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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.

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.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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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 Many of the historical references in the novel are discussed in the Author’s Note at the end of the book, but students may benefit from additional research on the topics below.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?

Esperanza Rising Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Literary Conflict in Esperanza Rising

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.


Esperanza Rising Conflicts
Create your own at Storyboard That Character vs. Man Character vs. Self Character vs. Nature Character vs. Society 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. 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. 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. 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. You will regret your decision... I can make things difficult for you. Very difficult.

Example

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Esperanza Rising Character Map

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

Esperanza Rising Character Map
Create your own at Storyboard That Esperanza Mama Papa Abuelita Hortensia Miguel