The Pearlby John Steinbeck
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AFTER READING THE NOVEL
Written or Oral Responses
Students can write about or explore a variety of ways in which to respond to The Pearl. One of the most important response techniques teachers can employ is the dialogue journal. While students are reading the story (or the story is being read to them), periodically have them stop reading and write to you (or to a peer or, perhaps, a local college student) about what they have read. The person to whom they are writing should respond, in letter format to the journal, to what they have written. If you are the person responding, you may want to respond in writing to five or six students per day, thereby writing to an entire class in the course of a week. If some class time is used to have the students write in their journals, you can utilize this time to write responses to them. In addition to this technique, students can respond in the following ways:
1. Personal statement - these include emotional reactions, expressions of identification or empathy with characters or place, conjecture about characters, and autobiographical associations.
Suggested Activities - React in writing to the family and village life of Kino. Write about how you feel when Coyotito is bitten by the scorpion.
2. Description - statements which attempt to classify or describe the form, language, structure or content of the work; such responses can range in complexity from the simple recall of explicitly state information to an analysis of the stylistic properties.
Suggested Activities - Orally, in your own words, describe what happens when Kino finds the pearl. Dramatically tell about the family fleeing from the village. Be sure to create a sense of suspense.
Write about he songs heard by Kino; write about the doctor and the priest.
3. Interpretation - responses aimed at identifying the symbolic or thematic meaning of a work; interpretation requires of readers an ability to infer the intentions of Steinbeck.
Suggested Activities - Write your own interpretation of chapter three. What does Steinbeck mean by the "nervous system and a head and a shoulders and feet" of the town?
Write about why the canoe is so important to Kino. What position does it give him in the village? Read the final paragraph on page 61 and all of page 62. What is Steinbeck doing here? How does he show the importance of the boat?
4. Evaluation - responses aimed at assessing the construction, meaningfulness, or appropriateness of The Pearl.
Suggested Activities - Write about the suspense you found in the novel. How does Steinbeck create it?
In a small group talk about the theme: things are often not what they seem. Discuss the pearl, the doctor, the priest, the pearl dealers. What other things in this novel may not be what they seem?
Write or discuss the irony found between the various message of this story: the message likely to be heard by the ignorant villagers when the story is told and the written theme of Steinbeck. Why are the messages different? How do these messages relate to Steinbeck's short introduction?ABOUT THE GUIDE EDITORS
Arthea (Charlie) J. S. Reed, Ph.D. is currently president of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE (ALAN). She is the author of three books in the fields of literature and teaching: Reaching Adolescents: The Young Adult Book and the School, Comics to Classics: A Guide to Books for Teens and Preteens, and Presenting Harry Mazer. In addition, she is the author or co-author of numerous books in the fields of foundations of education and teaching methods. She was editor of The ALAN Review for six years and has co-edited the Penguin/Signet Classic teacher's guide series since 1988.
In May 1996, Dr. Reed retired after 17 years as a professor of education and six years as chairperson of education at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. After nearly 30 years in teaching at the elementary, secondary, and college/university level, she is now pursuing a new career in education as Executive Director of Development and Education for Northwestern Mutual Life in Asheville, N.C. Dr. Reed and her husband Don live with their two dogs and a cat on a mountaintop in Fairview, NC
W. Geiger (Guy) Ellis, Professor Emeritus, University of Georgia, received his A.B. and M.Ed. degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his Ed.D. from the University of Virginia. For most of his career, Guy has been active in teaching adolescent literature, having introduced the first courses on the subject at both the University of Virginia and the University of Georgia. He developed and edited The ALAN Review from 1978 to 1984, changing its focus from a newsletter to a referred journal. His research has had heavy emphasis on the content of literature instruction.
Page numbers reference Penguin Putnam books.