Fun Activities for Students Reading The Pearl by John Steinbeck
Activity #1: CD Project
Music and song play an important role in The Pearl. Although the narrator does not speak of music and song in the traditional sense, it's fun to set the different songs to modern or not-so-modern music. The following project involves creating a CD cover — not an actual CD, although that is an option. The CD cover must include the following:
On the Front
- A colorful front display with a scene from the novella.
- The name of the CD that relates to one of the novel's themes — "The Pearl of Great Price," "Conspiring Fate," "Greed! Greed! Greed!" for example.
- The name of the band that relates to one of the characters or symbols — Crooked Doctors, Scorpions of Evil, Kino's Killers, for example.
Inside the Front Cover
- A list of 10 songs — at least 5 of them must be made up titles. Of those ten songs, there must be the following: (1) "The Song of Family" with a subtitle of a real song; (2) "The Song of Evil" with a subtitle of a real song; (3) "The Song of the Pearl" with the subtitle of a real song.
- Lyrics for at least 1 song, made up by the student. The lyrics should contain thematic elements of the novella.
On the Back
- A list of 10 songs — the same 10 songs that are included in the inside cover.
- A colorful background.
- Student projects should demonstrate awareness of theme, character, and other literary elements.
These CD covers look great as a display. Other options include class presentations.
Activity #2: Symbolism
Some read "The Pearl" as an allegory (for an excellent lesson that covers allegory, follow the link). Everyone recognizes Steinbeck's use of symbolism. This visual learning activity will help students think symbolically.
- Discuss the following symbols in The Pearl: (1) the pearl; (2) the canoe; (3) the doctor; (4) songs; (5) the scorpion; (6) the gulf; (7) the town; (8) colors
- Create a poster containing as many symbols as you feel satisfy your students' need for higher level thinking. The poster should include a labeled picture for each symbol and possible meanings.
To get students moving and thinking, use this following matching activity.
- Write each of the eight symbols on individual note cards.
- Draw a picture of each symbol on individual note cards.
- Write a symbolic meaning for each symbol on individual note cards.
- Give each student an individual note card, facing down.
- Instruct students to find their two matches, without talking. Time them for added fun.
- Once all matches are found, instruct students to discuss/present their symbol to the rest of the class.
Activity #3: Debate
Could the tragedy of The Pearl have been avoided? It's up for debate.
- After discussing the novel, force students to choose one of the following positions: (1) Kino and Juana's fate was unavoidable; or (2) Kino and Juana could have avoided their fate.
- Instruct students to cast their votes by sitting on a particular side of the room.
- Undecided voters can sit in the middle.
- Students will try to persuade those in the middle and those on the other side with evidence from the story.
The purpose of the debate is to motivate students to think at a higher level. For assessment, have students write a persuasive essay or paragraph.