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The Outsiders Lesson Plans

I remember reading this novel in middle school. There was something that captivated me about the quote, “I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.” It is truly amazing how quickly an average, everyday moment can turn bad, and how adversity can make life pass in the blink of an eye. This is part of the reason I love to teach literature: to watch students grow and experience life through the eyes of a protagonist they connect with. Your students will experience the life of Ponyboy Curtis first hand, and bring it to life through storyboards.

Student Activities for The Outsiders

Essential Questions for The Outsiders

  1. How can fear control you?
  2. Why is stereotyping bad, and how can it lead to negative profiling?
  3. How do dire situations cause people to act out of character?
  4. Is loyalty an attribute of a true friend?

A Quick Summary of The Outsiders Book

The Outsiders begins with Ponyboy Curtis, a member of a gang called the "Greasers", being jumped by a rival gang, the "Socs", outside a movie theater. Throughout the novel, tempers between the two gangs flare, and Ponyboy struggles with his brother, who becomes increasingly tough on him. After coming home late one night, he gets into a fight with his brother and runs away to meet up with his best friend Johnny, also a Greaser. As they wander around the neighborhood, they are again jumped by drunken Socs who nearly drown Ponyboy in a fountain. Out of terror, Johnny stabs Bob, a Soc, and kills him, forcing Johnny and Ponyboy to hide in an abandoned church.

As emotions and actions run hot on the gang front, the church that they are hiding in catches on fire and several children are trapped inside. Johnny and Ponyboy rush to rescue the children; Ponyboy escapes relatively unscathed, but Johnny is badly injured. After the incident, Ponyboy and Johnny are declared heroes for rescuing the kids, but Johnny will still be charged with manslaughter for Bob's death. Johnny later dies, causing a grief-stricken fellow Greaser, Dallas, to rob a store. As the police arrive, Dallas points his gun at them, and the police shoot him.

When Ponyboy returns to school, he is failing his classes. However, his English teacher says he will pass him if he writes a decent essay. Using the recent events of his life he starts with: "When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home..."

Other Activity Ideas for The Outsiders

  1. The Outsiders is a classic example of a Bildungsroman novel. Have students keep track of the different elements of Bildungsroman literature through storyboarding! Students can create a storyboard chart with illustrations and descriptions of each Bildungsroman stage.

  2. Use a storyboard that shows specific causes and effects of events in the novel.

  3. Use a storyboard to show how stereotyping can lead to misunderstanding.

  4. Create a public service announcement about gangs and gang violence.

  5. Create a storyboard that depicts what life was like in the 1950s: fashion, cars, food, and more! Just try the search bar to find what you’re looking for.

Buy The Outsiders on Amazon

How To Help Students Relate to a Novel From a Different Time Period


Study the Dress and Speech of the Time

Students will enjoy looking back at the differences in dress between the 1960's and today. The class discussion can deal with how people would feel about their style of dress today. A list of words used in the 1960's can lead to a similar conversation about modern slang.


Create the Human Connections Through Theme

By looking at the big ideas in a story such as the theme, you can help students see that people are more alike than the are different. Everyone wants to feel loved, feel belonging, have a great group of friends to count on, etc. Even long ago or in different situations, these human connections remain.


Storyboard Your Findings

After students make these connections, a visual like a storyboard is a great way to display them. Whether students compare and contrast dress and language, or illuminate the themes found in the story, a storyboard is a vibrant way to prove what they know.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

What is a bildungsroman?

A bildungsroman is a coming of age novel, a story about a character who is making some realizations about themselves and learning and growing through these changes.

What big ideas does The Outsiders teach?

The Outsiders is a story of loyalty in friendships, how one moment can change everything, and how sometimes people let fear control them. There are so many life lessons in this book that will help students look at their own lives differently.

How do stereotypes come into play in The Oudsiders?

There are two gangs depicted in this story, The Greasers and The Socials. The Greasers are from the wrong side of the tracks and are always looked at as troublemakers. The Socials are the rich kids that don't feel anything. By the end of the story, the unexpected happens.

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