The novel is quite long, and I do not use the entire text. I select chapters from the novel (special thanks to Meg Guanci and Brian Deveney for helping me select) and use it to teach students about:
- the time period--1900s
- the disadvantages the working class had
- the way immigrants were treated
- the "American Dream" and what really happened
- food at the time
- industrialization and the ideas of scientific management
We get through the early chapters and I ask students to create their own discussion questions. You can see example student generated discussion questions on my resource page and then I like to show them the film from California KPBS called Food: A Project Envision Documentary. I know that there are other films, like Food, Inc. and Fast Food Nation but this documentary covers a great deal of material in 27 minutes and it connects to my students in the San Diego area.
You can spend anywhere from three class periods on this topic to a project that could take four weeks. Notice this-- no textbook readings!