A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
Students explore elements of Esperanza Rising to create their own visual representation and story.
- Grades: 6–8
- Unit Plan:
After reading the book Esperanza Rising individually or as a class, students can create a virtual display by combining different story elements into a visual representation. Students will choose the setting and characters of a scene, which will act as a springboard of ideas for a student-written story.
- Combine elements of a fictional story to create a visual representation of a scene from Esperanza Rising
- Choose a story starter to begin writing an original story and dramatic piece
- Computer: activities can be modified from one computer to a whole computer lab
- Flashlight Readers: Esperanza Rising Story Builder
- Flashlight Readers: Esperanza Rising Vocabulary Boosters
- Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
- Graphic Organizer: The Story Map (PDF)
- Paper and pencils
- Optional: LCD or overhead projector to display activities
Set Up and Prepare
- Bookmark Flashlight Readers on the computers students will use
- Print out or make copies of the Story Map (PDF) for each student
- Print out or make copies of the Esperanza Rising Vocabulary Boosters for each student
- NOTE: If students have limited access to computers, print a few pictures that use different options and make transparency copies to post on an overhead projector
Step 1: Have students get out paper and pencil.
Step 2: Review the elements of a fictional story: characters, plot, theme, and setting. Distribute a Story Map (PDF) to each student. Discuss each element on the map and instruct each student to use the sheet as a graphic organizer for planning the short story. Point out the "Statement of the Problem" as the "conflict" of the piece. Highlight the importance of a "Statement of the Solution" as this drives the climax of a piece. Encourage students to write notes during the planning stage under each area so that the story will encompass a complete thought.
Step 3: Explain to students that they will each be exploring the elements of Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan to create a new story. Encourage students to be creative! Introduce the class to the Story Builder activity and have them explore different story elements by viewing the backgrounds, the characters, and the objects from the novel. (Note: If transparencies are being used, allow students to identify these story elements in each complete picture option.)
Step 4: Discuss the story elements with students, ensuring that they identify the background options as the setting, the people as the characters, and the objects as parts of the plot. (Explain that the stories they will write later will include dialogue or action involving the objects.)
Step 5: Have students select items in each category (background, character, object) to create a picture. This will be the starting point for the stories they are going to write. Students will be given two writing options. Direct them to choose "Write a Story."
Step 6: When a student chooses to write a story, two sentence starters will be displayed from which the student may choose. Before beginning to add any text to their story or play, have students print their screens. (Note: If using transparencies, preview several story starters and choose one or more that will inspire students.)
Step 7: Working offline, have each student read the prompts that were generated for their Story Builder picture. Provide time for students to brainstorm ideas for each writing prompt (about 10 minutes for each idea). Now, have students choose to use one of the topics provided or an original idea of their own to write a narrative piece about the picture.
Step 8: Using the Story Map (PDF), students should plan out the order of events for their story or play. Using the organizer, they should begin their draft. Provide students with the list of Vocabulary Boosters. Explain that they should use at least four words from the list in their narrative. The draft should be at least a page long. (Note: When entering the final version in the Story Builder activity, students will be limited to 1000 words.) Remind the students that they will be filling the shoes of the author and manipulating the characters and plot at will. Emphasize that students are not expected to summarize what has already happened in Ryan's version of the story.
Step 9: When students have finished their rough drafts, have them begin revising and editing their work. Remind them to check for word choice, sentence structure, subject/verb agreement, spelling, punctuation, and other elements appropriate for the level you're teaching. Students will then return to the beginning of the Story Builder picture they created and enter the text of their stories on screen and print the final version. Have each student hand in the draft with the final version. Display the stories and copies of the scenes from Esperanza Rising in your classroom.
Step 10: After completing their short stories, have students return to the beginning of the Story Builder activity and create the same picture elements with which they began their story. When given the option, have them choose "Write a Play." Students should adapt the story they've written into a play script, creating dialogue for the characters and stage directions for the scene. Afterwards, students may use this form of their story to go back and enhance the dialogue in the version in prose. By filling the need of creating lines for the play, students will be compelled to include more dialogue among characters, which can be added to the short story for another, more polished version of their narrative. Point out that thinking about stage directions can help students visualize their events more accurately, which will provide more details for descriptive moments in the short story.
Supporting All Learners
Language Arts Standards (4th Ed.)
- Evaluates own and others' writing (e.g., applies criteria generated by self and others, uses self-assessment to set and achieve goals as a writer, participates in peer response groups)
- Writes narrative accounts, such as short stories (e.g., establishes a situation, plot, persona, point of view, setting, conflict, and resolution; creates an organizational structure that balances and unifies all narrative aspects of the story; uses a range of strategies and literary devices such as dialogue, tension, suspense, naming, figurative language, and specific narrative action such as movement, gestures, and expressions)
- Reflects on what has been learned after reading and formulates ideas, opinions, and personal responses to texts
- Divide students into small groups; each one can choose a script to perform for the class.
- The chapters of Esperanza Rising are named after different fruits and vegetables. Bring in samples of the fruits and vegetables, and allow students to sample them. Some may never have tasted a papaya, for example. Have the students write poetry using imagery to share this experience with someone else who may not have tasted the food.
- For teachers with bilingual students: Print students' Story Builder pictures. Have each student label the people and things in the picture in her native language. Then, have the student go back and write the English word for each person or object underneath the first label.
- For English Language Learners and native-English speakers: Help students create postcards. Print students' Story Builder pictures, and have each one cut his out. Have each student glue a picture onto thick construction paper or poster board. On the back, have each draw a vertical line down the center of the page. In the upper right, add a square (for the stamp) and put three lines near the center of the right side of the paper (for the address). Students can write a postcard to a friend describing what it is like to be inside the story of Esperanza Rising (they can either describe what they like about the story itself, or what they found interesting about the Flashlight Readers extension activities). For beginning English writers, allow students to write in their native languages. For more advanced writers, instruct the students to try writing in English. On the right side of the paper, have the students practice addressing the postcard using their current address.
- For English Language Learners and native-English speakers: Give your class time to go back through the novel and pick out Spanish words. In many cases, the Spanish word is a noun, so have students draw a picture of the word in a square. On the top line of the square, have them write the Spanish word used in the novel. Below the bottom line of the square have students write the English translation. If the student's native language isn't Spanish or English, have her write the translation in her native language on one of the side lines of the square.
Use this activity to assess students' ability to write a narrative piece based on a work of literature. Good readers are able to identify and evaluate elements of fiction, so check their writing to make sure the elements are there.
- Before students draft a story, invite each to share the Story Map with you in a writing conference. At this point, you will be able to evaluate the purpose of the student's writing and guide him through the planning process in order to encourage a well-developed draft. Be sure to guide with questions rather than by providing the answers for the student.
- Compare the short story piece before the transition to drama with the one afterwards. Did the dialogue among characters improve? What about the scene descriptions? Conference with each student or small group of students to discuss the different elements of this type of writing and solidify their understanding and appreciation of both.