Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

91esc9felilEsperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Esperanza thought she’d always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico–she’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances–Mama’s life, and her own, depend on it.

Themes/Topics: history, family, immigration, new beginnings, discrimination

 Suggested Reading Level (Native Speakers): Ages 8 – 12

Suggested Reading Level (ESL): Low-intermediate to intermediate

 This Guide: This guide is divided into six sections by page number. However, each section is further divided by chapter, in case you want to divide the book in a different way in your class. Each section includes: suggested vocabulary, comprehension questions, writing/discussion questions, quotes (these quotes are good for practicing analysis and using textual evidence to support an opinion), and research/extension activities (these cover topics throughout the entire book).

This book was a very enjoyable, yet emotional read. I picked it because of its universal themes and historical setting, but I did not expect to cry so much at the end of the book! I think all ESL students will find something in Esperanza Rising to connect with.

Click here for Esperanza Rising: ESL Teaching Guide



Resources for Black Friday

If you teach in an American ESL setting, your students were probably very excited about going shopping on Black Friday (it’s pretty much the only thing my students wanted to talk about on the Friday before our Thanksgiving break!). If you teach in an EFL setting, your students may have heard of Black Friday, but want to know more about it. Most students in American ESL programs will probably read or talk about Thanksgiving in one class or another, but I find that they are FAR more interested in Black Friday!

Below are some links to interesting articles about Black Friday. They vary in difficulty from low-intermediate to advanced reading and vocabulary knowledge. You could give these to students to investigate for fun, or create a classroom reading activity out of them with a pre-reading activity, active-reading strategy, vocabulary section, and post-reading writing or discussion. It’s up to you!

One interesting thing to have students look at is the comparison between Black Friday and China’s Single’s Day (also known as 11/11). You could have students write or verbally compare Black Friday to Single’s Day, or to any other big shopping day in their country.

Hope your Black Friday wasn’t too crazy!

Books by Native American Authors

November is Native American Heritage Month, and to celebrate, here’s a list of books by Native authors. Native Americans have a rich and varied cultural history and outlook. It would be nice for our ESL students to walk away from a reading class with a deeper understanding of Native Americans than what they might see represented in cowboy movies. Please consider choosing one of these books to read in your ESL reading class, and support Native authors. (All book descriptions from Goodreads)

25823323Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection, Volume 1 by Hope Nicholson

From traditional stories to exciting new visions of the future, this collection presents some of the finest comic book and graphic novel work in North America. The traditional stories presented in the book are with the permission from the elders in their respective communities, making this a truly genuine, never-before-seen publication. MOONSHOT is an incredible collection that is sure to amaze, intrigue and entertain!

7743662Trickster: Native American Tales, A Graphic Collection by Matt Dembicki

In Trickster, the first graphic anthology of Native American trickster tales, more than twenty Native American tales are cleverly adapted into comic form. An inspired collaboration between Native writers and accomplished artists, these tales bring the Trickster back into popular culture in vivid form. From an ego-driven social misstep in “Coyote and the Pebbles” to the hijinks of “How Wildcat Caught a Turkey” and the hilarity of “Rabbit’s Choctaw Tail Tale,” Trickster bring together Native American folklore and the world of graphic novels for the first time.

159666The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich (I think this might be my next reading guide choice)

Nineteenth-century American pioneer life was introduced to thousands of young readers by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved Little House books. With The Birchbark House, award-winning author Louise Erdrich’s first novel for young readers, this same slice of history is seen through the eyes of the spirited, 7-year-old Ojibwa girl Omakayas, or Little Frog, so named because her first step was a hop. The sole survivor of a smallpox epidemic on Spirit Island, Omakayas, then only a baby girl, was rescued by a fearless woman named Tallow and welcomed into an Ojibwa family on Lake Superior’s Madeline Island, the Island of the Golden-Breasted Woodpecker. We follow Omakayas and her adopted family through a cycle of four seasons in 1847, including the winter, when a historically documented outbreak of smallpox overtook the island.

17901341How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle

Told in the words of Isaac, a Choctaw boy who does not survive the Trail of Tears, HOW I BECAME A GHOST is a tale of innocence and resilience in the face of tragedy. From the book’s opening line, “Maybe you have never read a book written by a ghost before,” the reader is put on notice that this is no normal book. Isaac leads a remarkable foursome of Choctaw comrades: a tough-minded teenage girl, a shape-shifting panther boy, a lovable five-year-old ghost who only wants her mom and dad to be happy, and Isaac s talking dog, Jumper. The first in a trilogy, HOW I BECAME A GHOST thinly disguises an important and oft-overlooked piece of history.

24795887In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph M. Marshall III

Jimmy McClean is a Lakota boy—though you would not guess it by his name: his father is a white man and his mother is Lakota. When he embarks on a journey with his grandfather, Nyles High Eagle, he learns more and more about his Lakota heritage—in particular, the story of Crazy Horse, one of the most important figures in Lakota history. Drawing inspiration from the oral stories of the Lakota tradition and the Lakota cultural mechanism of the “hero story,” Joseph Marshall provides readers with an insider’s perspective on the life of Tasunke Witko, better known as Crazy Horse. Through his grandfather’s tales about the famous warrior, Jimmy learns more about his Lakota heritage and, ultimately, himself.

693208The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (check out all of Sherman Alexie’s books…this one is just the most popular)

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

21561039Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices edited by Lisa Charleyboy

A powerful and visually stunning anthology from some of the most groundbreaking Native artists working in North America today. Truly universal in its themes, Dreaming In Indian will shatter commonly held stereotypes and challenge readers to rethink their own place in the world. Divided into four sections, ‘Roots,’ ‘Battles,’ ‘Medicines,’ and ‘Dreamcatchers,’ this book offers readers a unique insight into a community often misunderstood and misrepresented by the mainstream media.

17071488If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth

Lewis “Shoe” Blake is used to the joys and difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975: the joking, the Fireball games, the snow blowing through his roof. What he’s not used to is white people being nice to him — people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town with the Air Force. As the boys connect through their mutual passion for music, especially the Beatles, Lewis has to lie more and more to hide the reality of his family’s poverty from George. He also has to deal with the vicious Evan Reininger, who makes Lewis the special target of his wrath. But when everyone else is on Evan’s side, how can he be defeated? And if George finds out the truth about Lewis’s home — will he still be his friend?

175395Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War II by Joseph Bruchac

Throughout World War II, in the conflict fought against Japan, Navajo code talkers were a crucial part of the U.S. effort, sending messages back and forth in an unbreakable code that used their native language. They braved some of the heaviest fighting of the war, and with their code, they saved countless American lives. Yet their story remained classified for more than twenty years.

Joseph Bruchac brings their stories to life for young adults through the riveting fictional tale of Ned Begay, a sixteen-year-old Navajo boy who becomes a code talker. His grueling journey is eye-opening and inspiring. This deeply affecting novel honors all of those young men, like Ned, who dared to serve, and it honors the culture and language of the Navajo Indians.

For more information, check out the Native American Heritage Month website.

Books With a Little History

I’m currently working on a reading guide for Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Esperanza Rising. I’m a big fan of middle-grade books based on historical events because a) they’re a great vehicle for cultural education and discussion among ESL students, and b) they feature a lot of themes that are recognizable to adults without characters being overly childish. You can also find historical books based on a wide range of cultures – even some that your students may relate to. I usually use these middle-grade books in my low-intermediate reading classes.

So if you’re looking to inject a little history into your reading class, check out this list of middle-grade historical novels!

The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle (Cuba, 1896)

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (Kansas, Great Depression)

Heart of a Samurai by Maggi Preus (Japan, 1841)

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (England, WWII)

Salt: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War by Helen Frost (Indiana Territory, 1812)

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine (Little Rock, Alabama, 1958)

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper (North Carolina during segregation…couldn’t find the exact year)

I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin (Chile and the US, 1970s)

The Lightning Queen by Laura Resau (Mexico, 1950s)

Some Kind of Courage by Dan Geimenhart (American West, again, couldn’t find the exact year)

These are just a few to get you started! There are tons of really great historical novels out there that would work perfectly well in an ESL classroom. I have only read a few of these…the rest are based on Goodreads lists and recommendations…but one of my favorite things about teaching reading is discovering new stories along with my students. I’m currently on the lookout for good middle-grade historical fiction featuring Chinese or Arabic characters (since that’s usually the make-up of my classes), so I’ll be adding to this list in the future!