Renowned filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick have a new three-part documentary film “Hemingway” airing on PBS. The film “examines the visionary work and the turbulent life of Ernest Hemingway, one of the greatest and most influential writers America has ever produced.” Check out the trailer and tune in or stream the film on April 5th at 8/7 Central. Be sure to download this free Hemingway educator guide by filling out the form to your right. It will prompt you to enter your name, job title, and school zip code.
New Ideas and Resources for Teaching Hemingway
The Hemingway series gives viewers a fresh look at an author who has always had a complicated public image. As English teachers can attest, we don’t teach Hemingway as often anymore. The film gives us a chance to reconsider how we might re-approach Ernest Hemingway’s works from a more modern perspective that embraces questions of privilege, gender, diversity, and inclusion in literature. Plus, PBS has designed a ton of lessons, activities, and an Educator’s Guide that go along with the documentary. Here are just a few of our favorite lessons.
Comparing Hemingway to Young Adult Literature
What books would you consider necessary and important reading for a young person today? This is the question students explore in this 50-minute lesson. After watching clips from the Hemingway documentary, students explore a list of recently published YA novels that are included in the activity. Then, they explore a list of books Hemingway recommended to young readers in 1934. Finally, they consider what books they’d recommend and what books they’d leave out today and create their own suggested-reading list.
Style and Substance in Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”
What Hemingway left out of his writing was equally, if not more, important than what he said. Or was it? This is the argument students consider. First, they watch film clips from the documentary that describe how Hemingway came to form his style and how his style helps convey key themes in “Hills Like White Elephants.” Then, they will examine how this information expands their understanding, and possibly their appreciation of, the story. Finally, if you want to dig deeper, the lesson includes two optional writing assignments.
Find more lessons, activities, and film clips in the Hemingway Educator Guide
Consider using the educator guide to teach a complete unit. Or use some of the activities to expand on a small part of his biography or supplement something you’re already teaching (like trauma-informed creativity, or writer’s style, or descriptive language). No matter how you use the guide, you’ll find thoughtful, relevant concepts that both middle and high school students can embrace.