Old Man at the Bridge Theme Lesson Plan with Summary and Analysis

An old teacher with steel rimmed spectacles and very dusty clothes sat by the side of the road. There was a pontoon bridge across the campus and students, administrators, and teachers, custodians and security guards were crossing it. The school’s new teacher staggered up the steep bank from the bridge with administrators staring at the back of his head.

The new teacher was too tired to create another lesson plan.

Luckily, he found this Analyzing Modernism in Old Man at the Bridge lesson plan.

Now, this is awkward. You came here looking for a lesson plan for Hemingway’s “The Old Man at the Bridge,” and you have it just a few sentences in. I guess I’ll add an “Old Man at the Bridge” summary and “Old Man at the Bridge” analysis. I’ll throw in some additional lesson plan ideas, too.

“The Old Man at the Bridge” Summary

Old Man at the Bridge lesson plans

With these “Old Man at the Bridge” lesson plans, you’ll reach the end of class with optimism.

An exhausted man sits at the edge of a bridge during the Spanish Civil War. People are crossing the bridge with their families and belongings to escape the enemy. The old man sits.

The narrator, a Republican soldier, crosses the bridge to scout the enemy, returns, and notices the old man still sitting. The narrator converses with the old man to encourage him to move away from the danger. The old man explains he was the last man to leave his village. He had to take care of the animals.

The narrator leaves the old man to die at the bridge.

“The Old Man at the Bridge” Analysis

  1. Modernism. Alienation, loss, and despair is the overarching mood in modernist short stories, including this one.
  2. Setting. The Spanish Civil War
  3. Character Analysis. What exactly makes the old man stay put when everyone else flees.
  4. The old man embodies the ideals of a Hemingway hero.

Lesson Ideas

A story as great as “The Old Man at the Bridge” deserves more than a cursory read the story and answer the questions lesson plan. Here are some ideas. You’ll notice it mirrors the analysis section.

  1. Analysis Lesson Plan. It’s one thing to define Modernism. Take it to the next level by identifying elements of Modernism. And then take it to the next level by analyzing the significance of the examples to the overall theme of the story. This assignment is most easily accomplished with a 3-column chart.
  2. Themes. OK, I’m not even going to pretend that every single lesson plan I create doesn’t involve a graphic organizer of some type. I’ll also own up to using graphic organizers to trick students into thinking analytically. And I’ll also fess up to teaching students how to write analysis using the graphic organizers they complete. Guilty as charged. There are several themes in “The Old Man at the Bridge.” Find evidence for each one by (you guessed it) creating a two-column chart instructing students to find evidence to support various themes in the story.
  3. Character Analysis. Although he’s not an avenger or even a member of the Justice League, the old man fits the Hemingway hero code.
  4. Point of View. I wonder what the old man is thinking.
  5. Symbolism. The universal symbols associated with the animals left behind add meaning to the story.

ELA Common Core Standards Covered

Teaching Modernism in Literature and instructing students to find aspects of Modernism in the literature they read covers the following ELA Common Core Standards.

  1. RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  2. RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
  3. RL.9-10.5 Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.
  4. RL.9-10.6 Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature (British Modernism).
  5. W.9-10.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
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