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Can you suggest some creative ways to explore "The Old Man and the Sea" w/a small group...

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nszabo | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:14 AM via web

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Can you suggest some creative ways to explore "The Old Man and the Sea" w/a small group of middle school boys?

The group is small - 8 middle school boys - and I teach this class in my home as a literature enrichment group.  We have a total of 6 sessions; the first 2 were devoted to "The Open Boat" by Stephen Crane.  The next 4 are mainly devoted to "The Old Man and the Sea".  Each session is 1 and 1/2 hours.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 16, 2011 at 3:50 AM (Answer #2)

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I wonder whether you are actually able to take them on a fishing trip. With a smaller group, it would be possible, and it might give them a real insight into the kind of struggles that Santiago faced. Alternatively, look for some other connection: what would these guys really want that would give them prestige and social status that they would have to really suffer to gain? How would they feel if they lost it at precisely the moment when they feel that they have finally gained it? Establishing such connections might really help them gain an understanding of this excellent tale.

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maadhav19 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted March 16, 2011 at 5:05 AM (Answer #3)

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I remember dreading having to read this book when it was assigned in college, but ended up liking it so much I read it in one long sitting. I wonder if you might explore retellings of the story? Perhaps have the boys come up with their own modern tale of pursuing a goal, and what obstacles they meet along the way. Or I guess it doesn't have to be a modern retelling; it could involve mythological, or fantasy, or scifi themes as well. Perhaps an activity could be brainstorming for recent movies with similar underlying themes?

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nszabo | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 16, 2011 at 7:58 AM (Answer #4)

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I wonder whether you are actually able to take them on a fishing trip. With a smaller group, it would be possible, and it might give them a real insight into the kind of struggles that Santiago faced. Alternatively, look for some other connection: what would these guys really want that would give them prestige and social status that they would have to really suffer to gain? How would they feel if they lost it at precisely the moment when they feel that they have finally gained it? Establishing such connections might really help them gain an understanding of this excellent tale.

 Thank you so much for your excellent suggestions.  I am going to focus on a discussion of what makes a hero, can a person be a hero if they do not achieve their goal, connect the different heroes in the story -- Manolin's hero is Santiago whose hero is DiMaggio whose hero was Superman!  Also want to discuss the "tragic flaws" of heroes.  But I REALLY like your idea of what these boys be willing to suffer for, in order to gain prestige and social status, and/or to maintain their sense of personal pride.  Much appreciated.

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nszabo | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 16, 2011 at 8:02 AM (Answer #5)

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I remember dreading having to read this book when it was assigned in college, but ended up liking it so much I read it in one long sitting. I wonder if you might explore retellings of the story? Perhaps have the boys come up with their own modern tale of pursuing a goal, and what obstacles they meet along the way. Or I guess it doesn't have to be a modern retelling; it could involve mythological, or fantasy, or scifi themes as well. Perhaps an activity could be brainstorming for recent movies with similar underlying themes?

 Thanks so much for responding to my question about "The Old Man and the Sea".  I really like your idea of retelling the story in some way, with more of a modern slant.  I think the brainstorming idea is a good one.  Can you think of any retellings of this type of story?

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted March 16, 2011 at 4:00 PM (Answer #6)

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Another idea is to create a "craft-project" type fish of some sort -- very large for the whole group, or perhaps each boy could have his own.  They should work on it long enough to be very proud of it.  Then as you read the novel, have the boys "destroy" their project much like the natural elements destroy the old man's fish.  It help them appreciate the emotion and connection of the man to his catch.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 19, 2011 at 1:46 PM (Answer #7)

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How about comparing Santiago to some of their modern heroes--sports figures, musicians, whoever. What happens when they experience adversity or setbacks of some kind? What motivates them and what is their relationship to the people around them?I'm thinking today's heroes will look pretty "wimpy" or weak in comparison, so they'll have to think of other people in their lives who do embody the fine qualities of this seemingly tragic old man. Lots of movie characters to use as a comparison, as well. They will probably be surprised at how similar this old man is to some of the great heroic characters in their lives. Bet you'll have a great time with them.

P.S. I would certainly do something literal--something real--to visualize the size of the boat and the size of the marlin and even the vastness of the ocean and being out of the sight of land, if possible.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 21, 2011 at 8:13 AM (Answer #8)

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You've gotten some great ideas here.  I echo the idea of making this matter to these boys.  Everyone has a hero...have them define what a hero is, and make a list of the heros in their lives.  You might have them take a good, long look at the heros on that list and consider if every quality is heroic.  Even though we are not perfect, everybody is somebody's hero. 

I love this book, and I think you will get these boys to love it, too.  Do you have any local fishermen in your area?  You might check with your sporting goods stores or piers to get a professional or hobby fisherman to come in and talk with the boys about the craft.  Then they can get an idea of how hard the job is and how much patience, strength, and determination is required for a feat like Santiago's.

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howesk | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted March 21, 2011 at 10:45 AM (Answer #9)

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I would suggest focusing on the relationship between Santiago and Manolin. Perhaps you could have them do an activity relating their relationship to a relationship the students experience with a mentor of some kind... a grandparent, teacher, etc. I think an interesting assignment would be having them write a speech for Manolin to give at Santiago's funeral, and then, to apply it to their own mentor relationships, a letter to their mentor/hero.

Fishing is something I think everyone can enjoy. It would be wonderful to give them some insight into the craft. Also exploring the different types of fish mentioned in the book- their symbolic significance, their uses, and how the explanation of the fish in the book differs from/relates to what they might find out scientifically about the fish today.

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nszabo | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 24, 2011 at 11:39 AM (Answer #10)

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Another idea is to create a "craft-project" type fish of some sort -- very large for the whole group, or perhaps each boy could have his own.  They should work on it long enough to be very proud of it.  Then as you read the novel, have the boys "destroy" their project much like the natural elements destroy the old man's fish.  It help them appreciate the emotion and connection of the man to his catch.

What a great idea!  I think the boys would get a kick out of destroying their project like the marlin is destroyed by the sharks.  Very cool.  Thanks.

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engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted May 9, 2011 at 7:40 AM (Answer #11)

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Even if you can't take them on a fishing trip per se, you may be able to simulate or replicate the experience in some other, more figurative way. For instance, have the boys make their own fishing rods from commonly found materials, then use them to "fish" for goals or ambitions written on fish-shaped pieces of cardboard. Tape or velcro can be used as "hooks."

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 21, 2011 at 1:34 PM (Answer #12)

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If the boys enjoy fishing and have had fishing experiences, have them tell their "fish stories."  In a journal they can write on these questions:

Have they had trouble reeling in a big fish?  What went through their heads while they were fighting against a natural force.  Did they feel that the fish was their "brother" as Santiago does?

Then, they can speak to the class or read.  If they have any videos of their fishing trip, perhaps they can show them.  Or showing them a video of deep-sea fishermen who catch a marlin might be of interest.

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