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Teaching Guide

Teaching Esperanza Rising

Rise to the occasion.

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It might be a YA book, but Esperanza Rising deals with some tough stuff like poverty, death, and prejudice. We don't want you to feel esperanza-less when teaching this book, so we've created this guide to help.

In this guide you will find

  • reading quizzes for each chapter of the libro.
  • activities in which students debate the working conditions of los trabajos.
  • resources for students to learn the real-life historia behind the story.

This teaching guide will help you rise to the occasion.

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Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop’s teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

Objective: Esperanza Rising is a great text to help students understand Mexican culture, but this novel isn't all quinceaneras and mariachi music; it takes things one step further by adding strife, poverty, and death to the mix. Sounds cheery, we know. But these are topics that many of your students may be able to relate to regardless of their culture, and we think they will appreciate Esperanza's journey as she matures.

To dig a bit deeper into the cultural and coming-of-age issues in the novel, students will analyze the text and bring it to life through a dramatic play. Before you go thinking this will be too much work, remember, you can keep these projects super simple or go all out, so just adjust the lesson to fit your needs.

For the minimum time commitment, this should take one class period for discussion, one or two for students to create their skits, and a third class to present.

Materials Needed:

  • Computer with Internet
  • Esperanza Rising text
  • Printer
  • Costumes as desired
  • Video camera if desired

Step 1: Shmoop is a firm believer that the hardest worker in the room is learning the most. Since your job is to make sure your students are learning, you shouldn't feel guilty about kicking back and letting them do the heavy lifting. In this lesson, you only need to lead a quick discussion, give a few directions, and then hand things over to your kiddos.

Let's start with the discussion. Take students through the novel chapter by chapter and ask them to identify the Big Important Events. For extra help in this area, check out our summary and discussion questions.

Step 2: Once you have identified the most important events, explain to students they are going to create a short skit for one part of the book. The skits should help the audience understand the events and characters in the book as well as experience Mexican culture through Esperanza's eyes as she's growing up.

Students will work in groups of four or five, and each group will be assigned a scene from the book that is specific to Esperanza's traditions in Mexico. Students will use the computers to research Mexican culture (see how we slipped that in there?) in order to create authentic scripts, costumes, and props for their skits.

Break students into their groups, assign each group a scene from the novel, and let the chaos—we mean fun—begin.

You can select any scenes you want students to examine more closely, or you can use some of our suggestions below:

  • El Rancho de las Rosas: The Harvest celebration (Chapter 2)
  • On the train to California: The incident with the yarn doll (Chapter 5)
  • Esperanza's cabin: A typical Mexican dinner and conversation (Chapter 8)
  • At the camp: Fiesta time (Chapter 8)

Step 3: Students should locate their scene in the novel and do a close reading of it together; remember, let them do the work here. As they read, students should list the characters involved, details about the setting, and props needed. Then they will rewrite the scene as a script with stage directions. Information that isn't dialogue or stage directions should become lines for the narrator to read. Students will also research the relevant Mexican culture for their scene, such as food and customs surrounding parties, harvest festivals, class distinctions, etc. Groups should make notes of anything that might help to bring their scenes to life, showing authentic Mexican culture.

Step 4: Once students have completed their scripts, it's time to rehearse. Give students some time to run through their scripts and practice, you know, actually acting the scene out. (You're asking for a day of true chaos if you skip this step.) During this time, they should also finalize their props, costumes, and anything else needed to perform their scenes. Remember, however, that these can be totally casual. Students can perform these with just a few key props and pretend to do everything else Our Town style. They can also suggest their costumes with an accessory or two rather than the all-out garb.

Step 5: It's show time! Get out the movie camera, the costumes, and the scripts. Sit back, relax, and have a great time watching your students act out their mini dramas. To bring these presentations back to the text, you might want to chat after each one about the elements of Mexican culture they saw in the skit. Another option would be to have students respond in writing to each skit or complete a reflection at the end of class where they briefly discuss what they discovered about Mexican culture and why it is important to the novel. Here are a few questions to get things started:

  • What do we learn about Esperanza's culture through the story?
  • What does Esperanza learn about her own culture throughout the story?
  • What is important to Esperanza at the beginning of the novel? What is important to her at the end?
  • How do each of these scenes relate to Esperanza's journey of growing up?
  • How does Esperanza's understanding of her culture change as she matures?

Instructions for Your Students

Esperanza Rising is a great text to learn about Mexican culture, but this novel isn't all quinceaneras and mariachi music; it's also a story of growing up in some pretty rough conditions. Esperanza experiences poverty and death, she has to work hard to help her family survive, and she's faced with some tough decisions that make it clear she's not a little kid anymore. Maybe some of you can relate to her experiences.

In this lesson, you'll explore some of these cultural and coming-of-age issues further by creating a short skit from a scene in the novel. These skits aren't just fun and games though; you'll need to do a close reading and analysis of your scene in order to turn it into a skit, and you might even have to do some research on Mexican culture in order to get the props and costumes just right. But of course, there will be some fun and games in there too, so let's get started.

Step 1: Okay, kids, this project is all on you. You'll write the skit, you'll plan the performance, you'll rehearse, and you'll present it to the class all on your own. But before we send you off to do your thing, let's refresh our memories about the most important events of the story and how they connect to Esperanza's culture and her experience of growing up. Experiencing temporary memory loss? Check out our summary and discussion questions for a refresher.

Step 2: Now that we have identified the most important events, you are going to create a short skit for one part of the book. The skits should help the audience understand the events and characters in the book as well as experience Mexican culture through Esperanza's eyes as she grows up.

You will work in groups of four or five, and each group will be assigned a scene from the book that is specific to Esperanza's traditions in Mexico. You will need to be as authentic as possible in your skits, so hit the computers to research Mexican culture in order to get ideas for the right props and costumes to use.

Step 3: You've got your group and scene assignments; now it's time to get to work. You should locate your scene in the novel and do a close reading of it together. A close reading means that you pay really careful attention to all the details in the scene. You should list the characters involved, details about the setting, and the props you'll need in order to perform this scene. This is also where your research comes in. You might want to investigate more about Mexican food and clothing at this period in history or read about the traditions surrounding harvest festivals and parties so that you can make your scene, props, and costumes as accurate as possible. Come up with a plan for your performance.

Then you will rewrite the scene as a script with stage directions. Stage directions are any sentences in the scene that tell what the characters are doing. You won't need to say those in your skit because you'll be acting them out instead. Information that isn't dialogue (what the characters say) or stage directions should become lines for the narrator to read. For example, the narrator might read any lines that reveal what the characters are thinking because in your skit the characters wouldn't say those lines aloud or act them out.

Step 4: Practice, practice, practice! Once you have completed your scripts, it's time to rehearse. You need to practice actually acting the scene out; figure out how you'll use the props and how you'll move around the "stage" during your performance. Take these rehearsals seriously; you don't want your scene to fall apart at curtain time because you are all running into each other, unsure of what to do. Trust us; we'll know if you skimped on the practice. During this time, you should also finalize plans for creating your props, costumes, and anything else needed to perform your scenes. Remember, however, that you can be creative here. You can perform these with just a few key props and pretend to do everything else the way a mime would pretend to cook with invisible food and utensils. Your costumes can also be created from stuff you already have in your closet, plus an accessory or two, such as a hat or a pair of boots or a shawl. We're looking for creativity here; not Broadway perfection.

Step 5: It's show time! Put on your costumes, get into character, and strut your stuff out on that stage. As you watch your classmates' scenes, think about what elements of Mexican culture and Esperanza's journey toward adulthood are being illustrated. After each skit, try to answer these questions:

  • What do we learn about Esperanza's culture through the story?
  • What does Esperanza learn about her own culture throughout the story?
  • What is important to Esperanza at the beginning of the novel? What is important to her at the end?
  • How do each of these scenes relate to Esperanza's journey of growing up?
  • How does Esperanza's understanding of her culture change as she matures?

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WANT MORE HELP TEACHING ESPERANZA RISING?

Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

Intro    Summary    Themes    Quotes    Characters    Analysis    Questions    Quizzes    Flashcards    Best of the Web    Write Essay    
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