Modernizing the Tiflin Ranch

Adapting the Text
Ongoing Activity
Grades 8–12
Science, Entrepreneurship, Art, Math
Research, Writing, Small Group, Oral Presentation, Cumulative


  • Students will gain a greater understanding of how a modern farm works compared to the Tiflin ranch.
  • Students will enhance their research and analysis skills


In The Red Pony, Steinbeck gives his readers a window into rural life in the Salinas Valley during the 1920s/30s. In many ways, life on the Tiflin ranch is radically different from that of a modern farmer or rancher.

In this activity, students will apply their research skills to examine the Tiflin ranch scientifically. In small groups they will create plans to “upgrade” the ranch to a more modern, more “green” business.

Materials Needed/Preparation

  • If possible, arrange for time in a computer lab or for the use of a classroom set of computers.
  • Copies of The Red Pony

Estimated Time

2-5 class periods


  • Journal/discussion topic: In what ways has farming/ranching changed since the 1920s?
  • ~Answers will vary. Most answers will center around technological and chemical changes (tractors, pesticides, etc.)
  • ~Continue the discussion, guiding it towards how farms and ranches are becoming more “green.”
  • ~~Bio mass, organic farming, free range, solar power, hydroelectric power, wind power, natural gas power, bio diesel, etc.
  • Create small student groups. (Consider basing this on student interest in the different technologies and ways to modernize the ranch.)
  • Consider assigning each group several, or all, of the following:
  • ~Create a fictitious company that wants to modernize the ranch.
  • ~Choose a service to provide (green technologies, modern equipment, etc.)
  • ~Create a company name, logo, slogan, mission statement, etc.
  • ~Create professional business letters and brochures introducing their product.
  • ~Research facts and statistics in order to create graphs and illustrations of the product/service.
  • ~Give oral presentations where students pitch their ideas, as if in a business meeting.
  • Depending on student ability and resources available, consider having students create professional presentations using desktop publishing software.

Post Activity/Takeaways/Follow-up

Post Activity

  • Consider the “Extension of the Novel” activity in Passport to Literacy. In this activity, include references to how the ranch could be modernized, perhaps incorporating some of the business proposals created in this activity.
  • Consider the “Poetry” activity in Passport to Literacy. Student poems could focus on the changes Jody would have experienced as he grew up as a rancher/farmer.
  • ~See also Found Poetry


  • This activity not only challenges students to utilize what they have learned in science and math class, but also to venture into the entrepreneurial world.


  • If possible, plan a field trip to a modern working farm or ranch.
  • If possible, plan a field trip to an historic farm or ranch.
  • ~In the Santa Cruz, CA, area, Wilder Ranch is an excellent choice.


  • There are many elements to this activity. Students should be assessed based on individual abilities and participation in each portion of the activity.
  • More generally, work should be assessed on the following:
  • ~How thorough was student research on their technology?
  • ~Letters and brochures should be thoroughly proofread and edited. Students should adhere to teacher guidelines and expectations for written work.
  • ~Oral presentations should be assessed similar to a persuasive speech.

California State Content Standards Met

  • Visual Arts: Content Standards 6-12
  • ~Artistic Perception: 1
  • ~Creative Expression: 2
  • ~Connections, Relationships, Applications: 5

Common Core State Standards Met

  • Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
  • ~Key Ideas and Details: 1, 2
  • Writing Standards 6-12
  • ~Text Types and Purposes: 1, 2, 3
  • ~Production and Distribution of Writing: 4, 5, 6
  • ~Research to Build and Present Knowledge: 7, 8, 9
  • ~Range of Writing: 10
  • Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12
  • ~Comprehension and Collaboration: 1, 2 3
  • ~Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas: 4, 5, 6
  • Language Standards 6-12
  • ~Conventions of Standards English: 1, 2, 3
  • Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects 6-12
  • ~Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: 7, 8
  • Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
  • ~Text Types and Purposes: 1, 2
  • ~Production and Distribution of Writing: 4, 5, 6
  • ~Research to Build and Present Knowledge: 7, 8, 9

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