Skip to contentContribute to ReadWriteThink / RSS / FAQs / Site Demonstrations / Contact Us / About Us



Contribute to ReadWriteThink

ReadWriteThink couldn't publish all of this great content without literacy experts to write and review for us. If you've got lessons plans, videos, activities, or other ideas you'd like to contribute, we'd love to hear from you.



Professional Development

Find the latest in professional publications, learn new techniques and strategies, and find out how you can connect with other literacy professionals.



Did You Know?

Your students can save their work with Student Interactives.

More more

HomeClassroom ResourcesLesson Plans

Lesson Plan

Designing Museum Exhibits for The Grapes of Wrath: A Multigenre Project

E-mail / Share / Print This Page / Print All Materials (Note: Handouts must be printed separately)


Designing Museum Exhibits for The Grapes of Wrath: A Multigenre Project

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time Five weeks
Lesson Author

Mary Ann Yedinak

Carmel, Indiana


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Before Reading the Novel (two sessions)

While Reading the Novel (varying number of sessions)

After Reading the Novel (four to five sessions)


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • analyze the way in which a work of literature is related to the themes and issues of its historical period.

  • conduct research on the Depression era, using primary and secondary print and Internet sources.

  • synthesize information from multiple sources by identifying the complexities and inconsistencies in the information.

  • integrate quotations and citations into a written text while maintaining the flow of ideas.

  • compose texts in multiple genres that convey material found in their research.

  • deliver expository (informational) notes on their research.

back to top


Before Reading the Novel (two sessions)

Session One

  1. Use the National Steinbeck Center and National Public Radio's Present at the Creation: The Grapes of Wrath Websites to gain background information for introducing the novel.

  2. Provide a brief overview of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl, defining the historical events.

  3. Display the Great Depression and Dust Bowl Web Exploration interactive or point students to the related Web page, and ask them to explore the resources and respond to the questions. Students can work independently or in small groups. If desired, divide students into four groups, and have each group work on a different area.

  4. Allow most of the session for students’ research. If necessary, students can continue their research as homework or you can extend the prereading activities to include another session.

  5. Circulate among students as they work, offering feedback, support, and suggestions.

  6. Once students’ research is complete, ask class members to share observations from their exploration. Students might share images that stood out, new facts that they learned, or information that surprised them.

  7. Based on their exploration, ask students to predict themes and issues that may appear in The Grapes of Wrath. Record their responses on the board or on chart paper. Save the list for future sessions.

  8. At the end of the session or for homework, ask students to write in their journals about their research. Use the following questions to frame their writing: “What surprises did you encounter in your research? What people, events, or issues related to the Great Depression or the Dust Bowl would you like to know more about?”

Session Two

  1. Begin discussion of the novel by returning to the journal writing that students completed at the end of the previous session. Ask students to share their responses.

  2. As students read or list people, events, or issues related to the Great Depression or the Dust Bowl, note the items on the board or on chart paper. You'll return to these topics during future sessions, so choose a location where the list can be saved.

  3. If students are unfamiliar with the term, provide a definition for genre for the class. You may wish to visit these descriptions of various genres for more information as well.

  4. Ask students to describe the genres that they read during their research in the previous session. As students share examples, list the genres on the board or on chart paper, in a location can be saved for reference during future sessions.

  5. Pass out the Genre List and compare the items listed on the sheet to those that students have brainstormed. Make additions and revisions to the Genre List as necessary.

  6. Pass out the Multigenre Museum Exhibits for The Grapes of Wrath and the Museum Exhibit Rubric, and explain the project, including whether students will work individually, with a partner, or in small groups.

  7. Review the list of topics from the beginning of the session, and add topics included on the Multigenre Museum Exhibits for The Grapes of Wrath.

  8. To provide an example of artifacts from several genres, visit The Promise of Freedom, from the National Museum of American History’s online exhibit, Separate Is Not Equal: Brown v. Board of Education. Note that this example focuses on a different topic in order to avoid duplicating any of the artifacts that students might use for their projects. Any exhibit can be used as an example.

  9. Work through the artifacts in The Promise of Freedom, identifying the genre of each of the historical pieces. Refer to the online genre list to identify the purpose of each text as well (e.g., persuasive, informative).

  10. Discuss the information that a curator’s note would include for one or more of the artifacts in The Promise of Freedom collection. The pieces in the collection have short identifying notes, but not the complete notes that would normally accompany a collection piece. Talk about the importance of identifying sources as part of your discussion.

  11. Share the Citation Machine or KY Virtual Library, and explain how students can use one of the sites to document their sources as they create their exhibits. Alternatively, you can point students to details on documentation in their texts or to the Research and Documenting Sources page from the Purdue OWL.

  12. Pass out copies of the Museum Exhibit Planning Sheet, and ask students to complete the form and turn it in for feedback (if time is short, students can submit the planning sheet in a later session).

  13. Allow remaining time for students to choose a topic and begin brainstorming possible artifacts based on the research conducted in the previous session.

  14. Collect the Museum Exhibit Planning Sheet, and provide feedback on students’ plans before the next class session.

  15. Ask students to begin reading the novel for homework as well. If possible, have them read at least chapters 1–4.

back to top


While Reading the Novel (varying number of sessions)

Introductory Session

  1. Pass back students’ exhibit planning sheets, and give any general feedback or comments on the project. Answer any questions that students have about the project.

  2. Discuss any immediate reactions that students have to their homework reading.

  3. Ask students to define the literary term foreshadowing, based on their previous experience; or provide a definition of the term: “The literary technique of hinting or providing clues that suggest events that occur later in a piece of literature.”

  4. Based on their reading, ask students to identify any symbols or situations in the novel that may foreshadow later events. Ask students to predict how the foreshadowing will parallel situations that occur later in the novel.

  5. If students do not bring it up naturally, ask them how chapters one and three relate to the rest of the book, focusing on how they may foreshadow later events in the novel.

  6. Identify these chapters (one and three) as intercalary chapters, and introduce this narrative structure. Steinbeck alternates intercalary chapters, which present the “big picture” of what was happening in America at the time when the novel is set, with narrative chapters that focus mainly on the struggles of the main characters, the Joad family.

  7. To help students understand this structure and read the rest of the novel, read Chapter Three aloud (or use an audiobook to read the passage to the class).

  8. As they listen, ask students to take notes on the chapter, focusing on details that may foreshadow later events.

  9. Ask students to discuss the struggles of a turtle to cross the road, described in the reading. The turtle’s struggles in this chapter parallel the challenges of the Joad family at the beginning of the novel.

  10. Ask students to suggest reading strategies that they can use as they explore the intercalary chapters. Focus their discussion on ways that these general chapters in the novel compare to and inform the specific chapters about the Joad family.

  11. As they read, if desired, ask students to note the topic of each chapter. Students can use these notes as a reference for later discussion as well as for resources for their museum exhibit projects. Alternatively, you can share an outline of the intercalary chapters with the class.

  12. If additional class time remains, students can gather as groups, based on research topics, and share ideas and plans for their museum exhibits.

  13. Assign reading for students to complete before the next session.

Subsequent Sessions

  1. Continue to work through the novel, taking as many sessions as necessary to cover the text.

  2. Pay particular attention to the intercalary chapters, asking students to discuss how the chapters foreshadow and parallel events that occur in the chapters about the Joads.

  3. Draw connections between events in the chapters about the Joads and the research topics that students are exploring. For instance, in Chapter 22, the Joads arrive at Weedpatch Camp. Introduce the students to the historical aspects of the real camp which Steinbeck based his camp upon.

  4. As appropriate, ask students to share research they have completed for their museum exhibits that connects to the sections of the novel that have been read during the class session.

  5. For specific discussion questions, use the Teacher’s Guide from the Penguin Group and The Great Books Foundation.

  6. Allow time through the reading of the novel for students to complete Internet and library research on their museum artifacts as well as to create their artifacts and accompanying curator’s notes in class. Direct students to some of the Websites available in the Resources section for their research.

back to top


After Reading the Novel (four to five sessions)

Research and Composing Sessions

  1. Allow three to four sessions for students to complete research and assemble their exhibits. These sessions should be relatively unstructured, with students working independently or with peers as needed.

  2. Explain the plans for the final presentation session, indicating how students will display their artifacts and how the class will view the exhibits.

  3. Ask students to return to their Museum Exhibit Planning Sheet to ensure that they have taken their original ideas into account as they have created their artifacts.

  4. If desired, complete a minilesson on the curator’s notes, using an example from a museum guide. The online notes for Kermit the Frog, from the National Museum of American History, provide a suitable example. Remind students of the requirement for documentation in these notes.

  5. Point students’ attention to the Museum Exhibit Rubric, and emphasize the requirements of the activity. If time allows, students can share their exhibits with peers, who can provide feedback based on the criteria included in the rubric.

  6. Circulate through the classroom as students work, providing feedback and support as appropriate.

Final Session

  1. Give students five to ten minutes to setup their exhibits and notes for others to see.

  2. Arrange students in pairs or small groups to move through the classroom museum.

  3. Indicate how students should move from exhibit to exhibit, in order to arrange traffic patterns. The method you choose will depend upon your classroom space and the number of exhibits.

  4. Once everyone has had a chance to view all the artifacts in the exhibits, gather the class and ask students to talk about historical facts and details that stood out in the exhibits as well as connections between the exhibits and the novel.

  5. Collect the exhibits at the end of the class, and provide students with formal feedback, using the Museum Exhibit Rubric.

back to top



  • To extend genre discussion through the reading of the novel, tap the ideas outlined in the English Journal article “Blending Multiple Genres in Theme Baskets,” which includes booklists that can be used for The Grapes of Wrath.

  • Take students’ museum exhibits online by asking them to create a Website for their artifacts. Students can use The Promise of Freedom page as a model.

back to top



  • Monitor student interaction and progress during group work to assess social skills and assist any students having problems with the project.

  • Use the Museum Exhibit Rubric to assess specific exhibits.

back to top