Finding Home: The House on Mango Street

Students explore the American experience through the eyes of a young Latina girl as she struggles to define herself in relation to her community.

Unit Summary

Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street is the story of Esperanza, a second generation Chicana (Mexican-American) girl living in a low-income neighborhood in Chicago. The novella spans a year in the life of twelve-year-old Esperanza, allowing the reader a window into her world through first-person narration.

In this unit, students will begin to discuss foundations of style because the text is a strong piece to analyze how authors manipulate their writing to achieve a purpose and desired effect. While The House on Mango Street is accessible to young adult readers due to relatively straightforward language and a structure of short vignettes, Cisneros nevertheless conveys complex themes about poverty, dreams, gender, and power through intricate reflections and figurative language.

Importantly, The House on Mango Street is a deeper dive into the Mexican-American experience, which students began studying in the fifth grade with Julia Alvarez’s Return to Sender. While Esperanza does not explicitly discuss what it means to be a second generation immigrant, students will read between the lines in order to continue their study of American identity.

In this unit, students will have the opportunity to experiment with personal narratives using the format of the vignette. As students study Cisneros’s understated, evocative narrative style, they will experiment with their own authorial voices. Using the structure of one vignette from The House on Mango Street, students will write the story of their own names, developing their unique voice as a narrator (W.7.3.A) and strengthening their facility with figurative and descriptive language (W.7.3.D). Additionally, students will explore the impact of a written conclusion within a slightly nontraditional narrative form (W.7.3.E). Students will continue their year-long study of both literary analysis and what it means to be American in their second essay, in which they will reflect on Esperanza’s dreams in the context of the larger concept of the American Dream. Because The House on Mango Street does not directly reference the American Dream, students will need to think critically about the schema they have developed thus far in the year as they craft strong thesis statements (W.7.1.A). In addition to providing strong evidence and appropriate introductory and concluding statements, students will begin to explore what it means to establish and maintain a formal tone within their writing (W.7.1.D).

Texts and Materials

Core Materials

Supporting Materials

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Assessment

This assessment accompanies Unit 4 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • How does a person’s environment shape their identity?
  • How do gender expectations define a person’s experience of the world and dreams for the future?
  • How do young people begin to “write” the story of their own lives?

Reading Enduring Understandings

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  • “Home” can be both a physical place and also a symbol of larger ideas about belonging, independence, and empowerment.
  • Challenging life experiences can motivate a person to seek out a different future for themselves.
  • For second-generation American immigrants, the experience of claiming a home can be complex and shaped by factors including familial connections, cultural expectations, classism, racism, and sexism.

Content Knowledge and Connections

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  • Chicano/a (Mexican-American) identity
  • Machismo

Notes for Teachers

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  • The House on Mango Street contains some violent and abusive scenes, including a chapter (“What Sally Said”) in which a girl is badly beaten by her father, and a chapter (“Red Clowns”) in which Esperanza is sexually abused by a group of boys (although the scene is not explicit). These topics are difficult and potentially upsetting; use judgment when deciding whether these topics/lessons feel appropriate for your students. Teachers should take care to pre-read chapters and create a safe atmosphere in which students can discuss the book and the issues they raise.
  • Another issue addressed in this module is the oppression of/discrimination against women. It is important that teachers do not frame the conversation around this as being a uniquely Latinx issue; women experience gender discrimination in all cultures. Students should understand that sexism is not just about individual people acting badly – it is a system and a culture that impacts us all, and that we all have the responsibility to dismantle.
  • There is one lesson that includes an undocumented character. Be sensitive to your own students’ life experiences, as this is at once a deeply personal and highly political issue.
  • Be aware that there is a fair amount of potentially sensitive language in this text; preview all reading to prepare students to handle this language appropriately.
  • Consider sending a letter to parents previewing some of the topics that will be discussed in this unit.
  • Each lesson plan lists the homework for that evening; the vast majority of the time the assignment is for students to read and take notes on the pages of focus for the following day’s class. Additionally, there is a thinking task or question provided for each evening’s reading.  Students should come to class prepared with a literal understanding of the reading in preparation for closely re-reading shorter sections of text during that class period. For homework accountability, it is recommended that teachers check students’ reading notes each day, to ensure that they read and understood the gist of the chapter. Additionally, teachers may wish to assign a short written response to the homework thinking task to bring to class the following day. Another option is to give a quick homework check quiz at the beginning of each class (3-6 questions assessing literal understanding).

Lesson Map

1

  • HOMS pp. 3 – 9

    RL.7.3

Explain how Esperanza views her home and how living there impacts her identity.

2

  • HOMS pp. 10 – 16

    RL.7.4

    L.7.5

Explain how specific literary devices, words, and phrases—and their connotations—develop mood and reveal aspects of characters.

3

  • HOMS pp. 17 – 25

    RL.7.6

Explain how Cisneros develops and contrasts Esperanza’s point of view with that of other characters.

4

  • HOMS pp. 26 – 38

    RL.7.3

Explain how setting (including social expectations) shapes characters’ lives in The House on Mango Street.

5

  • “Little Things are Big”

    RI.7.6

Determine an author’s purpose and point of view in a short piece of memoir and explain how it is conveyed.

6

  • HOMS pp. 39 – 55 — focus on “The Family of Little Feet"

    RL.7.5

Identify the features and structures of “The Family of Little Feet” that are similar to and different from a fairy tale, and how this impacts meaning.

7

Narrative Writing

  • HOMS — "My Name"

    RL.7.5

    W.7.3

    W.7.3.d

Describe the structure of the first and last paragraphs of “My Name” and use descriptive, figurative language in own writing.

8

Narrative Writing

  • HOMS — "My Name"

    W.7.3

    W.7.3.a

Establish a narrator’s point of view and introduce at least one additional character to a vignette.

9

Narrative Writing

  • HOMS — "My Name"

    W.7.3

    W.7.3.e

Draft a strong conclusion to vignettes.

10

  • HOMS pp. 56 – 64

    RL.7.4

    L.7.5

Explain how Sandra Cisneros uses literary devices to develop mood and meaning.

11

  • HOMS pp. 65 – 75 — Focus on “Geraldo No Name” and “Four Skinny Trees.”

    RL.7.6

Explain how Cisneros develops and contrasts characters’ perspectives on the world around them.

12

  • HOMS pp. 76 – 85

    RL.7.6

Draw conclusions about character perspectives in The House on Mango Street.

13

  • HOMS pp. 86 – 98

    RL.7.4

    L.7.5

Determine how Cisneros’s word choice develops tone and helps the reader better understand the characters in The House on Mango Street.

14

  • HOMS pp. 99 – 107

    RL.7.6

Explain Esperanza’s perspective of Mango Street, how it is developed, and how it differs from other characters in the text.

15

  • HOMS pp. 108 – 110

    RL.7.5

Explain how the structure of the final chapters of The House on Mango Street develop the reader’s understanding of Esperanza’s understanding of her identity and dreams for the future.

16

  • “Latinopia Book Review Sandra Cisneros "House on Mango Street"”

    RI.7.6

Explain writer Thelma Reyna’s point of view on the book The House on Mango Street and how she supports this point of view.

17

Socratic Seminar

  • HOMS

  • Socratic Seminar Guide

    RL.7.1

    SL.7.1.a

Take a clear position on a question and share evidence to support that point of view for a Socratic Seminar on The House on Mango Street.

18

Literary Analysis Writing

  • HOMS

    W.7.1

    W.7.1.a

    W.7.1.b

Draft a strong thesis statement and gather evidence to support that thesis.

19

Literary Analysis Writing

  • HOMS

    W.7.1

    W.7.1.a

    W.7.1.e

Draft strong, logical introductory and concluding statements.

20

Literary Analysis Writing

  • HOMS

    W.7.1

    W.7.1.d

Revise own essay to establish and maintain a formal academic tone.

21

2 days

Assessment

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.7.5 — Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.7.6 — Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author distinguishes his or her position from that of others.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.7.1 — Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • RL.7.3 — Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot).

  • RL.7.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds (e.g., alliteration) on a specific verse or stanza of a poem or section of a story or drama.

  • RL.7.5 — Analyze how a drama's or poem's form or structure (e.g., soliloquy, sonnet) contributes to its meaning.

  • RL.7.6 — Analyze how an author develops and contrasts the points of view of different characters or narrators in a text.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.7.1.a — Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.

Writing Standards
  • W.7.1 — Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

  • W.7.1.a — Introduce claim(s), acknowledge alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.

  • W.7.1.b — Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using accurate, credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.

  • W.7.1.d — Establish and maintain a formal style.

  • W.7.1.e — Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.

  • W.7.3 — Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

  • W.7.3.a — Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.

  • W.7.3.d — Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to capture the action and convey experiences and events.

  • W.7.3.e — Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on the narrated experiences or events.