Reading, speaking, and writing are basic skills, but how often are they practiced outside of a classroom? The following Esperanza Rising activities were created for students to apply these essential language arts skills in class. In addition, they provide students opportunities to build their confidence, practice real world skills, and improve their level of comprehension. All of that from one little book? Absolutely! Better still, you can use these activities with any fictional novel.
Start with Reading Practices
Vary your reading practice every day. Try some of these classroom reading practices:
- Teacher models reading for the students. Have students note how you pause after sentences, the way you fluctuate your voice to break the monotony, and the stress you place on different words. All of these practices make a story sound interesting.
- Listen to model reading with a recording.
- Choral reading where everyone reads together.
- Popcorn reading where the teacher chooses random students to read.
- Peer reading involves two students reading to each other and assisting each other.
- Independent reading silently and aloud.
And since Esperanza Rising practices code switching, or moving back and forth between two languages, teachers need to show students not to skip over the Spanish vocabulary. If you are uncertain how to pronounce certain words or phrases, websites like Forvo.com can assist you.
If you have English language learners in your classroom, provide visuals for them to make connections with the language. Flashcards, video, or illustrations will help students visualize what they are reading, thereby improving comprehension.
Advanced academic students might lose interest if they are forced to slow down too much while reading. Provide opportunities for more independent reading time. Literature circles are an excellent way to engage advanced students. Another idea is jigsaw the novel. Assign individual students certain chapters of the novel to read during one class. After they jot down a chapter summary, perhaps even provide an illustration of events from their chapter, students can utilize graphic organizers to collaborate with the class and fill in the missing information. Once all the chapters have been discussed, move on to literary analysis and allow students to debate character choices and changes.
Opportunities for speaking must go beyond answering rote questions if students are to master a language or gain confidence using new vocabulary. The following are some ideas for speaking activities.
- Students will film a scene from the novel or act it out live. Students may choose to modify the dialogue from the novel. As long as students can relate the general message behind what is being said, so there is no need to worry about memorizing lines.
- Individual students can prepare a monologue for a character. They can pretend to be a character from the novel and speak about their concerns and issues, their daily experiences, and their hopes for the future. You can take this one step further and have the rest of the class prepare questions for the character. Encourage costumes for added excitement.
- Individual students can recite a poem written about the novel. Allow students decide to follow a structure like a ballad or sonnet or write in free verse.
- Choose an issue from the novel, like immigration or working conditions, and provide an opportunity for students to research both sides of the issue. After explaining the rules for debate, conduct a debate. Make sure students use evidence from the novel and their own research to prove their answers.
These speaking opportunities will also allow you to explain how students should conduct themselves while giving or listening to a speech or presentation. Students must also understand the value of presenting information or speaking before their peers. If extremely shy students hesitate to participate, offer a limited audience with a few of their selected friends after school or ask them to give their speech in the hallway. Speaking before an audience is a genuine fear for some people, so rather than allow students to lose a grade, let them know there are alternatives.
Like reading and speaking, students need to practice writing every day. A novel provides a variety of prompts for students to utilize. These are a few Esperanza Rising activities you can use while reading the novel:
- Students will assume the role of one of the characters and write a letter to another character in the novel. Challenge students to use the vocabulary they learned from the novel, to address a specific conflict, reflect on a dialog exchange, or to note particular character analysis details and mention them to the other character.
- Rewrite the ending to the novel. While Esperanza Rising does have a happy ending, most students enjoy the power to mix things up a bit for the characters they’ve come to know. When I assign ending rewrites, I stipulate no time travel (they cannot add elements from the future into the story), they must utilize some dialog and not just summarize an ending, and they need to maintain the same point of view.
- Provide a list of topics from the novel. Students will choose one and write a feature article for a newspaper. Use information from the novel as well as research on the topic for quotes and evidence. Take this activity a step further by having students type their article using one of the newsletter templates provided with most word processing programs.
- While Esperanza Rising considered historic fiction, it is based on the experiences of the author’s grandmother. Ask students to interview an older relative (if they don’t have an older relative like a grandparent, a neighbor, aunt or uncle, or a family friend will do) to learn if they also have an inspiring story to share. Students must note details from the event, such as the setting, the names of other characters, and the main conflict that was resolved to make the story inspiring. Students will use those details to create a fictional account of the story.
Since grading every detail of these writing assignments can be time consuming, choose different days to assess a particular grammar skill, a specific type of sentence structure, or focus on a writing style or genre.
Muñoz-Ryan, Pam. Esperanza Rising. New York: Scholastic, Inc. 2000.