I was first introduced to The Outsiders in 6th grade by my teacher Mrs. McGary, and while we read most of the book by listening to it in class on tape (which can be kind of boring if we’re being honest), I was riveted by the plot and the connections to what I was going through as a pre-adolescent myself.
And because you know we’re all about rigor and engagement here at EB Academics (if you didn’t know that, now you do!) when we sat down to create our The Outsiders Novel Study Unit, we knew we had to incorporate both of these key ingredients in order to keep students wanting to keep reading – just like my 6th-grade self wanted to!
So, here are three simple The Outsiders Activities you can add to your novel study in order to up the ante in your classroom:
#1 Pre-reading: Web Scavenger Hunt
One of the things we’re big on here at EB Academics is hooking students right at the beginning of a new unit. We want to pique their interest before we even dig into the text.
In this pre-reading web scavenger hunt, students search the internet for information about the 1960s. Even though The Outsiders is set during this time period, so many of its themes are still relevant to today, but students might have trouble understanding the story without some knowledge of the time period.
For this activity, you’ll want to provide students with a hunt handout that has them scouring the internet for trends of the time, important figures from the 1960s, or even popular movies. For the activity we created and use in class, we provide about 8 different categories students should complete, including the three mentioned above.
The overarching goal here is to get students interested from the beginning, but also provide them with some knowledge of this time period because the characters in the novel are affected by the trends, norms, and even politics of the time.
#2 Ponyboy Found Poem
If you know me, you know I love found poetry, and what better way to help students understand the topics of identity and expectations in The Outsiders than a little found poetry?
We like to use this particular activity after reading Chapter 3 together because, at this point in the novel, Ponyboy is struggling to come to terms with who he is and where he fits in. We want students to really dig deep into his character and what he’s going through. What makes up Ponyboy’s identity? What about the people he associates with? Society’s expectations of him? Or even his own feelings about the world?
There’s so much to unpack already in the novel, and this Ponyboy Found Poem Activity is a great place for students to start to highlight Ponyboy’s identity.
For this particular activity, you’ll want to have students identify any words, phrases, or short lines from the text that they feel connect with who Ponyboy is. Students will then compose their found poem however you see fit, but we like to require our students to include at least 12 lines.
While found poetry is great, we still need to take this to the next level with our students, so in our novel study unit, we require students to them write a paragraph reflection that explains exactly how their poem highlights Ponyboy’s identity.
#3 A Night at the Drive-In Extension Activity
We like to use this final activity for The Outsiders as an extension activity after we’ve finished reading the novel together. It’s a really fun way to challenge students to dig into others’ perspectives which, of course, is one of the novel’s big ideas!
For this activity, students will be assigned (or they can choose) the role of either a “Soc” or a “greaser.” You’ll want to turn your classroom into a drive-in with some fun decorations (maybe even some movie grub like popcorn and candy) to really add to the atmosphere.
Provide students with 5-6 movie titles and messages that go along with that movie (remember, they’re spending the class period at the drive-in!). You can see an example of one of the ones we’ve included in our novel study unit below. Each of these cards will be placed around your classroom at different stations for students to “watch.”
At each station, students will be required to write down how the greasers feel about this specific movie and how the Socs feel about it. Students need to justify their reasoning for each response – why would a greaser feel this way? Why would a Soc feel this way?
Once students have rotated to all of the stations and “seen” all of the movies, come back as a class and have a whole group discussion. Ask students:
- How did the greasers and Socs feel differently (or similarly) about the movies’ messages?
- What accounts for these perspectives?
Students might be surprised to discover how many ways in which the Socs and greasers are actually alike!
We would love to know if you try one of these The Outsiders activities in your classroom! Please tag us and share on Instagram @ebacademics so we can see what you’re up to!