Four Skinny Trees

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SWBAT to read a vignette from The House On Mango Street and a poem from Tupak Shakur, then produce a two paragraph original piece about something that symbolizes them.

Big Idea

Roses, trees, and me. What symbolizes you and how will you say it?

Vocabulary Five Quiz

20 minutes

We begin today with Vocabulary Five Quiz, based on the commonly tested words reviewed in the previous lesson.

Sharing Neighborhood Assignment

15 minutes

At the conclusion of the vocabulary quiz, I ask for any student volunteers to share their Neighborhood Assignment with the whole class on the document camera.

As students share, I have them read both the lines they have chosen to work with about their characters as well as the inferences they have made (Student Sample 1Student Sample 2). This gives me the opportunity to reinforce that inferences work with what is implicit in a text and not with what is explicit, which is a concept with which some of my students still struggle.  This also gives me the opportunity to use the words implicit, explicit, and inference, all of which were previous vocabulary words that are becoming a noticeable part of my students' own discourse in class.

The finished products transform one of our classroom walls into Esperanza's neighborhood (Welcome to Mango Street).

Focus On Four Skinny Trees

35 minutes

Once the last neighbor has been shared, I tell my students that we will be reading the next consecutive vignette in The House On Mango Street, "Four Skinny Trees."

I explain that I have made a copy of this particular vignette, Four Skinny Trees  for them because I want them to write on it.  I first ask a student to read the vignette out loud to the class.  At the conclusion of the reading, I ask my students as a whole group for their first impressions, interpretations, and/or inferences.  I ask them to consider how this vignette is different from the vignettes we have read lately, on Esperanza's coming-of-age, as well as the series of vignettes recently read that introduced a number of new characters.

I have written the word symbol on the whiteboard and direct my students' attention to it as soon as one of them recognizes the comparison Esperanza is making between herself and the trees.  I explain to students that the trees are a symbol of Esperanza and ask them to share the ways this is so, using evidence from the text.  After sharing responses as a whole class, I direct their attention to the question at the bottom of their handout and ask them to write a one-two sentence response to it.

I then instruct my students to take a highlighter and to read the vignette again, quietly, to themselves, highlighting all of the examples of figurative language that they find.  Next to each highlighted example, I instruct them to put the corresponding first initial of what specific type of figurative language is being used (EX:  "M" for metaphor, "S" for simile, etc.).

When my students have finished highlighting, I ask them if they have noticed that one type of figurative language has been used more often than others.  They should notice that personification is used throughout the vignette.  I ask them why they think Sandra Cisneros has chosen this strategy for this particular vignette.  Usually my students are able to explain that because she is comparing Esperanza to the trees, personification is the best choice to use, to make the trees appear human.  I explain to my students that the result of the repeated use of personification is a vignette that functions as an extended metaphor.

I then instruct my students to turn their copies of the vignette over, where I have reproduced a copy of Tupak Shakur's poem, "The Rose That Grew From Concrete" (I have found a version written in his own handwriting).  I show a picture of Tupak , assuming that not all of my students will know who he was, and briefly explain that he was a rapper known for his poetic skills.  I explain that the poem I have included here bears a striking resemblance to "Four Skinny Trees."  I ask a student to read it out loud, then again ask the whole class for their first impressions, interpretations, and/or inferences. They should be able to again detect the use of personification.  The motivation to use Shakur's poem stems from the desire to  move the use of personification into a realm that might appeal to even more of my students, to see a contemporary (if not cool and hip) application of the strategy in order to widen its appeal.

Finally, with these two samples to consult for inspiration, I direct my students' attention to their homework assignment, printed below Shakur's poem, where they are asked to write about something in their home or in their neighborhood that symbolizes them.  I encourage them to make conscious decisions about the type of figurative language they choose to work with, as we have discovered Cisneros and Shakur do.  This will be completed as homework.