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Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Teacher Guide by Bridget Baudinet

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our Middle School ELA Category.

Esperanza Rising Lesson Plans

Student Activities for Esperanza Rising Include:

Pam Muñoz Ryan’s award-winning novel Esperanza Rising is a powerful book to introduce into your middle school classroom. The story of a young girl’s journey from a prosperous ranch in Mexico to the growing fields of California, Esperanza Rising is a tale of overcoming difficulties and, above all, of the power of a family’s love. Ryan’s book is based on the true life experiences of her grandmother, and seamlessly works the cultural and historical realities of 1930s life into the plot. The novel explores issues of belonging, identity, and respect. It also provides context for discussions about immigration, prejudice, and fair trade. Ryan brings it all to life with vivid imagery and figurative language.

Esperanza Rising Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Literary Conflict in Esperanza Rising


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Storyboarding is an excellent way to focus on types of literary conflicts.

Having students create storyboards that show the cause and effect of different types of conflicts strengthens analytical thinking about literary concepts. Have your students choose an example of each literary conflict and depict them using the Storyboard Creator. In the storyboard, an example of each conflict should be visually represented, along with an explanation of the scene, and how it fits the particular category of conflict.


Examples of Literary Conflict in Esperanza Rising

CHARACTER vs. MAN

Tio Luis causes a serious conflict for Esperanza and her mother when he demands that Mama marry him or else...When she refuses, Tio Luis burns down their house and vineyard.


CHARACTER vs. SELF

Esperanza struggles to go on when things get difficult. After Mama goes to the hospital, Esperanza cries every night and is not sure she has the inner strength to keep fighting to survive.


CHARACTER vs. NATURE

Nature is in conflict with Esperanza when a dust storm arises. The high winds and thick dust make it difficult to breathe and cause Mama to get sick with Valley Fever.


CHARACTER vs. SOCIETY

As a Mexican immigrant during the Great Depression, Esperanza, her family, and friends face prejudice from the white Americans. The Mexican company camps are poorly built and Mexican workers are often fired from jobs when white workers need the money.


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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows at least three forms of literary conflict in Esperanza Rising.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify conflicts in Esperanza Rising.
  3. Categorize each conflict as Character vs. Character, Character vs. Self, Character vs. Society, Character vs. Nature, or Character vs. Technology.
  4. Illustrate conflicts in the cells, using characters from the story.
  5. Write a short description of the conflict below the cell.
  6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



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Esperanza Rising Character Map


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As students read, a storyboard can serve as a helpful character reference log. This log (also called a character map) allows students to recall relevant information about important characters. When reading a novel, small attributes and details frequently become important as the plot progresses. With character mapping, students will record this information, helping them follow along and catch the subtleties which make reading more enjoyable!


Esperanza Rising Characters

  • Esperanza
  • Mama
  • Papa
  • Abuelita
  • Hortensia
  • Alfonso
  • Miguel
  • Isabel
  • Marta

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Student Instructions

Create a character map for the major characters.


  1. Identify the major characters in Esperanza Rising and type their names into the different title boxes.
  2. Choose a character from the "1900s" tab to represent each of the literary characters.
    • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
  3. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
  4. Fill in the Textables for Age and Physical Appearance, Personality, and Relationship with Esperanza.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.


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Character Evolution in Esperanza Rising


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Storyboarding is an excellent way to show character development over time. Esperanza changes greatly in response to the many challenges she faces throughout the book. Students can create storyboards to compare and contrast Esperanza’s character qualities at the beginning and end of the book. Have students depict a scene from the beginning of the novel that shows a contrasting character trait from a scene later in the novel. Below each scene, students can explain the character quality that Esperanza demonstrates through her thoughts, words, or actions.

An alternative way of addressing this character development could be to create a cause and effect storyboard, using the left column of the T-chart to illustrate the cause that leads to the character development depicted on the right.


Esperanza Rising Character Evolution

BeginningEnd
When Esperanza is traveling on the train to Los Angeles, she selfishly refuses to allow a little girl to touch her doll. She thinks the little girl is too poor and dirty. After she grows to know and love Isabel, Esperanza selflessly gives away her precious birthday doll from Papa.
On El Rancho de las Rosas, Esperanza dislikes crocheting and complains that it is boring. After Mama falls ill, Esperanza spends her rare free time crocheting Abuelita's blanket as a sign of love for Mama. Esperanza has learned patience.
At the beginning of the book, Esperanza tells Miguel that she and he stand on different sides of the river, referring to her high social position and his low one. When Miguel tries to hold her hand in a friendly way, Esperanza pulls away. By the end of the book, Esperanza appreciates Miguel as her equal. She reaches out to hold his hand while they listen to the earth's heartbeat.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Depict contrasting moments in the novel, to show how Esperanza changes over the course of the book.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. On the left-hand side, depict a scene from early in the novel in which Esperanza demonstrates a trait and explain how she does so.
  3. On the right-hand side, depict a scene from later in the novel in which Esperanza demonstrates a contrasting trait and explain how she does so.
  4. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Esperanza Rising Plot Diagram


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A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a story. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and helps students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a work with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the story in sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.



Example Esperanza Rising Plot Diagram

Exposition

Esperanza lives with her mother, father, and abuelita (grandmother) on El Rancho de las Rosas, a large vineyard in 1930s Mexico. Due to the family land, wealth, and faithful servants, Esperanza has lived a happy and privileged life with plenty of food, dresses, toys, and fun.


Conflict

When Papa is killed by bandits, his brothers, Tio Luis and Tio Marco, try to take over his home. When Mama refuses to marry Tio Luis, he burns down the house and vineyard. After this, Mama and Esperanza decide to secretly move to the U.S. with their servants Hortensia, Alfonso, and Miguel. Sadly, they must leave Abuelita behind for now.


Rising Action

Esperanza has difficulty adjusting to the work and the poor conditions in the farm camps in Los Angeles. When Mama is sent to the hospital, she begins working in the fields to support them. Each week, Esperanza saves a little money to pay for Abuelita's journey to the U.S. She never knows if the work will last, though, due to the threat of labor strikes.


Climax

Esperanza reaches her breaking point and tells Miguel she no longer has hope for the future. The next day, Miguel disappears, taking Esperanza's money with him.


Falling Action

Eventually, Mama comes home from the hospital. A little later, Miguel returns home with a surprise: he has brought Abuelita all the way from Mexico!


Resolution

Esperanza celebrates her first birthday after Papa's death. She has struggled through many difficulties, but grown stronger as a result. Her family is back together, and she once again has hope for the future.


(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of Esperanza Rising.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  3. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  4. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.
  5. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Figurative Language in Esperanza Rising


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Esperanza Rising relies on many instances of figurative language to capture Esperanza’s complex emotions and the vivid settings of the story. Storyboards can be a helpful way for students to explore these figurative meanings. Have students search for examples of metaphor, simile, personification, idiom, or hyperbole in the text. Next, ask them to depict each example and explain its meaning and significance below.

Examples of Figurative Language in Esperanza Rising

METAPHOR

"Wait a little while and the fruit will fall into your hand."


This means that Esperanza must be patient; in time, good things will come. Eventually, she finds happiness (the “fruit”) when she, Mama, and Abuelita reunite.


SIMILE

"When Papa was alive, everything was in order, like the dolls lined up in a row."


Like her beautiful, expensive dolls, Esperanza's life was picture-perfect before Papa's death. Everything happened just as Esperanza expected it to.


PERSONIFICATION

"Our land is alive...this whole valley breathes and lives."


This means the characters have an emotional tie to the land. The land brings food and prosperity to the valley. It provides jobs for the laborers and wealth to the owners.


IDIOM

"There is no rose without thorns."


This means that there is no life without difficulties. Esperanza encounters many thorns the year she turns thirteen.


(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows three examples of figurative language in Esperanza Rising.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify use of figurative language in the text.
  3. Put the type of figurative language (such as simile or metaphor) in the title box.
  4. Give an example from the text in the description box.
  5. Illustrate the example using using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.



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Esperanza Rising Symbol Square


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Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify a theme, symbol, or motif from the novel and design an image or scene as illustration. Below each square, they should explain their scene’s significance. The example storyboard discusses the symbolism behind Papa’s roses. Other symbols, themes, and motifs include the following:


Themes

  • The importance of family
  • Hope and perseverance through hard times
  • The injustice of prejudice
  • The true wealth of love and friendship

Symbols

  • Esperanza’s birthday doll
  • The name Esperanza (meaning “hope”)
  • The blanket Abuelita begins and Esperanza finishes

Motifs

  • Plants, crops, and the earth
  • Crocheting

Esperanza Rising Symbol Square Example

Papa’s Roses

The roses are a reminder of Papa. Miguel and Alfonso bring rose roots from Papa's garden and plant them behind the cabin in Los Angeles. These living flowers are a way that Mama and Esperanza can keep Papa's memory alive.


(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies and explains one symbol from the text.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Type in the symbol in the title box.
  3. Illustrate an example of the symbol.
  4. In the description box, describe the importance of the symbol.
  5. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Historical Background

A number of real historical events form the backdrop of Esperanza’s experiences. Her father’s death stems from the class warfare stirred up by the Mexican Revolution. The wage struggles she and her family encounter in Los Angeles result from the economic hardships of the Great Depression. With so many Okies leaving the Dust Bowl in the Midwest and migrating to the farms of California, the labor market became oversaturated, causing wages to plummet. Labor strikes like those Marta tries to incite were a natural consequence of low wages. Since Esperanza Rising’s third person point of view is attached to Esperanza, the reader is presented only with Esperanza’s limited understanding of these complex political and economic issues. Many of the historical references in the novel are discussed in the Author’s Note at the end of the book, but students may benefit from additional research on the topics below.

  • Mexican Revolution (1910-1920)
  • Labor strikes
  • The Great Depression, including the experience of children during this time
  • The Deportation Act and Mexican Repatriation (1929-1935)
  • Produce farming in southern California
  • The Okies
  • Dust Bowl

Essential Questions for Esperanza Rising

  1. How do experiences change who we are?
  2. How does where we live affect our identities?
  3. What does it mean to have a home?
  4. How does the historical time period of the novel affect the characters?
  5. What does it mean to have fair working conditions?


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