In this 7th grade English unit students read a memoir about Esmeralda Santiago’s childhood in Puerto Rico. Santiago's story offers an insight into questions of identity as well as the immigrant experience in America as she recreates her tremendous journey from the barrio to Brooklyn, from translating for her mother at the welfare office to high honors at Harvard.
Through this unit students explore the American Dream, analyzing Esmeralda and her family’s experience as Puerto Ricans in New York and questioning whether all people in the U.S. have equal access to success. Throughout the novel students grapple with the question of whether one must give up one’s culture in order to achieve success.
Through this unit students also continue to build their vocabulary and develop important skills and habits around annotating text, literary discussion, independent reading, and evidence-based writing. As students read, discuss, and write about the text, they will examine how an author makes deliberate decisions around tone, theme, mood, conflict, juxtaposition, and point of view to convey meaning to the reader. This unit has a particular focus on figurative language and symbolism as Santiago’s writing is densely packed with flowery descriptions of her girlhood. Overall, students will emerge from this unit with a deeper understanding of the American Dream and stronger skills for interpreting figurative language.
The first five lessons in this unit are provided in this download. Lessons 6-30 are available for free on our website www.matchfishtank.org.