Of Mice and Men – A Study in Human Behaviour

English SMSC Blog – March 2018 by R. McGarry

Of Mice and Men – A Study in Human Behaviour

‘Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other’.
John Steinbeck – Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men was historically a GCSE text but is now removed from the curriculum. However, the Hazeley English Team believe this novella to be so rich in language and a fascinating insight into human behaviours, it was decided to continue to teach the book to Year 9. Of all the text studied at Hazeley, ‘Of Mice and Men’ is undoubtedly one of the firm favourites with students. The tale of Lennie and George and their quest to find work during America’s Great Depression is a journey that students feel they walk with them. Every aspect of the Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural (SMSC) curriculum can be explored through this tale. Prejudice against the aged, the disabled and those from ‘other’ races are debated. Bullying, violence, sexual violence – all topics open for rich debate and of course there is the shocked response at the end when George has the moral dilemma of whether to allow Lennie to be killed or pull the trigger himself – apologies for the spoiler if you haven’t read the book!

War Poets – entertainers or propagandists?
The Writings of War unit of work studied by Year 8 this spring term provided a rich array of texts from the last century. This is a truly cross-curricular programme of work that links in with the teaching of the World Wars in History. Students analysed the propaganda posters of the First World War and explored the morality of encouraging young men to sign up. Animated discussion took place making comparisons between the British culture of the period and how this influenced the message from the Government and its impact on the would-be soldiers with today’s society. Much debate followed as to whether the recruitment posters and propaganda would have the same impact today. The unit also studied some of war literature’s well known poetry from poets such as Rupert Brooks and Wilfred Owen. Comparisons were made between poets who glorified the war and in effect, supported the war campaign through literature with poets who spoke of the harsh reality of trench warfare and its impact on the soldiers. This work develops higher thinking skills among students where they examine the role of literature in times of conflict and raised high level questioning around the role of writers and their place in society as influencers.

This engaging unit has helped students prepare for the demanding level of analysis of conflict texts for GCSE but also provided a wonderful opportunity for discussion and debate around the social and moral aspects of those involved. It has been wonderful seeing students this early in their academic journey making poignant comparisons with areas of conflict within their own cultures in today’s society.

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