Activity Overview

Starting a unit or lesson with the key vocabulary terms and allusions aids in overall comprehension and retention. In this activity, students will create a storyboard that defines and illustrates key vocabulary and allusions found in the book Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez. Students will create a spider map of 3-5 terms at the teacher's discretion. Each cell will contain a term or allusion, its definition or description, and an appropriate illustration.

Examples of Vocabulary from Return to Sender

apprehended: arrested.

cargo: goods carried on a ship, aircraft, or motor vehicle.

confiscate: take or seize someone's property.

contradiction: a person, thing, or situation in which elements are inconsistent or opposed to one another.

Coyotes: Spanish word for smugglers help immigrants cross into the United States illegally.

democracy: a system of government where representatives and lawmakers are elected by the people.

Derechos: Spanish word for rights.

enlightened having or showing a rational, modern, and well-informed outlook.

Estrella: Estrella is the Spanish word for stars. Tyler introduces Mari to astronomy and their friendship forms over a love of stargazing. Mari suggests that Tyler name the farm stars and swallows: Estrella & Golondrina Farm. Even though Mexico and Vermont are far apart, they are both under the same stars.

hostage: A person seized by a criminal in order to compel another party such as a relative, employer, law enforcement, or government to act in a certain way or give money, often under threat of serious physical harm to the hostage.

immoral: deliberately violating accepted principles of right and wrong.

La Golondrina: La Golondrina is Spanish for swallow, a type of bird. It is also the name of a famous Mexican song that Mari and her family enjoy. The swallow migrates from Mexico to the United States and back every year. The song talks about longing for one's home like the swallow or golondrina flying across North America.

La migra and ICE: La Migra is the Spanish word for immigration. When Mari uses these words, she means "immigration officials" or ICE: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE is a federal law enforcement agency under the Department of Homeland Security founded in 2003. ICE seeks out immigrants who have entered the United States illegally and deports them back to their country of origin.

Operation Return to Sender: a large operation by ICE in 2006 and 2007 that targeted undocumented immigrants with a criminal record. However, it also deported those without criminal records as was the case of the Cruz family in the story.

oversimplify: to simplify (something) so much that a distorted impression of it is given.

prejudice: preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.

stigma: a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.

stereotypes: a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing which can be problematic and hurtful.

testimony: a solemn declaration usually made orally by a witness under oath in response to interrogation by a lawyer or authorized public official.

upstanding: marked by integrity.

vigilant: alertly watchful especially to avoid danger.

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Due Date:

Objective: Create a spider map that defines and illustrates key vocabulary from Return to Sender.

Student Instructions:

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. In the title boxes, identify the vocabulary terms you have chosen.
  3. In the description boxes, write the definition or description of the term.
  4. Create an illustration for each term using appropriate scenes, characters, and items.
  5. Save often.

Requirements: Must have 3 vocabulary terms, correct definitions or descriptions, and appropriate illustrations for each that demonstrate your understanding of the words.

Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 6-8

Difficulty Level 2 (Reinforcing / Developing)

Type of Assignment Individual

Type of Activity: Visual Vocabulary Boards

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/6/4] Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone
  • [ELA-Literacy/L/9-10/3] Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening
  • [ELA-Literacy/L/9-10/4] Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 9-10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies
  • [ELA-Literacy/L/9-10/6] Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression
  • [ELA-Literacy/W/6/6] Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of three pages in a single sitting.


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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