Classroom Activities for The Old Man and the Sea

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

Hemingway's 'The Old Man and the Sea' is a book about the power of internal strength. This lesson provides various in-class activities for students, so they can spend time delving deeper into the book.

The Old Man and the Sea

Hemingway's story of Santiago and his struggle to regain the respect of his peers is one that hits home for many. Santiago is an elder fisherman that once used to have a grand reputation, but his 84-day dry spell has made him a butt of many jokes. Santiago's pride struggles with this new role, and he decides to put his life in danger to go out farther in the ocean to make sure he catches a large fish to show. His plan works, and he hooks the largest marlin he had ever seen,. After 3 days of fighting with the fish, he wins, and kills it with a harpoon. However, as he travels back to shore, sharks catch the scent of the dead fish and grab hunks of it, all the while Santiago is fighting them off. Unfortunately, by the time he makes it home, the marlin is only a skeleton, so Santiago goes back to his home defeated. But he doesn't see the excitement of the townsfolk at the size of such a skeleton.

Classroom Activities for Individual Students

This story of perseverance is one that students can struggle with understanding if it cannot be made relatable. The following in classroom activities are created to make sure the students can really understand Hemingway's meaning and message.


Santiago struggles with no longer having the respect of his peers. He used to be considered strong and powerful in his community, but now he only has the towns scorn. Have the students think about popularity in school. Have each student think of a popular group and what would cause them to be ostracized. Then have them explain if there would be a way for these disrespected people to gain their popularity back. This helps students relate to Santiago and his situation.


Marlins are known to be heavy fish and can weight up to 2,000 pounds. So, have your students hold a fishing pull and line, hooked to something heavy in your classroom, maybe your desk. Then have the pull and yank, to see how it feels to continually struggle with such a heavy object. This is a quick activity, but helps students see what fishermen actually deal with, and what Hemingway was describing.

Old Man

This could take some time but would be worth it because it will hep your students understand the challenges of age. Make an old man suit. To do this buy a pair of larger sweats and sweatshirts so all your students can try it (with a belt for some of course). Then sew on heavy objects to make it harder for the students to move. Sew the top of the arm to the body of the sweatshirt to also increase hindrance of movement. Then add blurry glasses that can cause eyesight issues. You can add other aspects but this will make sure students cannot just stand up right away. Then have students do some sort of physical activity, like jumping jacks, or walking around the school. This will make Santiago's struggles much more relatable.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account