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Teaching Guide

Teaching The House on Mango Street

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Like Shmoop, The House on Mango Street welcomes learners of all ages. No matter what age group your class is, we have activities and lessons to make this the best open House ever.

In this guide you will find

  • biographical information on author Sandra Cisneros.
  • activities and articles exploring the chapter "My Name" and relationships between names and identities.
  • essay questions on themes of foreignness and exile, cultural identity, and narrative style.

And so much more.

Teaching The House on Mango Street on your street has never been easier.

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Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our teaching guides will help you supplement in-classroom learning with fun, engaging, and relatable learning materials that bring literature to life.

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.

Instructions for You

Cisneros's book has been adapted for the stage and performed by Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater Company. Written by Tanya Sarcho, directed by Hallie Gordon, and starring Sandra Delgado (Esperanza), Gina Cornejo (Nenny), Belinda Cervantes (Lucy), and Christina Nieves (Rachel).

Objective: Students learn about adaptation and performance by watching video clips from the Steppenwolf Theater Company's 2009 production of The House on Mango Street and by writing and performing their own scripts based in Cisneros's book.

Step 1: Students read Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street.

Step 2: Students watch Scene 2 of Steppenwolf Theater’s production of The House on Mango Street. Students should take careful notes on the following production choices: casting, costume, set design, lighting, music, etc.

Step 3: Teacher leads an in-class discussion of the production, focusing on issues related to adaptation. Suggested discussion questions:

  1. Does Scene 2 of the play adapt a specific chapter from The House on Mango Street? Which one? (Consider asking a student to read the chapter aloud.)
  2. Is the adaptation “faithful” to Cisneros's book? Why or why not? What kinds of challenges do writers and directors face when adapting a novel (especially one made of a series of vignettes) for the stage?
  3. The actresses who portray Esperanza and her friends are obviously older than Cisneros's characters. How does this impact the play, particularly when the characters try on high-heeled shoes for the first time? Does the performance overcome the age discrepancy "problem"? (Consider acting ability, costuming, set design, etc.)
  4. Scholars have pointed out that the tone of Cisneros’s chapter "The Family of Little Feet" captures the light optimism of youth but becomes darker as the girls discover that wearing high-heeled shoes elicits unwanted attention from men. How would you characterize the tone of the play? Is it similar to or different from the book?
  5. How does the addition of music impact the play’s overall mood and tone?
  6. In Cisneros’s book, the mother in "The Family of Little Feet" descends the stairs and hands the girls a bag of shoes. In the play, the woman remains at her window and tosses the bag down to the girls, drawing attention to the physical space between the grown woman and Esperanza’s friends. What are the effects of this? Is the director toying with Cisneros's repeated images of women at windows? Something else?
  7. If you were a director, how would you stage the chapter from Cisneros's book?

Step 5: Teacher divides students into small groups; groups choose a chapter or vignette from Cisneros's book and write scripts to be performed for the class. Students should be given plenty of time to write their adaptations, gather costumes, props, etc., and to practice the performance.

Step 6: Students perform scenes from The House on Mango Street and field questions from classmates and the teacher about their artistic choices. 

(Lesson aligned with CA ELA 9th & 10th grade reading standards 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6, 3.7, 3.8, 3.9, 3.10. 3.11, 3.12; listening & speaking 1.11, 1.14, 2.1; 11th & 12th grade reading standards 3.2, 3.3; writing 1.1, 1.2, 1.5, 2.1; listening & speaking 1.11, 2.5)

Instructions for Your Students

Become a scriptwriter, director, and actor by writing and performing a scene from The House on Mango Street.

Step 1: Watch Scene 2 of Steppenwolf Theater's production of The House on Mango Street. Be sure to take careful notes on the production choices (casting, costume, set design, lighting, music, etc.) in preparation for an in-class discussion.

Step 2: With a small group, choose a chapter or vignette from Cisneros's book and write a script. You'll be performing this scene in class, so be sure to rehearse your script and also gather together costumes and props.

Step 3: Perform your scene from The House on Mango Street. Be prepared to answer questions from classmates and your teacher about your artistic choices.

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