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Teaching Guide

Teaching The Old Man and the Sea

It's your way or the Hemingway.


The Old Man and the Sea may seem like a short swim, but this Sea is deep. You'll need to help your students learn to dive—figuratively—into the text. And that means close reading.

In this guide you will find

  • an activity analyzing the historical and political context of the period.
  • reading quizzes to be sure students aren't just telling fish stories.
  • pop culture connections to Family Guy, South Park, and The Simpsons.

And much more.

No need for bulky SCUBA gear here. Our teaching guide is all you need to explore these waters.

What's Inside Shmoop's Literature Teaching Guides

Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our teaching guides will help you supplement in-classroom learning with fun, engaging, and relatable learning materials that bring literature to life.

Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop's teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

Instructions for You

Objective: Students will be able to compare the presentation of literary themes and topics across different genres in order to write a comparative literary response.

Length of Lesson: 1 day

Materials Needed:

Step 1: Introduce and play country singer Kenny Chesney's song "Hemingway's Whiskey." (Free with Amazon Prime and dirt cheap otherwise.)

Ask the class to think about how the song relates to The Old Man and the Sea while the video is playing. Copies of the song's lyrics can be handed out for reference.

Step 2: Ask the class to generate a list of themes the song presents and write the list on the board. Some ideas: death, masculinity, loneliness.

Step 3: Draw a chart with the headings "Hemingway's Whiskey" and The Old Man and the Sea. Label rows on the left-hand side of the chart with two to three themes selected from the class list.

Step 4: Divide the class into small groups and assign each group a theme.

Step 5: Each group finds two to three examples from both the song and the novel that can support the elaboration of the given theme. A member from the group can fill in the proper spaces in the chart with the group's examples.

Step 6: Once all groups have finished looking for textual evidence, have each group use the chart to explain to the class how the theme is presented in both the song and the book. While each group is speaking, encourage the other students to take notes.

Step 7: Close with a class discussion about how genre (a country song, a novel) affects the way a theme is presented.

Step 8: For homework, assign an essay that analyzes and compares the song to the novel.

(California English Language Arts Standards Met: 9th and 10th grade Reading 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.7, 3.8, 3.9, 3.11; Writing 1.1, 1.2, 1.4, 1.6, 1.7, 2.2; Written & Oral English Language Conventions 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5; Listening & Speaking 1.1, 1.14. 11th and 12th grade Reading 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.9; Writing 1.1, 1.3, 1.5, 2.2; Written & Oral English Language Conventions 1.1, 1.2, 1.3; Listening & Speaking 1.1, 1.3, 1.11, 1.14.)

Instructions for Your Students

Get ready for some country music! Country singer Kenny Chesney has managed to find the twang in Hemingway. Inspired by Hemingway's writing, Chesney made a whole album titled Hemingway's Whiskey. There's a song by that title, too.

Step 1: Think about how the song "Hemingway's Whiskey" relates to The Old Man and the Sea while you listen to the song in class. 

Step 2: In class, you'll work in groups to find and present textual evidence that supports overlapping themes found in both the song and the book.

Step 3: For homework, write an essay that compares the song to the book.

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Common Core Standards  


Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

Intro    Summary    Themes    Quotes    Characters    Analysis    Questions    Quizzes    Flashcards    Best of the Web    Write Essay    
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