Planning a Journey

Getting Started
Pre-Reading Activity
Grades 6–8
Language Arts, History, Science
Small Group or Individual, Research


  • Students will place themselves into Steinbeck’s position and plan a journey of their own.
  • Students will examine the differences in technology between their journey and that of Steinbeck’s.


This is a light exercise to help get students into the mood of reading Travels with Charley. Steinbeck devotes Part One (and continues into Part Two) of the book to describing the preparations he made for his journey. This activity helps to get students into the journeying mindset by asking them to consider what kinds of preparations they would make.

This activity can be expanded or adapted to a history or science class by asking students to plan a journey during a different time period or to another planet.

This activity can be done as a part of pre-reading, or can be done after reading Part One of the book.

Materials Needed/Preparation

  • Copies of Travels with Charley
  • Copies of Journey Organizer (optional)
  • Decide on the parameters of the imaginary journey, consider some or all of the following:
  • ~Time period
  • ~Method of travel
  • ~Length of travel (distance and/or time)
  • ~Number of companions (if any)

Estimated Time

  • 1 period


As a Pre-reading Activity

  • Prior to reading Part One, have students “prepare” for a journey.
  • ~Provide students with parameters for this journey (as mentioned above).
  • ~Give students a copy of the Journey Organizer (optional).
  • ~This can be done as either an in-class assignment or as homework.
  • ~~Consider allowing students to work with a partner or in small groups.


  • The Journey Organizer should serve as an organizational tool. Students should present their planning in one or more fashions:
  • ~Oral presentation – students/groups verbally list to the class the items they would pack and the preparations they would make along with their reasoning.
  • ~~See group-to-class discussion for more ideas on how to facilitate this activity.
  • ~Written form – students/groups write about the items they would pack and the preparations they would make along with their reasoning. Consider requiring students to:
  • ~~Emulating Steinbeck’s style (see Show, Don't Tell).
  • ~~Write in narrative form (not necessarily in Steinbeck’s style).
  • ~~As a well-reasoned, short essay.
  • ~~As dialogue.

After Reading Part One (and up to page 22)

  • This activity can be done after students have read Part One and at least to page 22 of Part Two.
  • ~Individually or in small groups, have students review Part One of the book and compile a list of items packed and preparations made by Steinbeck. Use the Journey Organizer if needed.
  • ~After allowing time for students to create their lists, bring the class together to share findings.
  • ~~See group-to-class discussion for more ideas on how to facilitate this activity.

Post Activity/Takeaways/Follow-up

Post Activity

  • Make predictions on what role, if any, Steinbeck’s chosen gear and preparations will have on his journey.


  • Students will have seen Steinbeck’s preparations from his perspective and have compared them to the types of preparations they would make.


  • At the end of the book, have students check their predictions: were they correct?


  • How well did students adhere to the parameters given?
  • ~Were historical and scientific realities taken into consideration?
  • Student writing can be assessed for its style, grammar, and for how well it addressed (and stayed on) the topic

Common Core State Standards Met

  • Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
  • ~Key Ideas and Details: 1
  • ~Craft and Structure: 5
  • Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-12
  • ~Key Ideas and Details: 1, 3
  • ~Craft and Structure: 6
  • 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
  • Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12
  • ~Comprehension and Collaboration: 1, 2
  • ~Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas: 4, 5
  • Language Standards 6-12
  • ~Knowledge of Language: 3
  • ~Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: 4, 5

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