Mice and rabbits are examples of little creatures that represent vulnerability and the transience of dreams. The terrible things that happen in the novel are hinted at by Lennie's inadvertent damage to these animals.




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