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For every class session we provide a daily agenda with a description of each activity with accompanying slides and links.  Below is a sample daily agenda for Sandra Cisneros' novel The House on Mango Street.

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Class #1

1.  AP Literary Argument

After teacher and student introductions, we will briefly introduce the novel and author, assigning as homework Cisneros' Biography to read for the next class.  We will also discuss Cisneros' desire to write a story that could only be told from the perspective of a young Latina growing up in a segregated west side of Chicago.  We will also discuss the simple language that she uses in each vignette to make it accessible to the working-class people of her neighborhood, like her mother and father, but also the complexity and subtle significance lying underneath that simple language.  We will also introduce the final essay of the unit, the 2010 AP Literary Argument prompt, which will serve as the thematic focus for the next four weeks.  Students should read and annotate Cisneros' novel with this prompt always in mind, knowing that it will be the subject of the final essay.

 

2.  Authentic Assessment

Once we have established the thematic focus for the course, we will introduce the Authentic Assessment, which is a final project that asks students to apply the lessons learned from the novel into some real-world situation.  For Cisneros' novel, students will imagine the travel guide company 500 Hidden Secrets wants recommendations for a guide on their town or city that includes "hidden" places, traditions, or events that most tourists and many locals fail to notice or appreciate.  Students will work on their Hidden Secrets Submission over the next four weeks and create a 3-5 minute PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation to highlight one particular element of their town or city that is special or unique.  On the last day of class, students will have an opportunity to share their presentations to the whole class or in small groups, depending on how many students want to present.

 

3.  Essential Questions

To push students to consider the deeper, more philosophical implications of Cisneros's novel, we will use the Essential Questions Matrix to determine how students' answers to these questions might evolve over the next four weeks.  We will begin the process of thinking more deeply about these questions by first considering a thought-provoking quotation by Sonsyrea Tate (1966-          ), a Black American author best known for her memoir Little X.  For homework, students will post a 150-word journal response on the Tate Discussion Board to explain what they think the quote means, to what extent they agree or disagree with its claims, and the relevance it might have in their own lives.  After students post their journals on the discussion board, they will then respond to two of their classmates' entries next week.

 

4.  AP Poetry Analysis: Intro

Before beginning the novel, we will first analyze "Those Winter Sundays," a poem by Robert Hayden (1913-1980) that connects thematically to Cisneros' novel concerning the importance of home and how our perceptions might change as we grow older.  The Hayden AP Poetry Analysis will be the first essay that students will have an opportunity to write in the course.  After reading the poem aloud, we will introduce the "four pillars" of style analysisdiction, imagery, language, and syntax—and how writers use these literary techniques to establish tone and convey theme.  If students would like more information on how writers use these literary techniques, we encourage them to read our Style Analysis Tutorial.  Students will answer the study guide questions on the AP prompt for homework, which we will discuss in the next class.

Homework:

Students should post their journals on the Tate Discussion Board, complete the study guide for the Hayden AP Poetry Analysis, and read Cisneros' Biography for Thursday's class. 

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Class #2

1.  AP Poetry Analysis: Redux

At the beginning of class we will review "Those Winter Sundays" from the Hayden AP Poetry Analysis and answer questions from the study guide.  We will also examine how Hayden uses different literary techniques and poetic devices to establish tone and convey theme in his poem.  Once students feel comfortable with Hayden's poem, we will introduce Hegel's Dialectic, the rhetorical framework students will use to organize their AP-style essays.  Students will identify the central tension in the poem, which will be the focus of their first two body paragraphs (i.e. thesis vs. antithesis) before resolving that tension in their concluding paragraph in a way that reveals Hayden's overall theme (i.e. synthesis).  If students would like to review poetic devices and read a sample essay that follows Hegel's Dialectic, we encourage them to read our AP Poetry Analysis Tutorial.

 

2.  Author Background

After we finish analyzing Hayden's poem, we will discuss Cisneros' Biography, which students read for homework.  We will consider how her childhood as the only "hija" in a family of seven and her experience at the Iowa Writers Workshop shaped her identity as a Latina writer, especially when she came to the realization that she wanted to "write about something my classmates couldn't write about."  We will also discuss the unique style of her book, and how that style in many ways was a reaction against what she had learned in graduate school.  Finally, we will discuss the setting of the book, the West Side of Chicago, and the segregated neighborhoods that divide that city.  We will also discuss the housing options in many major American cities, and why the house on Mango Street is unique but still unsatisfying to Esperanza at the outset of the novel.

 

3.  Vocabulary

Before we begin the novel, we will introduce a Vocabulary List of twenty words that we encourage students to study as they read Cisneros' text.  Using the first four words on the list as examples, we will look at the Vocab Sample Matrix to discuss how contextual clues can help us choose the most appropriate definition of a word based on the way an author uses it in a particular context.  Students will study ten words during the first week's reading assignment and then another ten words during the second week.  When students have studied all twenty words on the list, they will take a Vocabulary Quiz on their own during the third week to assess how well they know the appropriate definition of each word and the way that Cisneros specifically uses that word in the context of her novel.

 

4.  Point of View: Intro

Prior to reading the opening paragraphs of the novel, we will introduce narrative point of view and the relationship between the narrator, author, and reader.  We will also discuss the difference between a first-person narrator and a third-person limited or omniscient narrator, and why an author would choose one versus another.  As we read aloud the opening paragraphs, we will also discuss how to annotate a text by looking at a Sample Annotation of the first two pages for students to use as a model.  Students will also evaluate Esperanza's reliability as a narrator on the Narrative POV Matrix and how Esperanza's initial judgments about her house and neighborhood potentially foreshadow Cisneros' theme concerning the influence that our conception of "home" has on our identities and lives.

Homework:

Students should read Ch. 1-15 (pp. 3-34) of the novel and take the Ch. 1-15 Quiz on their own.  Students should also write their Hayden AP Poetry Analysis and schedule a 15-minute Writing Conference to receive individual feedback on their essay by the end of next week.

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Class #3

1.  Point of View: Redux

 

​We will begin class by answering questions from the Ch. 1-15 Quiz before continuing our examination of Cisneros's narrative point of view and discussing Esperanza's immaturity at the beginning of the novel concerning her attitude towards her new house on Mango Street.  We will revisit excerpts from the Narrative POV Matrix to determine how Cisneros wants us to feel about Esperanza's disappointment that her new house on Mango Street is "not the house we thought we'd get."  We will also introduce the concept of a "bildungsroman," which is story that follows the growth and development of a character from youth to maturity, and try to predict how Esperanza most likely will change over the course of the novel, especially concerning her concept of "home."  We will also consider why she is so disappointed and the significance of her desire for "real stairs, not hallway stairs, but stairs inside like the houses on T.V."

 

 

2.  Groupwork: Characterization

Once we have discussed the narrative point of view, we will introduce the concept of characterization by examining how Cisneros uses description, action, and dialogue to depict Marin, one of the older girls in the neighborhood who serves as a role model for Esperanza.  Students will work in small groups on the Marin Characterization Matrix to contrast how Esperanza thinks about Marin to how Cisneros wants us to feel about her. We will also introduce the concept of "flat," or static, characters (i.e. those that do not change over the course of a story) versus "round," or dynamic, characters (i.e. those that do change) and how authors make use of both to advance plot and convey theme.  We will also point out that traditionally a novel's protagonist (i.e. main character) will be a round, or dynamic, character and what that suggests about Esperanza's potential transformation over the course of the novel.

3.  Literary Foils

 

To introduce the concept of literary foils, we will read aloud the vignette "Alicia Who Sees Mice" and use the Role Model Venn to compare and contrast the characters of Alicia and Marin, examining how each serves as a role model—both positively and negatively—for Esperanza.  We will consider the unique lessons that Esperanza learns from each character and how, despite their obvious differences, they also contain a few similarities that might influence Esperanza's future development and growth as a person.  For instance, we will discuss how both characters are fearless and determined to create a better life for themselves and are willing to confront the male-dominated society that seeks to control them.  We will also examine, however, the key differences in the way that they choose to pursue the changes they want to see in their lives.

 

4.  Intersectionality: Intro

After comparing and contrasting the characters of Marin and Alicia, we will introduce the concept of "intersectionality," a theoretical framework for understanding how a person’s various social and political identities—such as gender, race/ethnicity, and class—combine to create different modes of advantage and disadvantage in a person's life.  We will use the Esperanza Intersectionality Matrix to examine the impact that being female has had on Esperanza's understanding of herself when considering that Alicia has "inherited her mama's rolling pin" and "[i]s afraid of nothing except four-legged fur.  And fathers."  We will also examine the impact of race/ethnicity on Esperanza as we discuss Cathy's family decision to move "a little farther north from Mango Street" because, as she rudely tells Esperanza, "the neighborhood is getting bad."

Homework:

Students should respond to two of their classmates' journals on the Tate Discussion Board and schedule a 15-minute Writing Conference to receive individual feedback on their Hayden AP Poetry Analysis by the end of the week.

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Class #4

1.  Intersectionality: Redux

We will continue to discuss the theoretical framework of "intersectionality," which explores how a person’s social and political identities—such as gender, race/ethnicity, and class—combine to create advantages and disadvantages in a person's life.  We will revisit the Esperanza Intersectionality Matrix to see how these various factors influence how Esperanza sees herself and the world around her.  Not only is she female and of Mexican descent, but Esperanza is also young and poor, which is best exemplified in the story of "Gil's Furniture Bought & Sold," where she pretends she doesn't want the music box "so Nenny won't see how stupid I am."  If students are interested in reading more about the controversy surrounding intersectionality in our current political climate, we encourage them to read an excerpt from the 2019 Vox article, "The Intersectionality Wars."

 

2.  Groupwork:  Style Analysis

Once we have discussed the concept of intersectionality, we will review the "four pillars" of style analysis—diction, imagery, language, and syntax—as we examine the impact that Esperanza's great-grandmother has had on her both positively and negatively.  Students will work in small groups on the Cisneros Style Matrix to determine what Esperanza wants to "inherit" from her great-grandmother and what she wants to leave behind.  As students read the passage, they will consider the connotation of individual words (i.e. diction); the use of sensory details (i.e. imagery); the use of metaphors, symbols, and allusions (i.e. language); and the way Cisneros constructs individual sentences (i.e. syntax) to establish tone and convey theme.  If students want extra guidance on how authors use literary techniques, we encourage them to review our Style Analysis Tutorial.

 

3.  Symbolism

After we review various literary techniques that Cisneros uses in the vignette "My Name," we will introduce the concept of symbolism as we consider the central metaphor from "Boys & Girls" on the Red Balloon Matrix.  We will discuss why Esperanza does not like having to look after her younger sister, Nenny, who Esperanza thinks is too young to be a "real" friend, and how until she gets older, she will just be "a red balloon, a balloon tied to an anchor."  Students will consider why Esperanza feels so negatively about her situation, and how her attitude and perspective might change over the course of the novel.  If students want more information on how writers use symbolism in literary works, they should read "Is That a Symbol?" from Thomas C. Foster's How to Read Literature Like a Professor.

 

4.  AP Passage Analysis: Intro

In preparation for our next essay, we will introduce the Cisneros AP Passage Analysis by reading the prompt and trying to identify the implied tension that will be the focus of the students' first two body paragraphs (i.e. thesis vs. antithesis).  As we review Hegel's Dialectic, we will discuss how students need to resolve the tension in their third body paragraph in a way that reveals Cisneros' overall theme (i.e. synthesis).  In other words, students should consider how Geraldo's story might serve as a "magic casement" or an "illuminating incident"—in the words of Edith Wharton—that potentially reveals "the meaning of the work as a whole."  If students want to receive further guidance and read a sample essay following Hegel's Dialectic, we encourage them to read our AP Passage Analysis Tutorial

Homework:

Students should read Ch. 16-30 (pp. 35-78) of the novel and take the Ch. 16-30 Quiz and Vocab Quiz on their own.  Students should also write their Cisneros AP Passage Analysis and schedule a 15-minute Writing Conference to receive feedback on their essay by the end of next week.

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Class #5

1.  AP Passage Analysis: Redux

We will begin class by answering questions from the Ch. 16-30 Quiz and Vocabulary Quiz before discussing the significance of Geraldo's story on the Cisneros AP Passage Analysis.  As we review Hegel's Dialectic, we will use the Passage Analysis Matrix to identify the tension between how the authorities see Geraldo versus the way Marin and Esperanza see him (i.e. thesis vs. antithesis).  We will also discuss the racist slurs "wetback" and "brazer," derived from the U.S. government's Bracero Program during World War II, before we discuss how Cisneros tries to resolve the tension by using Geraldo's story as a "magic casement" or "illuminating incident"—in the words of writer Edith Wharton—to reveal "the meaning of the work as a whole" (i.e. synthesis).  If students want to receive further guidance and read a sample essay following Hegel's Dialectic, they should read our AP Passage Analysis Tutorial. 

 

2.  Groupwork: Symbolism

 

Once we have discussed the significance of Geraldo's story, we will discuss how settings can be used symbolically to reveal an author's theme.  Students will work in small groups on the Skinny Trees Matrix to determine why Esperanza identifies with the "four skinny trees" planted outside her house, which she describes as "[f]our raggedy excuses" that "do not belong here but are here."  Students will also discuss why she finds strength in their ability to "send ferocious roots beneath the ground" and from their desire to "bite the sky with violent teeth" and their determination to "never quit their anger."  We will also discuss the significance of each tree having "their arms around the other" and why if one were to "forget his reason for being, they'd all droop like tulips in a glass."  Finally, we will discuss how this metaphor compares with Esperanza's previous claim of being "a [red] balloon tied to an anchor."

3.  Cisneros' Feminist Theme

After we examine the symbolic significance of the "four skinny trees," we will revisit Cisneros' dedication in the novel—"A las Mujeres" ("To the Women")—to consider Esperanza's growth and maturation from a feminist perspective.  We will use an excerpt from "The Family of Little Feet" on the Feminist Theme Matrix to discuss why the girls are so enthralled with the high heels that they have been given and how Cisneros uses their experience to convey her overall theme concerning the difficulty and dangers of growing up as a girl in our society.  In particular, we will examine why the girls ignore Mr. Benny's warning and believe that "these are the best shoes" because of all the male attention they receive.  We will also discuss what the girls learn from their experience and why they do not want to keep the shoes at the end of the story. 

4.  Literary Criticism: Intro

To prepare for Thursday's class, we will preview Maria Karafilis' essay, "Cisneros' Revision of the 'Bildungsroman' Novel," which students will read for homework.  We will discuss the purpose of literary criticism, which is to make us think either differently or more deeply about the text we are reading, which should also be the students' goal when writing their own essays.  We will emphasize that literary criticism is simply an interpretation—and, thus, subject to debate.  When students read Karafilis' essay, they should complete the Literary Criticism Matrix by stating the claims that they agree with, the claims that they find interesting (but do not necessarily agree with), and the claims that they definitely disagree with.  Students will share their thoughts on Karafilis' argument at the beginning of Thursday's class. 

Homework:

Students should read "Cisneros' Revision of the 'Bildungsroman' Novel" and complete the Literary Criticism Matrix for next class.  Students should also schedule a 15-minute Writing Conference to receive individual feedback on their Cisneros AP Passage Analysis by the end of the week.

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Class #6

1.  Literary Criticism: Redux

We will begin class with students sharing their thoughts on Maria Karafilis' argument in her essay, "Cisneros' Revision of the 'Bildungsroman' Novel."  Students will comment on the parts of her argument that they agree with, the parts that they find interesting (but do not necessarily agree with), and the parts that they definitely disagree with as they share their responses on the Literary Criticism Matrix.  We will also discuss the structure of a traditional bildungsroman novel, where a protagonist leaves home to become independent and self-reliant, and compare it to Esperanza's "circular" journey that brings her back to Mango Street, where she will find strength within the community rather than living alone outside of it.  We will also discuss Karafilis' claim that Cisneros' structure forces the reader "to make sense of these disjointed parts and fragments and construct them into a life, an experience, a narrative."

2.  Groupwork: Esperanza's Growth

After we discuss Karafilis' argument, we will examine Esperanza's changing attitude towards "home" in the second part of the novel.  Students will work in small groups on the Home Perception Matrix to examine why Esperanza wants to eat at school, for instance, and why she starts crying when the nun misidentifies her house as one of the "ugly three-flats."  We will also analyze Esperanza's disappointment at the fortune she receives from Elenita, and the significance of the older Esperanza admitting that her younger self didn't "get it" when Elenita says she will have "a home in the heart."  Finally, we will consider Esperanza's empathy for Mamacita, who lives so far from her home country.  We will also discuss the significance of Cisneros' repeating the word "Home" at the beginning of the vignette and how Esperanza's saying that she would also cry if she were Mamacita reveals her newfound growth and maturity.

 

3.  Family Influence

Once we have discussed Esperanza's growing appreciation for her "home" on Mango Street, we will use the Family Influence Matrix to examine the impact that Esperanza's family members have on her growth and maturity.  For instance, we will discuss the significance of Uncle Nacho's encouraging her to dance despite her embarrassment at having to wear her old "chanclas," the shoes that her mother "buys each year for school."  We will also consider the impact that the death of her grandfather, her abuelito, has on Esperanza as she considers what would happen if her own father died and how that thought prompts her "to hold and hold and hold him."  Finally, we will discuss the guilt that Esperanza feels for making fun of Aunt Lupe before she dies when she considers that her aunt was the one who most encouraged her writing, telling her that it will keep her "free."

 

4.  AP Literary Argument: Intro

To prepare for the final essay, we will revisit the 2010 AP Literary Argument prompt and discuss how Esperanza's feelings about her "home" on Mango Street change over the course of the novel in a way that reflects Cisneros' overall theme.  As we review Hegel's Dialectic, students will consider the central tension in the novel between Esperanza's individual dreams and ambitions at the beginning of the novel and her emerging sense of duty and responsibility to her community as she grows older (i.e. thesis vs. antithesis).  As students finish the novel, they will consider how Cisneros attempts to resolve this tension in a way that reveals "the meaning of the work as a whole" (i.e. synthesis).  If students would like to receive further guidance and read a sample essay that follows Hegel's Dialectic, we encourage them to read our AP Literary Argument Tutorial

Homework:

Students should read Ch. 31-44 (pp. 79-110) of the novel and take the Final Exam on their own.  Students should also write their 2010 AP Literary Argument and schedule a 15-minute Writing Conference to receive individual feedback on their essay by the end of next week.

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Class #7

1.  AP Literary Argument: Redux

We will begin class by answering questions from the Final Exam and the final chapters of the novel before revisiting the 2010 AP Literary Argument prompt and considering how the importance of "home" has changed for Esperanza over the course of the novel.  As we review Hegel's Dialectic, we will use the Red Clowns Matrix to examine the central tension in the novel between Esperanza's initial desire to leave Mango Street and her eventual feelings of duty and responsibility towards the people in her community (i.e. thesis vs. antithesis).  We will also discuss how Cisneros resolves that tension at the end of the novel in a way that reveals "the meaning of the work as a whole" (i.e. synthesis).  If students would like to receive further guidance and read a sample essay that follows Hegel's Dialectic, we encourage them to review the AP Literary Argument Tutorial.

 

2.  Groupwork: Esperanza's Maturity

After discussing the final essay, we will examine Esperanza's transformation from the beginning of the novel to the end.  Students will work in small groups on the Esperanza Maturity Matrix to analyze how Esperanza's attitude towards her home and community change in vignettes like "Bums in the Attic," where Esperanza notes that people "who live on hills sleep so close to the stars they forget those of us who live too much on earth."  We will also compare Esperanza's dream house to the one she now imagines where she will invite "[p]assing bums" to stay in her attic.  We will also examine Esperanza's desire to remain strong and independent so she won't ever have to live in "a man's house."  Finally, we will consider Alicia's claim that "[l]ike it or not, you are Mango Street, and one day you'll come back too," with the implication that it will only be people like Esperanza who "makes it better." 

 

3.  Cautionary Tales

In the final section of the novel, we are introduced to three additional characters—Rafaela, Minerva, and Sally—who serve as negative role models for Esperanza and represent the type of life that she is determined to avoid.  We will use the Cautionary Tales Matrix to consider the significance of Rafaela's desire to go down the street to the dance hall where "always there is someone offering sweeter drinks, someone promising to keep them on a silver string."  We will also examine the example that Minerva sets when she throws her husband out until he "sends a big rock through the window" before he apologizes and "she opens the door again."  Finally, we will discuss Sally's desire to leave her abusive father's house, only to run away and marry a man who refuses to let her go outside "without his permission."

4.  Authentic Assessment: Intro

As a reminder for students who want to share their Hidden Secrets Submission on Thursday, they should consider the various places, traditions, or events in their community that are unique and often missed or overlooked by visiting tourists and underappreciated by local residents.  Students should create a 3-5 minute PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation to share with the 500 Hidden Secrets guidebook committee that is overseeing submission proposals and be ready to explain what makes the place, tradition, or event so unique and why most local people and tourists tend to overlook it when visiting their town or city.  Students should be prepared to share their presentations—either with the whole class or in small groups, depending on how many students want to present—at the beginning of Thursday's class.

Homework:

Students should prepare their Hidden Secrets Submission for Thursday and schedule a 15-minute Writing Conference to receive individual feedback on their 2010 AP Literary Argument by the end of the week. 

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Class #8

1.  Authentic Assessment: Redux

We will begin class by giving students an opportunity to share—either to the whole class or in small groups, depending on how many students want to present—their Hidden Secrets Submission and discuss why a particular place, tradition, or event in their town or city is unique and often missed by tourists and underappreciated by their own community as well.  After each presentation, students can ask follow-up questions and offer their own insights and observations about what seems interesting or unique about the presenter's hometown or city.  Ultimately, we encourage students to consider how the project has made them think differently or more deeply about where they live and the impact it has had on who they are as individuals and the way they see their community and the way their perspective might change as they grow older.

2.  Groupwork: Essential Questions

After students share their presentations, we will revisit the Essential Questions Matrix to consider how students' perspectives may have changed over the past four weeks.  Students will share their initial responses to the questions with their small groups and discuss how the ideas of Sandra Cisneros, Sonsyrea Tate, and Robert Hayden may have influenced their thinking.  In particular, students should consider how Cisneros’ theme connects to the ideas expressed on the Tate Discussion Board about how our homes will always be a part of us—both positively and negatively—no matter where we go in life.  Students should also revisit the Hayden AP Poetry Analysis and consider how his theme in the poem relates to Cisneros' novel concerning the nature of maturity and whether we have inherent obligations and responsibilities to our families and communities.

3.  Socratic Seminar

Before we begin our discussion, students will be introduced to the Socratic Method and how that educational philosophy translates to the goals of a Socratic Seminar, which is a search for "truth," rather than a debate.  In other words, the intent is not to win the argument, but to explore the complexity of the issues involved.  To establish a communal code of conduct, we provide the following five guidelines for the seminar:

1.  Be courteous and respectful at all times.

2.  Seek to understand as well as to be understood.

3.  Support your claims with evidence from the text.

4.  Maintain an open mind and consider new ideas.

5.  Keep moving the discussion forward.

Students are not required to raise their hands to speak during the seminar; instead, they should allow the person speaking to finish their thought and then jump in to offer a response—always deferring to students who have not spoken as much as they have.  Students should also build off previous arguments to ensure the discussion evolves as organically as possible.

 

4.  Course Evaluation

Finally, students will be asked to submit a Course Evaluation to provide feedback for what went well over the past four weeks and what could be improved when we teach the class in the future.  We encourage students to be as specific as possible because student evaluations help us improve our curricular designs and instructional strategies to make sure future classes are as effective and engaging as possible.  Honest feedback is the only way we can improve, and it is much appreciated!  

Homework:

If students have had a positive experience—which we hope they have!—we encourage them to share their thoughts on the Student Testimonial page so prospective students and parents can understand the value of our program in building better readers, writers, and thinkers.

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