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The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Teacher Guide by Rebecca Ray

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our High School ELA Category!

The Pearl Lesson Plans

Student Activities for The Pearl By John Steinbeck Include:

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.

The Pearl By John Steinbeck Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Plot Diagram for The Pearl


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A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a novel. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and help students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a novel with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the novel in the sequence using Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.



Example Plot Diagram for The Pearl

Exposition

The story opens 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.


Conflict

One day Coyotito is bitten by a scorpion and Kino and Juana do not have the money for treatment. So, Kino goes out in the ocean in search of a pearl.


Rising Action

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 the villagers. After Coyotito is cured, Juana and Kino end up fighting off thieves, robbers, and themselves when the greed and lust for the pearl become unbearable.


Climax

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.


Falling Action

The family leaves to travel up the mountain to get to the capital city. Kino realizes that they are being followed and he tries to create diversions for the trackers in the form of false trails. When he finally finds the trackers he attempts to attack them. Yet, at the same moment both 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.


Resolution

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.


(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of The Pearl.


  1. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  2. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  3. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Themes, Symbols, and Motifs in The Pearl

Valuable aspects of any literary work are its themes, symbols, and motifs. Part of the Common Core ELA standards is to introduce and explain these complex concepts. However, abstract ideas are often difficult for students to anatomize without assistance. Using a storyboard, students can visually demonstrate their understanding of these concepts, and master analysis of literary elements. For best practices, see our article with specific lesson plan steps on setting up your classroom and activities to teach themes, symbols, and motifs.

In the classroom, students can track the rich symbolism Steinbeck uses throughout the novel.


Themes, Motifs, and Imagery to Look for and Discuss

Greed/Money

The saying goes, “Money is the root of all evil”, and it is not an exception in The Pearl. As Kino seeks to gain wealth from the pearl, the thought of what riches it brings makes him lose sight of what is truly most important in life. Not only does it change Kino by turning him into a destructive murderer, but it also changes the people around him. Villagers who were once his friend became jealous and greedy, stopping at nothing - including burning his home - to get the pearl.


Fate

Fate is an universal theme that often lends itself to understanding a person’s destiny. While events happen that seem to be random and out of a person's control, these events change their life. Even actions of their own doing have great effects and outcomes. However, it is fate that lends us the thematic idea that our lives are not controlled by chance, but rather by a predetermined fate. In the end, a series of coincidences leads to the tragic death of Coyotito even after he had already escaped death once. The reader is left to believe that his death was inevitable.


The Pearl

Throughout the novel, the pearl lends itself to being a complex and complicated symbol. From the exposition to the climax, the pearl’s meaning changes. In the beginning it seems to symbolize fate, fortune, and good luck. However, by the end it is coveted and represents all the evil and greed in the world. Breaking the symbol down further the reader can see the pearl as fate itself. Grown from a piece of sand lying on the ocean floor, its existence purely happened by chance. However, due to its rarity, a monetary value was assigned to it, making it a materialistic item.


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Character Evolution


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An essential part of any story is its characters. Characters drive plot forward and help create and resolve conflicts. Characters are also the main reason a story exists. However, as a story is told, characters often change or evolve with the plot. Whether being hit by forces outside their control or due to figurative internal battles, many of a character's attributes are a result of the events that occur. For students, it is important to track the evolution of a character so that they can fully understand what effects and influences can change a person. Using the character evolution lesson plan below, engage your students with a character evolution map!

A fantastic assignment for students would be to track Kino’s character progression throughout the novel. The pearl clearly affects Kino more than any other character and because of this, he evolves and changes greatly from the exposition to the resolution. Using the template and example below have your students find quotes or use describing words to explain the change in Kino from the beginning to the end.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows the evolution of Kino throughout the course of The Pearl.


  1. Use the Character Evolution Template to get started.
  2. Break the story down into Exposition, Conflict/Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution. What traits does Kino have?
  3. Illustrate one or more of the traits for each stage of the story.
  4. Identify major events in each part of the story that affected Kino.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Conflict in The Pearl


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Literary conflicts are often taught during ELA units. Building on prior knowledge to achieve mastery level with our students is important. An excellent way to focus on the various types of literary conflict is through storyboarding. Having students choose an example of each literary conflict and depict it using the storyboard creator is a great way to reinforce your lesson!

Conflict is a major recurring element in The Pearl. Much of the conflict stems from the manifestation of greed centered around the pearl.

Examples of Conflict in The Pearl

MAN vs. SELF

When Kino and his family lose their home, they go to Juan Tomas to see if he will hide them. Juan Tomas is worried about the escalating problems that the pearl has brought and thus is briefly indecisive about helping Kino and Juana.


MAN vs. SOCIETY

The fact that the doctor refuses to help Coyotito because his parents are poor is an example of Man vs. Society. The doctor's ignorance to help them because of their social class is a societal issue.


MAN vs. MAN

Juana sees the pearl as evil and a threat. She tries to sneak away with the pearl and throw it back into the ocean; however, Kino catches her and beats her to get the pearl back.


(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows at least three forms of literary conflict in The Pearl.


  1. Identify conflicts in The Pearl.
  2. Categorize each conflict as Character vs. Character, Character vs. Self, Character vs. Society, Character vs. Nature, or Character vs. Technology.
  3. Illustrate conflicts in the cells, using characters from the story.
  4. Write a short description of the conflict below the cell.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Key Vocabulary in The Pearl


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Engage your students through storyboards that use vocabulary from The Pearl. Here is a list of a few vocabulary words commonly taught with the novel, and an example of a visual vocabulary board.

Vocabulary Words from The Pearl

  • estuary
  • indigent
  • sentinel
  • consolation
  • incandescence
  • poultice
  • confirmation
  • consecrated
  • disparagement
  • judicious
  • exhilaration
  • edifice
  • gibbered
  • monotonously
  • petulant
  • escarpment
  • malignant
  • stifling
  • cleft

In the vocabulary board, students can choose to come up with their own use of the word, or find a specific sentence from the text.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of the vocabulary words in The Pearl by creating visualizations.


  1. Choose three vocabulary words from the story and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary.
  3. Write a sentence that uses the vocabulary word.
  4. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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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.



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?


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•   (English) The Pearl   •   (Español) La Perla   •   (Français) La Perle   •   (Deutsch) Die Perle   •   (Italiana) La Perla   •   (Nederlands) De Parel   •   (Português) A Pérola   •   (עברית) הפנינה   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) اللؤلؤة   •   (हिन्दी) मोती   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Жемчужина   •   (Dansk) The Pearl   •   (Svenska) Pärlan   •   (Suomi) Pearl   •   (Norsk) The Pearl   •   (Türkçe) İnci   •   (Polski) Perła   •   (Româna) Perla   •   (Ceština) Pearl   •   (Slovenský) Pearl   •   (Magyar) A Gyöngy   •   (Hrvatski) Biser   •   (български) Перлата   •   (Lietuvos) Pearl   •   (Slovenščina) Pearl   •   (Latvijas) Pearl   •   (eesti) Pearl