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The Pearl Lesson Plans

The Pearl by John Steinbeck is a fascinating story with the age-old moral to be careful what you wish for. The novella features interesting characters, rich themes, and intense conflict to tell the story of what happens when your biggest wish comes true.

Student Activities for The Pearl By John Steinbeck

Essential Questions for The Pearl

  1. Why is money often seen as evil throughout literature?
  2. What shapes a person's life more; fate or free will?
  3. What real life lessons do we learn from literature?

The Pearl Summary

The novella takes place in a remote seaside village where a young family of three live: Kino, Juana, and their infant son, Coyotito. Although they are poor, the family lives a relatively happy life until one day, Coyotito is bitten by a scorpion and his life is threatened. His parents take him to the doctor; however, they are turned away because they do not have payment for his treatment. To remedy this, his father Kino takes their canoe out in search of a pearl that he can sell to pay the doctor.

At home, Juana prays that her husband will find a pearl bigger than any other and her prayers are answered. Kino finds such a large pearl that it attracts attention from all of the villagers. With this large pearl he begins to dream and brag about what he will do with the money. Eventually, the doctor returns and treats Coyotito, and says he will return in an hour. In the meantime, Coyotito grows more ill, prompting Kino to bury the pearl in the corner of the home. When the doctor returns he is able to administer more medicine to help Coyotito. When he is questioning Kino about the pearl, Kino glances to its secret burial place. Knowing he possibly gave its position away, he reburies the pearl under his sleeping mat after the doctor leaves. Kino’s instincts were correct, that night an intruder comes in (presumably the doctor) looking in the corner for the pearl and Kino fights off the intruder.

Instances and incidents like this become frequent, and Kino’s brother, Juan Tomas, warns Kino that all the dealers are in cahoots to underbid him on the pearl. Kino thus decides that they should go to the capital to sell the pearl. Uneasy about the pearl and the negative attention it is bringing onto the family, Juana tries to steal the pearl and dispose of it. When Kino catches her, he beats her badly and leaves her bloodied on the beach. When he returns home he is met by a group of men who attempt to rob him of the pearl. In the scuffle he drops the pearl, which Juana finds on her way back to the house. Seeing her husband distraught over the loss of the pearl and laying next to a dead man, she gives the pearl back to him. Fearing even more danger, Juana warns Kino that he will now be labeled a murderer and that the pearl is bad luck.

The two inevitably decide they must leave. Juana decides to go home to gather their belongings while Kino goes to ready the canoe. However, they are each met with disaster: Kino finds the canoe destroyed and Juana finds the house has been set on fire. Narrowly escaping, the family hides at Juan Tomas's house until it is safe to leave for the capital to sell the pearl.

After days have passed, the three leave to travel up the mountain to get to the capital city. Kino realizes that they are being followed and they sprint up to a cave where Juana and Coyotito hide. Kino then tries to create diversions for the trackers in the form of false trails. When he finally finds them he attempts to attack them. Yet, at the same moment Coyotito and a gunshot are heard. After Kino kills the trackers and rushes back to the cave, he finds that his son has been shot.

Carrying their dead child, they emerge from the mountain back at their village, where the community silently looks on. Kino then takes the pearl and throws it as hard as he can back into the ocean.

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How To Explain The Pearl to Younger Students


Provide Introduction and Context

Start the lesson by explaining the setting, which is a little community by the sea that is home to the Kino, Juana, and Coyotito. Introduce the three major characters, Kino (protagonist), Juana, and Coyotito. Ask the students to get familiar with the setting and the characters first for the discussions later on.


Discuss Themes of Greed and Pride

Students can reflect on the several themes present throughout the story. Greed is an important part of the story and many characters have to face the consequences of their actions after wanting to steal the pearl or get more money out of it. Teachers can talk about good and bad moral values and how students can use this information in their daily lives.


Connect With Other Stories

There are many stories on pride and greed available for younger students to study and understand. The moral lessons of these stories are mainly “Greed is a Curse” or “Pride Hath a Fall”. Students can study these old tales beforehand so they become more familiar with themes and are able to understand the events in the story in a better way.


Give a Creative Activity

Ask the students to sketch a picture of Kino and his family or create a brief letter from Kino to his son Coyotito as a basic writing or drawing project relating to the narrative. Indulging in meaningful creative exercises will help the students understand the story and the characters in a better way.


Promote Curiosity

Encourage the students to be curious and ask any questions that come to their minds. Teachers can politely explain the answer to each question so the students are comfortable discussing their confusion and do not hesitate to ask for help.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Pearl by John Steinbeck

What role does the pearl play in the narrative?

The pearl is a representation of hope and greed. It depicts Kino's hope for a better future for his family. But as the plot develops, it turns into a source of tragedy for Kino and his family.

How did the neighborhood respond to Kino finding the pearl?

People are envious of Kino’s finding in the beginning because no one in the village had ever seen a pearl like that before. Gradually, this envy turns into greed and everyone tries to take away this pearl which results in many tragedies.

What is the moral of the story?

The moral of the story suggests to the readers that a human should not ask for more and always stay humble even after receiving the biggest of blessings. We can see that Kino who tried to save his child eventually lost him because of the same pearl he found to save his life. The story also suggests lessons about greed, haste, and the harsh reality of surviving in this world.

Find more lesson plans and activities like these in our English Language Arts Category!
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