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MariaAlmaraz
ProfessorRoszak
English308
5December2015
TeachingLiteratureInTheElementarySchool
Aftertakingthischildrensliteraturecourse,Ihavegainedmoreunderstandingofhowto
teachliteraturetomyfuturestudentshavinginconsiderationofwhattypeofliteratureis
appropriateforacertainagegroup,orgrade.Throughoutthecoursewereadmanynovelsthat
relatedtoissuesinourmulticulturalsociety,butIwillfocusthispaperonthetwonovelsthat
inspiredmethemostasafutureteacher,EsperanzaRisingbyPamMunozRyan,andLetters
FromRifkabyKarenHesse.Thesetwonovelssharemanycharacteristicsinregardsof
immigrationexperiences,yetfocusontwodifferentpartsoftheworld,whichhelpsstudents
realizeandacceptthatimmigrantscometoourcountryfromallovertheworldtobettertheir
lives.IwouldusethesetwonovelstoteachinmyfutureclassroombecauselivinginLos
Angeles,mostlikely,therewillbeimmigrantstudentsorstudentsfromimmigrantfamilies
amongmyclassthatwillbeabletorelatetothestories.Althoughsomepartsinthesenovelsmay
becontroversial,readinganddiscussingthesetextswithmyfuture4thgradestudentswillteach
themaboutthehistoryoftheU.Sandourstate,learnsocialandemotionalwaystocopewithlife
challenges,andimprovetheirwritingskills.
HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Tobeginwith,whatIlikedaboutbothofthesenovelsisthegreatamountofhistorical
informationtheyshareinthewaythattheprotagonistsofthenovels,twoyounggirlsexperience
thehistoricalevents.Afterdeeplyanalyzingthesenovels,bothareacceptabletoteachthehistory

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socialsciencestandardsinthe4thand5thgradelevel.Forinstance,Ryansnovelfocusesonthe
H.S.Sstandard4.4thatstates,StudentsexplainhowCAbecameanagriculturalandindustrial
power,tracingthetransformationoftheCAeconomyanditspoliticalandculturaldevelopment
sincethe1850s.RyansnovelfocusesstronglyonMexicanmigrationduetoeconomicaland
personalproblemstotheU.S,mainlyCaliforniainthe1920sduringtheGreatDepression.The
noveldiscussesmanyimportanteventsthatshapedCaliforniaintowhatitistoday,suchas
agriculture,therailroadindustry,andamulticulturalpopulation,thingsthatareimportantfor4th
gradestudentstolearn.SomeexamplesthatsupportthehistoricalcontextdiscussedinEsperanza
RisingiswhenEsperanzamovesfromMexicotoCaliforniatoworkinthefieldsandwitnesses
theagriculturallabor,womenstandingatlongtables,packingthefruit;truckscomingand
goingwiththeirloadsfreshfromthefields;andworkersstockingthetraincarsthatwouldlater
behookedtoalocomotivetotakethefruitallovertheUnitedStates(Ryan,168).
Furthermore,HessesnovelalsofocusesonAmericanimmigrationusingtheexperience
ofayoungRussiangirlandherfamilywhofleetheircountryduetoreligionpersecution.The
noveldiscussesthehistoricaleventsoccurringinEuropeintheearly1900sthatcausemany
peopletoimmigrate.LettersFromRifkawouldhelpmystudentsgetanoverviewoftheH.S.S
standard5.8whichisaboutlearningU.S.historyandgeography,andthecolonizationof
Americanpeopleinthe1700s.Anexamplefromthenovelthatsupportsthehistoricalcontextis
whenRifkaexplainsthereasonforimmigrating,Theguardsspokeillofus,notbecauseof
anythingwehaddone,notbecauseofanythingwehadsaid.JustbecausewewereJews.Whyis
itTovah,thatinRussia,nomatterwhatthetrouble,theblamealwaysfallsupontheJews?
(Hesse,6).AlthoughbothprotagonistsfromthenovelsimmigratefromtheircountrytotheU.S

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tolivetheAmericanDream,andbettertheirlives,theirjourneystotheU.Sarenoteasyandthey
havetofacemanystrugglesthatforbidthemfrombeingatpeace.
SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LESSONS

Tocontinue,anothersimilaritythatbothofthesenovelsshareistheprotagonists

perseveranceofnotgivinguponthelifechallengesthattheyencounterthroughouttheir
migratingjourneyandoncetheyreachAmericanland.Bothnovelsdiscusstheprejudiceand
racismthatEsperanzaandRifkaexperienceintheUnitedStates.Forexample,Esperanzashares
herexperiencewhenshearrivestothefieldsanddescribesthelivingconditionsthatMexican
workersareplacedin,comparedtootherracesandtotheluxuriesshehadbackinMexico.
Besidesthecabinsbeingsegregatedandlackinghotwater,theywerealsosmallandcrowded,It
hadtwosmallrooms.Onehalfofthefrontroomwasthekitchenwithastove,sinkandcounter,
andatableandchairs.Thebackroomhadanothermattressbigenoughfortwopeopleandatiny
cot.Mama,wearelivinglikehorses!Howcanyoubehappy?Wedontevenhavearoomto
callourownMypapawouldneverhavewantedustoliveinaplacelikethis(Ryan,102
105).Besidesteachingthemthewrongofsegregation,thistypeofexperienceswillhelpstudents
realizenottotakelittlecomfortsinlifeforgrantedbecauseonedaywemayhaveitall,butthe
otheritmaybelostandstartwithnothingagain.
Thisnovelalsoservesasawaytohelpstudentscopewiththedeathofalovedoneifor
whenexperienced.SinceEsperanzalivesthroughthedeathofherbelovedfather,sheisforcedto
movetoAmericawithhermothertoavoidanunwantedpossiblestepfather,herfathersbrother.
ThethingsthatEsperanzadoestodealwithherfathersdeath,suchasmovingaway,knitting,
fittingintootherpeoplesshoes,helpherfindherselfandbecomeastrongerindividualsendinga

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messagetostudentswhomightbeexperiencingsuchtragedy.Esperanzasstruggleiscompared
totheknittingpatternsinablanketashergrandmothersays,Lookatthezigzagoftheblanket.
Mountainsandvalleys.Rightnowyouareinthebottomofthevalleyandyourproblemsloom
bigaroundyou.Butsoon,youwillbeatthetopofthemountainagain.Afteryouhavelived
manymountainsandvalleys,wewillbetogether(Ryan,51)Thispassagewillserveasastrong
messageforstudentstounderstandthatanystrugglethattheyareexperiencingorwillexperience
inthefuture,willnotlastforeverandtherewillalwaysbeasolutionnomatterthesituation.
IncomparisontoEsperanza,HessesprotagonistRifkalivesthroughsimilarexperiences
ofprejudice,butalsohelpsgivethereaderanimportantsocialandemotionallessonof
improvingtherelationshipwithsiblingswhilefightingadiseasethatkeepsherlonelyandaway
fromherfamily.LikeRifka,amongmyclasstheremightbestudentswhodonthaveagood
relationshipwiththeirsiblings.IwantedSaulgone.Hedrivesmecrazy.Fromhisbigearstohis
bigfeet,Icannotstandthesightofhim(Hesse,4).Studentsmaybeabletorelatetoher
personalstoryandrealizethatfamilyisthemostimportantcompanyafterall.Laterinthestory
Rifkasuffersfromtyphusandtheringwormdiseasewhichforbidsherfrombeingwithher
familythroughtheirmigrationjourney.Atthispoint,sherealizeshowvaluablethecompanyof
herfamilyis,eventhecompanyofthebrothershedislikedthemost.Thisquoteprovesthelove
towardsfamilymemberseventhoughtheremightnotbeastrongrelationship,Atlast,Ihave
seensomeonefromthefamilyButSaulcame.Heskippedschoolandcametoseemeatthe
hospital.Tovah,whenIsawhimhessobig,sohandsomeIalmostcried(Hesse,104).
Besidesteachinghistoricalcontext,andsocialandemotionallessonstomyfuturestudents,these
twonovelswillserveasaguidetoimprovetheirwritingskillsinmanyways.

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WRITING SKILLS

Lastly,thesetwonovelsprovideplentyliteraryelementsthatwillserveas
improvementformystudentswritingskillsandhelpbecreativewriters.Thesebooksshare
examplesofliteraryelementssuchasimagery,foreshadowing,epigraphs,similesand
metaphors,intertextuality,bookstructure,dialogueandmuchmore.Asstudentsseeexamplesof
suchliteraryelements,theywillbemorefamiliarwiththoseskillsandmostlikelyapplythemto
theirpersonalwritingskills.Theywilllearnnewliteraryelementsbydiscussingexamplesof
suchwritingskillswiththeclass,ingroups,withpartners,orontheirown.Afterreadingthese
booksstudentswillalsobeabletoidentifythetypeofpointsofviewsandwaysthatastorycan
bewritten.SuchasHessesnovelthatiswritteninletterformtomakeitlooklikeamore
personalstoryfromtheprotagonistspointofview.Vocabularyisalsoanimportantliterary
elementthatstudentswilllearnfromthesebooksbecauseeventhoughthetextsareeasyreading,
theyprovideimportantvocabularywordsthatwillenhancethestudentsownvocabulary.
TEACHING STRATEGIES AND ACTIVITIES

Toteachthesereadingbookseffectivelytomyfuture4thgradestudents,myplanisto
grouptheclassintocertainamountofgroupsdependingonthenumberofstudentsthatIwould
have.IwouldgroupEnglishlearnerstudentswithstudentswhoareproficientintheEnglish
language,sincemostlikelyIwillhaveESLsinmyfutureclassroom.Thisway,iftheESLs
havetroublereadingandunderstandingtheEnglishtext,theirpeersintheirgroupcanhelpthem
out.Afterreadingeachassignedsectionofthebooks,Iwouldhavestudentssummarizewhat
happenedinthatsectionwiththeirgroup.Then,asawholeclass,wewouldanalyzedeeperthe
importantpartsofeachbook.
SomeactivitiesthatIwouldassigntotheclassthatrelatestothehistoricalcontextthat

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wewouldlearnaboutishavethemdoashortinterviewwithanimmigrantthattheymightknow,
andsharetheirstorytotheclassofthefactstheywishtoshare.Then,aswereadthebooks,I
woulduseamapoftheworldtotracetheplaces;countries,thateachprotagonistmovesaway
from,sothestudentscanlocatethem.Tolearnaboutthesocialandemotionallessonstaught
fromthebooks,Iwouldhavestudentswriteaboutaproblemthattheymightbegoingthrough
andcomeupwithpossiblesolutionstofixit.Or,anotheroptionwouldbetowritepossible
solutionsforthecharactersproblemsaswearereadingalong.Toverifythatstudentshave
learnedabouttheliteraryelementsreadfromthebooks,Iwouldhavethemwritetheirownshort
storyusinganyoftheelementslearnedafterwereadeachbook.
CONCLUSION

Toconclude,thesetwonovelshaveinspiredmyfutureteachingandincreasedmyinterest
inchildrensliterature.Ihavelearnedwaystoanalyzeachildrensbookinawaythatwillbe
effectivetoteachtomyfuturestudents.HessesandRyansnovelsaregreatstoriestoteachina
4thgradeclassthatchildrenwillenjoyreading,andlearnabouthistoricalevents,socialand
emotionallessons,andwritingskillsatthesametime.Bothnovelsprovidetheinformation
necessarytobecoveredinthelanguageartsandhistorystandardsintheelementarylevel.

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WorksCited
1.Ryan,PamMuoz. EsperanzaRising.NewYork:Scholastic,2007.Print.
2.Hesse,Karen.LettersfromRifka.NewYork:H.Holt,1992.Print

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