The Pearl Pre-Reading Activities

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.

''The Pearl'' by John Steinbeck is the story of a pearl diver and his family, and how greed and a lack of education can ruin your life. This lesson focuses on pre-reading activities for this novella.

The Pearl

Steinbeck's story of The Pearl is about Kino and Juana, a young Mexican-Indian couple and their son Coyotito. Coyotito is stung by a scorpion, so the family has to walk to the doctor to get help. However, the doctor requires payment, so Kino goes out and dives for pearls, trying to get something to pay him with. Kino find a large oyster and pearl, but then their lives are changed irrevocably!

They end up struggling to find someone to buy the pearl because the buyers keep trying to low-ball the prices. Because Kino and his fellow villagers are illiterate, they don't know if they're telling the truth or not. So, Kino and Juana take their son and travel to the capital together to sell the pearl, but they're followed by bandits, which they kill, but not before the bandits fire a shot that hits and kills Coyotito.

Ultimately, this story deal with the messages of greed and education. Kino struggles with both of these issues and ends up paying an extremely high price for it. By the end of the story, Kino and Juana throw the pearl back in the ocean.

Pre-Reading Activities

The Pearl has varying themes and messages that can be used to create activities for students to do prior to reading the novella.


In the book, Steinbeck focuses on music and how every person and thing in the world has its own music. So, have the students look for a song. They need to pick one that could be their theme song, not only one that they like but that also relates to their own life. Once they choose their song, have them put together a PowerPoint presentation for the song that points out how it tells their story. This is a fun way to get students in the mindset of the novella before you read the story.


Bring in a large bowl of candy and try to make it immense, just for visual perception. Then, give each student the smallest, most insignificant candies out of the bowl. Just one each! It's likely you'll start hearing some grumbling by students in class, either because they didn't want what you gave them, or they want the rest of the candy. Next, give the bowl to one student in the class, and task the student to give out however many pieces to whomever they want. They can keep all of it for themselves, or pass it out. If they keep all the candy, you can talk to the class about greed and how it effects everyone. If they pass out the candy only to their friends, it's still ideal to discuss greed.

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