Esperanza Rising Unit: Lesson Ideas for Teaching the Novel

Esperanza Rising Unit:  Lesson Ideas for Teaching the Novel
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Take full advantage of the historical fiction genre with this Esperanza Rising unit by allowing students to discover language, view educational videos about the time period, and study the geography of the area. Then, let the students tie it all together by plotting story conflicts and character changes.


Begin your Esperanza Rising unit by engaging students with an anticipation guide. Allow students to look at the cover of the book and then ask them to respond to the following yes/no anticipation questions:

  1. The story takes place in Mexico.

  2. The main character knows how to fly.

  3. Esperanza does not enjoy being poor.

  4. Esperanza and her family will move to Washington.

  1. Tío Luis is Esperanza’s favorite uncle.

  2. It is okay to deport people because of the way they look.

  3. Everyone has a right to be successful.

  4. Abuelita’s earrings are a metaphor for life.

  5. One problem in the story is the way migrant workers are treated during the Great Depression.

  1. The story is narrated from a first person point of view.


Esperanza Rising is historical fiction, a fictional story that is set in the past among real events. Compare and contrast the differences between historical fiction and biography, autobiography, and memoir. Compare the differences on a four-column graphic organizer.


This novel has historic relevance. Research, define, and discuss the Great Depression, the Mexican Revolution, and migrant workers in the United States. All three events resulted in the relocation of people. To give students a better idea of what happened during this time period, use websites like United Streaming to view video clips about these eras in American and Mexican history.

Map It Out

Locate Aguascalientes, Mexico on a map, and then locate the San Joaquin Valley in California. Ask students to use the Internet, a map, a globe, or an atlas to discover the answers to the following questions: What is the distance between the two areas? How far did Esperanza and her family have to travel? How far is Aguascalientes from your town? Did she have to cross any mountains, rivers, or deserts? Study the geography of Esperanza’s old home and her new home. Are there any similarities?

Language is Just ABC’s

Since each chapter of the novel is named after a fruit or vegetable in Spanish, create an ABC booklet where each letter contains a corresponding food that begins with that letter. Try to stick to fruits and vegetables in Spanish. On each letter page students can provide a picture of the food, the word in Spanish, and the English translation. Extend this activity by adding the translation for each food in other languages. For example, uvas are grapes in English, druiven in Dutch, raisin in French, and trauben in German. Google Translate is a great tool for this activity, as is the App Free Translator by Codesign which can be downloaded to your iPhone or iTouch. By adding a variety of languages to this ABC book, students can learn about word origins and study the similarities among languages.

Plotting the Story

Use yarn and Post It papers to map the conflicts and resolutions in the story. Allow students to write the conflict and type of conflict on the Post It, and then decide the severity of each conflict by placing the Post It at a higher or lower placement along the yarn plot line. Point out that not all conflicts are resolved. Also note patterns in the plot. For instance, in Esperanza Rising, the novel starts with grape season and ends with grape season. What is the significance of beginning and ending the novel in this manner? In addition to plot, you can also utilize the bottom half of the yarn line to note the character changes for the protagonist. Which conflicts change the protagonist the most?

Using these ideas for your Esperanza Rising unit will give your students the opportunity to not only read the novel, but truly analyze it. If you have more ideas to add to this unit, I encourage you to leave them in the comments section below!

Image Sources

Article Resources

Muñoz-Ryan, Pam. Esperanza Rising. New York: Scholastic, Inc. 2000.

This post is part of the series: Esperanza Rising: Classroom Study Guides for Teachers or Students

In this series, teachers and students will find a collection of study guides for the novel, Esperanza Rising.

  1. Esperanza Rising: Lesson Ideas for Teaching the Novel as a Unit
  2. Noteworthy Quotes from Esperanza Rising