The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is a great coming-of-age novel that touches upon many themes, the main one being the eternal conflict between high school cliques and differing social stratas. This lesson plan will illustrate to students how even kids "given the rough breaks" can overcome adversity.
Greasers vs. Socs
This lesson plan is designed to engage students in various challenges, but in the end, will teach them that even kids who have "unfair" breaks in life can work doubly hard in order succeed. Greasers will be given a disadvantage in each relay challenge, while Socs are given a slight advantage. Just like in S.E. Hinton's novel, The Outsiders, Greasers "have all the rough breaks", according to Ponyboy, and the Socs are born into wealth and prosperity. This relay will illustrate (on a smaller scale) how Ponyboy and his brothers are choosing to fight through their disadvantages to overcome the statistics and make something of themselves. Students will also be posed this challenge: Do they give up or do they work harder to make the Socs advantages in each challenge inconsequential?
Implementing the Lesson Plan
1. Divide your classes evenly into Greasers and Socs. If you want to make the relay event even more fun and memorable for your students, give them advance notice and have them dress the part of their character. In the past, I've even had students make tee shirts just for the relay race! The possibilities are endless, and you may be surprised how eager many students are to dress up for your challenge!
2. Supples you will need to collect for the race:
2 golf balls
Large Serving Spoon
Regular Silverware Spoon
Two jump ropes
Two rolling chairs, or skateboards
2 koosh balls or soft balls
2 trash cans
2 Sleeping bags
3. Secure an area with ample room to run and move around. Gym, Cafeteria, or a long, wide hallway are all great locations for your event. A word of caution, though: Students will be very excited and loud during your relay race, so pick a place that will not distract classes around you! You want students to be excited and loud, but also in control. Make sure you set clear parameters (and stress the importance of completing each task SAFELY) before beginning the race. I have found that teenage boys can be extremely competitive and take the posed "challenges" to an unsafe and reckless level if they are not kept in check!
4. Before you begin the challenges, share with students that just like in the novel, Socs will be given a slight advantage in each challenge. The advantage won't be so great that they are guaranteed a victory, but just enough to frustrate the Greasers. Discuss with students and have them reflect and share what Greasers must do in order to succeed in each challenge. Reflect on the two types of Greasers Ponyboy described in the novel: Greasers, like his friends, and hoods like the the Shepard Gang. What is the difference, and how can they relate it to the challenges they are about to endure?
Challenge Number One: The Golf Ball Race
Designate a distance students will have to walk down and back to, and give the Socs the large serving spoon and Greasers the regular-sized silverware spoon.
Tell students they must carry the golf ball in the spoon to the other end and back without dropping the ball. If they drop the ball, they must return to the starting line and begin again. Students MUST NOT touch the ball and must hold the spoon on the stem. (Many of my 8th graders have found ways to creatively cheat if I do not lay out specific rules before beginning!)
The first team to have each member complete the challenge, wins! If you have uneven teams, make sure you have a student go twice to keep the challenge even.
Challenge Number Two: Jump Rope Race
Have students run to a designated stopping point to complete their jump roping, and run back to their line for the next team member to go.
Greasers will have to complete ten jumps, while Socs will only have to complete eight before running back to their line.
After completing their jumps, they will drop the rope and leave it for the next team member. Passing off the rope can be a bit precarious, so just have them leave the ropes at the designated spot.
I do not make them complete the designated number in a row, just because it can take FOREVER if you require them to complete the jumps in a row before running back to their team!
Challenge Number Three: Rolling Chair or Skate Board Race
Students will roll themselves to your designated stopping point, and back to their team mates.
Greasers will only be allowed use one foot to propel themselves, while Socs are allowed to use both feet.
They must keep all four wheels of the chair on the ground, and their bottom in the seat!
Greaser can hold their foot up or sit on it, but once they choose which leg they are using to use, they cannot switch.
Challenge Number Four: "Mary Had a Little Lamb"
Pass out sticky notes to Greasers.
Pass out black markers (the fatter markers work best for this challenge).
Pass out notebook paper, or computer paper to the Socs.
Pass out pens or pencils to the Socs.
Instruct students that they cannot write on the back of their sticky note or paper, and they cannot abbreviate the first part of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" (The must write, "Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb. Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow.")
They cannot begin writing until you say "go", and then have students run to you to stack their writing. The first team to stack their writing and be seated, wins. Double check that they have written down every word, and did not use the back of their sheets.
Breaking the writing rules will disqualify the winning team!
Challenge Number Five: Koosh Ball Toss
Using two trash cans, put them at differing distances from the starting line.
Obviously, put the Socs can a foot closer than the Greasers.
Each team member will stay behind the start line and toss the koosh ball in the trash can
If they miss the trash can, they have to retrieve the ball and go back to line and keep trying until they make it.
Each team member must make it into the can before moving on to the next member
First to have every team mate shoot and score, wins!
Challenge Number Six: Sleeping Bag Pull
Nylon sleeping bags work best for this challenge, and dragging them on tile and uncarpeted floors is also best!
The object of the challenge is to drag each team member (one at a time) on the sleeping bag to the finish line, drop them off, and pick up the other team member.
The first team to drag each member to the finishing point, wins.
Teams may alternate "draggers" but every team member must ride the bag at some point (for example, if one team member decides to be the designated dragger, he too must ride at the end of the race before the team can win the challenge)
Make sure riders have their back facing the end of the bag that is being dragged, so team members will not fall backwards during the race and hit their heads.
Give Socs the advantage by making them drag their team mates a shorter distance than the Greasers.
After the race, have students respond to the following questions, by writing in their journals or on a separate sheet paper that they will turn in for a grade.
1. What advantages were given to the Soc team in each challenge?
2. How did the advantages or disadvantages make you feel?
3. What lessons can be learned about the real world through this activity?
Have them reflect on and discuss the questions before writing their responses, because many students will see the real-world connections that other students may not see.