I am a high school English teacher who is passionate about writing, theater, directing and enjoying a positive life with family and friends.
Sandra Cisneros gives us the wonderful story of a young girl name Esperanza in her short novel The House on Mango Street. This is an interesting novel, because it doesn’t follow the “normal” structure of a novel. Instead, it is comprised of a series of vignettes, or short sketches that can stand on their own. I think of it like those brilliant photo puzzles that are made up of small individual pieces with photos on them. All the small photos come together to make one large picture. In the novel, all the individual sketches, or vignettes, come together to create the full story of Esperanza and her coming-of-age.
I enjoy reading this novel with my students for a few reasons. First, it is simply a great story of a young girl facing the world, learning and growing. It is beautifully creative, which can be inspiring to young student writers. It is poetic, which is appealing to the English teacher in me that needs to find as many ways as possible to expose students to examples of literary elements. Last, the vignettes are short and accessible to young (and old) readers.
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Modeling is Good Teaching!
I have used The House on Mango Street as an inspirational model for creative writing with ninth grade students. Modeling is good teaching. Modeling writing for students is essential for them to gain a base for their own writing voice. With the Mango Street creative writing assignment, I always start with the vignette entitled “My Name.” I read it with students and we discuss the elements that we see. We explore the structure and the language. Then, I put up my own model. I used Cisneros’ vignette as a model to write my own version, so I can make a side by side comparison for students. That allows them to brainstorm ideas from their own experience to create their own personal creative piece entitled ‘my name.’
My Name – Donna. Woman.
In Italian my name means woman. Growing up it was an
old pair of shoes lying in the middle of the living room
floor. Too big and clunky. Grown up and unfamiliar.
Donna. Woman. I have always been Donna, but not
always grown woman. Those are big shoes to fill and so many to
choose from. The fun is in the trying on. Something to
grow into and discover.
It is an old song on the radio as my father drove to the
hospital to watch me enter the world. A beautiful love
song unnoticed for too long. Named for a song. There
is music in that. Music that is free to grow into whatever
melody it chooses. No traditions to uphold. No mold to
fill. No false expectations to be something that I’m not.
No guidelines. Faltering freedom. A woman can be what
she wants. A woman can do it all. Those are big shoes
When Americans say it, it is certain and strong. When
Europeans say it, it exotic and familiar. Rolling off the
Italian tongue, striking, smooth, spontaneous.
I am glad it wasn’t the other way around. A child with a
grown up name is better than an adult with a child’s name.
As a woman it fits. Comfortable with room to grow.
Article and poem written by Donna Hilbrandt. 2012.
Cisneros discusses the story behind the writing of The House on Mango Street.
Find our more about Sandra Cisneros from suzettenaples:
© 2012 Donna Hilbrandt
Donna Hilbrandt (author) from Upstate New York on October 11, 2012:
Thank you, Robin. I don't teach 9th grade anymore, but I always enjoyed teaching Cisneros. She inspires me, and I hope I have passed that on to my students. I appreciate the read and oomment.
Robin Grosswirth from New York on October 11, 2012:
Pieces of writing touch souls and make it easier to become a platform for inspiring others to write. You had your goal and were on target. Great lesson.
Donna Hilbrandt (author) from Upstate New York on June 07, 2012:
Thank you swb78!
Scott Biddulph from Gainesville Georgia on June 06, 2012:
I really enjoyed your Hub. I found it both useful and interesting--voting up!