Esperanza Rising Projects

Instructor: Sharon Linde
Reading the book 'Esperanza Rising'? A great way to reinforce and apply concepts is to have students do project work both during and after reading. This lesson gives you project ideas for students on a variety of levels.

Why Project Work?

Most educators know students learn best by getting busy with concepts. Touching, exploring, and making sense of information is the brain's natural way of processing and making neurological connections. These help us store information for the long-term and apply it in a variety of ways.

So how can we as teachers provide opportunities for our students to 'do?' One great way is project work. By creating opportunities that allow children to taken information in, process it, and respond to it in new ways, we're promoting strong connections and higher brain function. To students, it's just plain fun, but we know they're learning. It's a win-win.


The setting of a story is where and when it took place. The following projects get students invested in the setting and allow them to better understand the text.


Author Pam Munoz Ryan paints a vivid picture of the setting throughout the text in Esperanza Rising. As students read, have them keep track of the mental images they visualize by sketching or marking text with sticky notes. At the end of the book, have students create a model of one setting that they particularly liked. Ideas for models include

  • a diorama
  • clay sculptures
  • using recycled materials to build a representation.

Connect to writing by having students describe the setting using vivid adjectives. Include original sketches with the finished product and have students present their model to their classmates. Display in the classroom.

Compare and Contrast Mapping

Provide maps for students to look at before reading the story. Point out the different settings in the story, both before Esperanza and her family move and after. Look at images of these locations and discuss climate, terrain, etc.

Once students have a solid understanding of the two settings from the story, have them create a map of their neighborhood. Include the same aspects you investigated, like climate and terrain. Finally, have students compare and contrast the three settings. When all material is written, give students time to create a visual such as a three-column chart or triple Venn diagram. They can fill it with words or images.

Stretch and apply this concept by weaving Esperanza's setting into her feelings about the events in her life. Ask questions such as 'How would you feel if you lived here?' and 'Why do you think Esperanza feels the way she does about where she lives?' Allow students to refer back to their project to guide their answers.

The Great Depression

Esperanza Rising is an historical novel that takes place during the Great Depression. In order for students to fully comprehend the story they should become familiar with this time period and its characteristics. Get started with a look at this era using The Great Depression Lesson for Kids: Summary & Facts.

With students, brainstorm things that were different during the Great Depression such as clothing, employment, music, literature, schools, etc. Put students in partner groupings and assign a topic, then give them time to research. Scaffold students as they create text and images to describe their topic. Students present to the class, then place information on a bulletin board titled 'The Great Depression.'


The characters in Esperanza Rising are rich and complex. Help students analyze character traits with the following projects.

Life-Size Analysis

Assign each student or partner pairing a character from the story. As they read, students should take notes on the character, applying analytical skills as dictated by your curriculum. Ideas include personality traits, interactions, actions, dialogue, etc.

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