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This lesson helps students understand cultural differences with “The House on Mango Street”


Language Arts, Social Studies  


11, 12  


Title – A Chicana Tells Her Story
By – Wendy Turner
Primary Subject – Social Studies
Secondary Subjects – Language Arts
Grade Level – 11-12
Envisioning “the Other”: A Chicana Tells Her Story
Students will:
·Compose a reflective journal to demonstrate an understanding of the feelings of the young girl in “The House on Mango Street,” and then use this understanding to develop a connection with a person of another culture.

·Create an artistic rendering of the description of the house presented in “The House on Mango Street” to show an understanding of the detail and feelings of the young girl in story toward her new house.

·Explore the word “empathy” and apply that to their understanding of the young girl in the story.

Context: Especially timely since the Sept. 11 tragedy, it is important for students to understand cultural differences they may encounter in their community. Students will be exposed to literature written from the perspective of “the other” with the intention of creating a sense of empathy and understanding between cultures.

Resources: Transparencies with photos of Mexican Americans, Sandra Cisneros’ House on Mango Street (a collection of 44 stories), markers or colored pencils, and poster board.

1. Anticipatory Set: (10 minutes) On an overhead projector, students will view photos of Mexican Americans. I used three photos: one presenting a stylishly dressed Mexican American pregnant woman, another presenting two Mexican American men in cowboy hats and eating yellow popsicles, and another presenting several Mexican American little girls, dancing. For each photo, students are asked to write down their first impression of the person. I might ask questions like, “Is this person nice/ mean/ scared/ happy? What can you guess about this person?” For instance, upon viewing the photo of the Mexican American men in cowboy hats, the students might infer that the men work on a ranch. We will discuss their reactions, and I will give them the “true” background stories of each of the people in the photos as related to me by the photographer. We will briefly review the term “stereotype,” and will prepare to read the story. The students will turn in what they have written, and later, the students will compare their initial reaction to the photos to their reactions at the end of the unit.

2. Students will receive books or handouts of the story “The House on Mango Street.” They will receive art materials–poster board and markers (5 minutes).

3. We will read the first story, “House on Mango Street” together in class (10 minutes).

4. After reading the story, students will be asked to draw their own visualization of the house on Mango Street (10 minutes).

5. Discussion of story/ student reactions (15 minutes).

6. Assign/explain homework assignment (5 minutes).

Homework: Students will be given a writing assignment in which they reflect on the girl’s situation in “A House on Mango Street.” Can they relate to her feelings? Students will also be asked to read “My Name” and “Laughter” for the following class period. The students will be instructed to pay attention to details that signify Mexican American culture. For instance, in “My Name” the main character talks about the different meanings her name has in Spanish and English.
Student Assessment:
The assignments are worth 80 points total.
·Photo Notes: 10 points
·Reflective Piece: 25 points
·Artistic Rendering: 25 points
·Class Participation: 20 points


Photo notes:
·Students write down appropriate remarks about each photograph, and make connections between their own experiences (10 points).

Reflective piece:
·Demonstrates an understanding of the girl’s attitude based on the reading. For instance, the reflective piece might include an example of a time when the student was embarrassed about his or her home, clothes, car, etc. (25 points).

Artistic rendering:
·Poster is appropriate – there is evidence of student understanding of the description of the house presented in the story. For instance, the girl is ashamed of her house, so it is probably not a beautiful place (15 points).
·Poster demonstrates an understanding of the culture, based on the readings (10 points).

Class Participation:
·Complete photo notes, in-class art, and reflection as requested (10 points).
·Students make a clear effort to reflect on each assignment, and to do each assignment to the best of their ability (10 points).

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