Old Man and the Sea Projects

For today’s lesson, I wanted to spice things up a bit. Over the past few days, the students in my Honors 10 classes had read The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. The book is small, easy to read, but packed with symbolism and author influences. I wanted to see how much the students had comprehended, but I also wanted to challenge them to think deeply about the book–going beyond the simple plot line.To see how much they’d learned from the book and to start the class in a fun way, I stood up at the front of the room and said this:

“Okay, pretend I’m an idiot and I’ve never heard of The Old Man and the Sea. What would you tell me? What would I need to know?”

This launched a discussion. I was told, first, that there was an old man. So I simply wrote ‘old man’ on the board. Then I asked, “Does he have a name?” Playing dumb, they had to fill me in on all the important details and I was able to make the lesson humorous:

“Okay, so you’re telling me an old man goes and fishes. Fails. Goes back and fishes again. Fails. Finally catches a fish. Loses the fish, so essentially fails. The end?!”

Getting the kids to laugh was goal #1. Goal #2 was pushing them to think about the ‘why’. Why is this book so important and widely read? Why do we care about the Old Man and his story? What makes Hemingway such a great author?

I pushed them to analyze the symbolism. I pushed them to dig deep. And the discussion was amazing!

Here’s a short clip from the lesson. It might be hard to hear, but it captures the excitement of the students in our whole-group discussion.


The discussion took the majority of the period, which was awesome. When we were finshed talking about the book, the symbolism, the main points, the plot, and a little about Hemingway, I broke the students into groups [pre-assigned, of course]. Each group was given a topic, whether ‘Author Influence,’ ‘Exposition,’ or ‘Symbolism’ for example. Each group had to dig even deeper, creating a presentation on their given topic to help fellow classmates have all the important facts and textual evidence in the chance there was a research paper coming up (hint hint!). The presentations would take place the following week, and students would be graded on presentation skills, ability to use and organize information, use of a visual, and quality of a handout for classmates.

Here are the group sheets I created, adapted from other sources:

Group 1, Group 2, Group 3, Group 4, Group 5, Group 6, Group 7, Group 8.

This is an example group sheet, Group 1, as well as the Rubric I created for the projects!

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