K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

About the authors

Sandra Hurd has been an ESL teacher for Cumberland County for 15 years. Sandra was born in Puerto Rico. She is a second language herself.
Yvonne is an English teacher who has been teaching for 28 years. She has studied Spanish independently.

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • locate passages that describe and explain the cultural symbolism in the text.
  • explain the themes of the novel by analyzing characters as literary and symbolic figures.
  • create a booklet of literary symbols.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

1 week


  • One text per student to use in class and to take home
  • Graphic organizers (Double-Bubble Map (Thinking Map),Venn Diagram, or PDI(Plus Delta Symbol Interesting)
  • Rubric for grading Symbolism Booklet (The teacher may create a rubric by using a free template from the URL address listed under Relevant Websites).
  • Transparencies (to write down students responses to quote
  • construction paper
  • computer paper
  • pictures from magazines
  • computers for students to write symbols and passages from the text
  • hole puncher
  • scissors
  • old magazines and newspapers
  • index cards (optional)for students to write down symbol
  • three ring folder for booklet

Technology resources

If accessible, use computers for each student to type captions of cultural symbols and passages from the text that they will include in their booklet.

Overhead projector


  • Show pictures from National Geographic depicting Cuba and fishing towns.
  • Use choice of graphic organizer to include characteristics of Christ for student to infer how Santiago is a Christ-like figure.
  • Display concrete objects and pictures around the classroom depicting symbolism and the central theme found in the novel.
  • Give students the quote: “A man can be destroyed, but not defeated.” Class discussion on what the students think this quote means. Write down the students’ responses on the overhead.
  • Distribute rubric for Symbolism Booklet.


  1. Read aloud the first chapter in the text and help students understand the relationship between Santiago and Mandolin.
  2. Distribute the graphic organizer for identifying Santiago as a Christ figure.
  3. Students will write 6 to 8 passages from the text in their notebooks that reflect the theme of the novel. (Be sure to include page numbers.)
  4. In the middle of reading the text, the teacher will write on the overhead text passages that students have written in their textbooks, and class will discuss what possible themes are emerging.
  5. The teacher will ask questions referring to the passages given by students. Example
    • How does ______ function as a symbol in the story?
    • How does it connect to the characters?
    • Does it serve as an indicator of change at certain crucial moments in the plot?
  6. Students will complete their Symbolism Booklet to be turned in to be evaluated.
    • For this project students will select 8 to 10 symbols from the novel.
    • Students will include at least four passages from the text representing each symbol.
    • They will write each symbol in the middle of each page with the passages written around the symbol.
  7. A selected number of students will share their projects orally with the class.
  8. Students will write a three to four paragraph expository paper explaining how the quote discussed in the pre-activities exemplifies the central theme of the novel.


Symbolism Booklet completion meeting the
rubric requirements.

Completed writing assignment

Supplemental information


Related websites



  • Have novels or audio tapes to take home in student’s native language if available. Services for the blind at public libraries carry audio tapes of various novels.
  • Provide key vocabulary prior to lesson’s pre-ativities.
  • Create a display for the classroom with regalia (concrete objects) related to the theme and symbols found in the novel. Examples: skiff with mast, 3 sharks, dolphin, marlin, a skiff, baseball player, religious pictures, crucifix
  • LEP students will be required to write 4 to 6 passages in notebook.
  • List page number of teacher selected passages from the novel for LEP students to locate the symbols and theme related events.
  • Create a symbolism booklet to be used as a model for the LEP student while reading the directions to complete the project.
  • LEP students should be required to have a word-to-word (English/Native)language dictionary in class.

Alternative assessments

Six to eight symbols from the text with captions as opposed to passages for booklet symbolism booklet.

One paragraph explanation using quote to explain theme with a visual and caption demonstrating the theme. (Picture from magazine, newspaper, computer graphic, or artwork.)

Critical vocabulary

1)themes, 2)symbols, 3)culture, 4)defeat, 5)destroyed, 6)surrender, 7)determination, 8)faith, 9)pride, 10)Christ-like figure, 11)disciple, 12)La Mar


The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway is classically a simple story written in straightforward sentences with one syllable words. It is not a difficult novel for LEP students to read. In this novel a fisherman name Santiago struggles to catch a large marlin only to lose it. A fisherman, Santiago, is blessed with the intelligence to do big things and to dream of even greater things. Santiago shows great skill in finding ways to catch a huge marlin (fish) he has hooked and ways to maintain his strength in order to bring it back to his village. During his struggle to survive, Santiago must suffer and even surrender the very thing he dreams of.

This lesson plan was developed during the English Language Development Standard Course of Study lesson planning institutes hosted by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and LEARN NC, June and July, 2004. It includes specific strategies, instructional modifications, and alternative assessments which make this lesson accessible to limited English proficient students. Please note that this lesson has been aligned with the goals and objectives of the N.C. English Language Development standards.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Development (2005)

  • Objective 0.02: Develop vocabulary based on non-academic and academic topics.
  • Objective 0.04: Use new vocabulary in speech.
  • Objective 0.05: Use oral communication to identify and organize academic information.
  • Objective 0.05: Compose multi-paragraph essays using writing process with guidance.
  • Objective 0.06: Demonstrate an increased knowledge of academic content vocabulary in simplified text.
  • Objective 0.09: Respond with difficulty when participating in group discourse by adapting language and communication behaviors to the situation to accomplish a specific purpose.
  • Objective 0.11: Separate main ideas from supporting details in simple text.
  • Objective 0.17: Discern characteristics of cultural variations represented in texts (e.g., dialect).