CommonLit Help Student Reading Comprehension Rise with Curated Lesson Plans for a Novel Study of Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

The CommonLit library has over 3,000 high-quality lessons that engage students and strengthen their reading comprehension. Additionally, we offer over 100 Book Pairings, carefully curated supplemental texts that support the books teachers read with their class. While using these pairings, students will gain vital reading comprehension skills and increase their ability to make cross-textual connections.

This Book Pairing was created for Esperanza Rising by Pam Munox Ryan. The coming-of-age novel traces a ranch-owning family in Mexico who is forced to flee to California after an unthinkable tragedy. Once in the United States, they settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers and take on a very different life, adjusting and learning along the way.

Whether Esperanza Rising is already part of your ELA curriculum or you’re teaching it for the first time, CommonLit’s online literary program is a great resource to utilize during ELA unit planning, offering rigorous and engaging cross-textual pairings to stretch student analysis and reading comprehension.

Spark Student Interest And Build Context With An Informational Interview

Before jumping into the novel, set the scene for students with an engaging informational interview to build schema and background knowledge.

Memories Of A Former Migrant Worker” by Felix Contreras

In this text, Felix Contreras interviews his father about his past experiences as a migrant worker.

Read this interview before starting Esperanza Rising to build background knowledge about the characters’ experiences in the novel. Have students discuss Luis Contreras’s daily life as a migrant worker and the challenges he and his family faced. While students read Esperanza Rising, ask them to pay attention to similar themes of family and overcoming adversity.

Short Stories That Spark Character Analysis

Pam Munoz Ryan’s novel features an array of complex characters who are deeply changed over the course of the plot. These short stories, each from CommonLit’s online literacy program, are a great entryway to deepen students’ comprehension of the novel and add more layers to their engagement, analysis, and discussion as well.

Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros

In Sandra Cisneros’s “Eleven,” a girl is forced to wear a sweater that doesn’t belong to her on her birthday.

Read this short story after the “Cebollas/Onions'' chapter to have students consider connections between age and life experience. Have students discuss why Esperanza knows less about chores and hard work than Isabel. Then, ask students to compare Esperanza’s feelings in this chapter to Rachel’s feelings in “Eleven”?

The Little Girl Who Would Not Work” by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey

In this fable, retold by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, a little girl would rather play than work.

Read this fable after the “Papas/Potatoes” chapter to have students think about character change. Ask students to compare and contrast Esperanza’s experience with that of the little girl. How has Esperanza’s perspective changed since the beginning of the story? How is Esperanza’s experience similar to and different from the experience of the girl in the passage?

The Rich Man And The Bundle of Wood” by Maude Barrows Dutton

In Maude Barrow Dutton’s retelling of the well-known folktale, a Rich Man doesn’t pay a Poor Man enough for the wood he brings him.

Read this folktale after the “Aguacates/Avocados” chapter to have students build on their thinking about character change. Have students discuss the theme of “The Rich Man and the Bundle of Wood.” Then, invite students to compare the ways Esperanza changed to the theme of the folktale.  How has Esperanza changed since the beginning of the story? How is what Esperanza has learned similar to what the Priest tried to teach the Rich Man in “The Rich Man and the Bundle of Wood”?

Want to dive even deeper into character change? Check out our Target Lesson on character development featured in CommonLit’s digital literacy platform.

Poems To Prompt Students’ Exploration Of The Novel’s Themes

Esperanza Rising explores themes of family, growing up, and responding to adversity. CommonLit’s library offers students the opportunity to discuss these deep themes through cross-textual analysis as well. Check out the poem pairings below!

The Child” by J. Patrick Lewis

In this poem, a speaker describes the childhood experiences of the Civil Rights activist Sylvia Mendez.

Read this poem after the “Duraznos/Peaches” chapter to extend students’ learning about the prejudice Isabel faced in school. Then, share the real-life context behind the poem, which can be found in the student introduction of the text. Discuss Sylvia Mendez’s role in desegregating schools in California as a young girl. Ask students to compare Isabel’s and Sylvia’s experiences. How is Isabel’s experience at school similar to Sylvia’s experience in the poem?

The Rose That Grew From Concrete” by Tupac Shakur

This poem by famous rapper Tupac Shakur describes a flower that grew in an unlikely place.

Read this poem after finishing Esperanza Rising to have students analyze the main themes of the novel. Have students discuss how Esperanza  changed throughout the story and why. Then, have students discuss the theme of the poem. Ask students to compare Esperanza to the rose. How is Esperanza like the rose in the poem? What challenges did she face and how did she overcome them?”


Want more curated texts to boost student reading comprehension? Check out our theme sets, featuring themes such as Resilience & Success, Growing Up, and more!

Next Steps

If you’re interested in learning more ways you can support student knowledge-building through literature and assess student understanding with CommonLit’s digital literacy program, join one of our upcoming webinars!