Lesson Plan - Identifying and Analyzing Literary Techniques (Metaphor)

Esperanza Rising.  Pam Munoz Ryan.

Subject Area: Language Arts

Concept/Skill: Identifying and Analyzing Literary Techniques (Metaphor)

English Language Arts: 2.A.3a, 1.B.3b; [1.A.3b; 1.B.3a; 1.B.3d; 1C.3d; 2.A.3b; 2.B.3a; 2.B.3c; 3.A.3; 3.B.3a; 4.B.3b]

Grade: 5-7

Time Frame: 2-5 Thirty Minute Blocks

Goal: Students will solidify their understanding of figurative language, specifically metaphor, and how it supports meaning in a literary text.

Objectives: Students will chart the mountains and valleys of Esperanza in Esperanza Rising.  They will review the explanations of this metaphor in the text and apply it in more specific detail.  Finally, they will use this knowledge to produce a drawing and composition in which they use the metaphor in a personal experience drawing, essay, and oral presentation.

Materials: The novel, large newsprint drawing paper and/or a role of butcher paper, markers, pens, pastels, pencils, and notebook paper.

Instructional Procedures:

Day 1

bullet This project should probably not begin until the students have read at least to page 51 where the explicit explanation of the zigzag pattern of the blanket as a representation of the mountains and valleys of life is given.  Students could be asked what they think this means in the story.  Ask if they remember other times in the story so far that the crocheting of the blanket has been mentioned (for example, pages 12-14, crocheting when worried or waiting, page 42, Abuelita rescues her crochet yarn from the fire).  Ask why the yarn was so important to her.
bullet After the discussion, students will start a visual representation of the mountains and valleys (literal and/or figurative) in the novel so far.  Events should be labeled showing where they are on the mountain and valley drawing.  They could draw on large pieces of paper in a small group and then give an oral group presentation to the class.  If you intend to chart the mountains and valleys of the whole novel, you could put a long strip of butcher paper on a wall and then with class consensus, have them make a chart on about the first 1/5 of this paper.


Days 2-4 (If you are making the chart a long term project)

bullet At several points in the reading, you could have students repeat the procedure of charting the mountains and valleys of the plot as they have been reading it.  The activity should start with a discussion among the class or small group discussions.  It should culminate with drawing the addition to the chart.  Some important passages you will want to make sure they notice are pages 159-60 when Esperanza takes out Abuelita’s blanket to begin her contribution to the project and pages 243-46 when Abuelita joins them in California and the blanket is finished.  Here too the metaphor is explicitly explained with the mountains and valleys of a part of the plot delineated.


Day 2-5 (Any one of these days)

bullet At any point after starting this project, you can have them apply this metaphor to their own compositions.  Ask them as individuals to take a specific time period, say the weekend if it is a Monday, or the current day if it is near the end of a school day, or some other specific day you think might work.  Once this time period has been delineated, ask students to make a mountain and valley chart of their day. You should encourage them not to worry if the ups and downs are not major life events.  It might be a good idea to have some class discussion of some examples.    This chart should be done on large newsprint or other large drawing paper with good drawing media: colorful markers, pastels, and/or charcoal.
bullet Ask students to present an oral explanation of their charts to the class. 
bullet Finally, assign a short composition to be done at home using the events of this chart. 
bullet Visual representations and the compositions that are generated by them should be displayed together, along with the chart of Esperanza Rising.


Some related discussion topics:

bullet Abuelita makes the zigzag blanket and Mama makes the lace capetas.  How are they different and how are they the same?  How does each help us know more about the character that makes them?
bullet Though the valleys seem to symbolize the low points in life, the characters live in two valleys which are very productive, the valley in Mexico in which the Rancha de las Rosas is located and the San Joaquin valley in California.  You might take this opportunity to discuss paradox with the students.
bullet On page 50 the legend of the phoenix (the bird which arises out of its own ashes) is discussed.  You could ask the students how this relates to the actions of this novel and to its title.   The passage at the end where Esperanza has the vision of rising above the valley can be related to this image/legend of the phoenix.  (This rising, in turn, relates to the valley, mountain motif of the zigzag patterned blanket.)
bullet Ask the students to notice all the times in the novel where blankets are used.  They might form small groups and find the mention of blankets.  Try to put this information together and see if a pattern emerges of nurturing, sheltering, caring.

Research Project:

The Spanish weavers of Northern New Mexico use traditional patterns that have been handed down for as many as five generations in their blankets, clothing, and household goods.  Have students research on the web and see if they can find the traditional patterns and their meaning.  Have them research traditional weaving pattern of Mexico.


Mary Ruth Donnelly

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