Getting Started
Pre-Reading Activity
Grades 6–12
Language Arts, History
Entire Class, Individual, Research, Writing


  • After viewing the PowerPoint presentation (see Travels with Charley and John Steinbeck Presentation), students will be able to:
  • ~Gain knowledge of the life of John Steinbeck.
  • ~Be familiar with the context of the book.
  • ~Understand the setting and themes.
  • ~Gain knowledge of the main characters.


Through a brief PowerPoint presentation, students will be introduced to John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley, its characters, the setting, and the contextual background, including the Great Depression.

Students need to be aware that Travels with Charley is not a novel, it is a travelogue. Rather, it is divided into four parts that chart Steinbeck’s journey across the United States and back. His journey took place over three months in 1960. His aim was to “see” America, to reconnect with the country and the land which he was writing about.

All references on this site are to the following version: Steinbeck, John. Travels with Charley. New York: Penguin Group, 1997.

Materials Needed/Preparation

  • View the basic sample PowerPoint introduction to Travels with Charley.
  • Create an initial PowerPoint presentation (based on the sample on this site) with an introduction to Steinbeck, photos, the context of the novel, its characters, and themes.
  • The PowerPoint presentation can be shown via laptop computer/LCD projector, interactive white board, or television.
  • Students will need their Travels with Charley notebooks.

Estimated Time

1 – 2 class periods


  • During the PowerPoint presentation, students should be taking notes in their Travels with Charley notebooks.
  • After viewing, initiate a discussion of what the novel may be about. This should be a free-form discussion based on what students have learned so far before opening the book.
  • Students should also take notes based on what other classmates have said. This will prepare them later for the Mining for Examples activity.
  • Teachers should also ask students what they know about the Great Depression.

Post Activity/Takeaways/Follow-up


  • Students can discuss/write what they know about Steinbeck.


  • Have students write an evaluation of the activity and what they have learned.
  • Students can further research/present information about Steinbeck. Have students briefly research, via the Internet, more about John Steinbeck and the Great Depression. This will be the basis of a class discussion the following day.


  • After checking students’ notes based on the PowerPoint presentation, teachers may assign a quiz based on the presentation.

Common Core State Standards Met

  • Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
  • ~Craft and Structure: 6
  • ~Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: 9
  • Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-12
  • ~Key Ideas and Details: 1
  • Writing Standards 6-12
  • ~Research to Build and Present Knowledge: 8
  • Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12
  • ~Comprehension and Collaboration: 2
  • Language Standards 6-12
  • ~Knowledge of Language: 3
  • ~Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: 4,5,6
  • Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
  • ~Craft and Structure: 4
  • ~Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: 7
  • Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects 6-12
  • ~Research to Build and Present Knowledge: 8

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