Reading Comprehension
Ongoing Activity
Grades 6–12
Language Arts, History
Small Group, Entire Class, Individual, Performing Arts, Writing, Out of Seat


  • Students will define new vocabulary words from Of Mice and Men and place them on a “Word Wall.”
  • Students will identify the etymology of many of the words.
  • Students will be able to use these new words in sentences/short skits.


Students need to understand and define words from the novel with which they are not familiar. In small, pre-assigned pairs, students will be responsible for choosing and defining, for the class as a whole, vocabulary words.

Ultimately, it should be the individual student’s responsibility to make their own vocabulary lists and definitions, as well as the etymology of every fifth word (or another amount chosen by the teacher).  

However, the following initial words are provided, because they are unfamiliar slang words used during the 1930s.

  1. bindle: a bed roll and/or pack of personal belongings
  2. jack: money
  3. graybacks: lice
  4. tick: mattress
  5. buck: a man
  6. bucker: those who move or load heavy objects (sacks of grain, for example)
  7. skinner: a driver of a draft (team of animals)
  8. tart: prostitute
  9. mules: shoes or slippers
  10. found: free food and lodgings in addition to wages
  11. hoosegow: jail
  12. hame: part of the collar for a draft animal
  13. booby hatch: insane asylum
  14. floozy: cheap, immoral woman
  15. snooker: a variation of pool played with 15 red balls and 6 balls of assorted colors

Materials Needed/Preparation

  • Copies of Of Mice and Men
  • Classroom dictionaries
  • Access to myetymology.com
  • Of Mice and Men notebooks
  • Butcher paper/markers
  • Copies of Slang Terms Organizer (blank or completed version). Optional.

Estimated Time

Ongoing—teachers should take time as needed/available (perhaps 5-10 minutes at the end of each class devoted to Of Mice and Men).


  • For vocabulary terms, students should become “vocabulary partners” with someone at the beginning of the unit. At the end of each Of Mice and Men class (5-10 minutes, time permitting), partners should meet and identify and define new vocabulary words. Eventually, all words defined in class will be shared by all on a “Word Wall.”
  • Teachers should explain that “etymology” is not the definition of a word but its linguistic origin and how it has changed over the years. The website listed in “Materials Needed/Preparation” is a useful source for searching the etymology of a word. As suggested, students need not provide the etymology for every word.

The Word Wall:

  • All student-identified vocabulary words (or other key terms) and definitions should be written and posted on butcher paper in the classroom; this is essentially an ongoing “word wall,” which students have created and of which they can be proud.
  • A word wall is a display area in the classroom devoted strictly to vocabulary/terms that will be used, or are being used, during the course of a particular unit of study.
  • A word wall may be unfamiliar to secondary teachers (it is mostly associated with the elementary classroom). Regardless, the word wall is wonderful for all ages and promotes vocabulary growth leading ultimately to improvement in literacy. It is a great device for all, but especially for those students who do not speak English as their first language.
  • Use butcher paper to tape up (or place in “pockets,” etc.) words/definitions around the classroom. Then, as teachers or students introduce new vocabulary, add the words to the wall. Encourage students to add small drawings as well.
  • All students will be expected to write in their notebooks the words and definitions.
  • For ongoing homework, students will be expected to use all new words in original sentences.
  • Ongoing, students (in small groups) may perform a short skit using all the words defined so far.

Post Activity/Takeaways/Follow-up


  • This is an ongoing activity, but student partners should be sure to maintain their list of words and definitions. After the unit, partners can switch and test each other on words/definitions for a final Of Mice and Men vocabulary examination.


  • Teachers will monitor and grade student-based tests.


Test students regularly on words and definitions. The frequency of such vocabulary quizzes (with the Word Wall covered, of course!) is up to the individual teachers. A final examination would also be recommended.

Common Core State Standards Met

  • Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
  • ~Key Ideas and Details: 1
  • ~Craft and Structure: 4
  • ~Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity: 10
  • Writing Standards 6-12
  • ~Text Types and Purposes: 3
  • ~Production and Distribution of Writing: 4, 5
  • Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12
  • ~Comprehension and Collaboration: 1
  • Language Standards 6-12
  • ~Conventions of Standard English: 1, 2
  • ~Knowledge of Language: 3
  • ~Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: 4, 5, 6
  • Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
  • ~Key Ideas and Details: 1
  • ~Craft and Structure: 4
  • ~Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity: 10
  • Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects 6-12
  • ~Production and Distribution of Writing: 4, 5

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