Using Color and Style to Write about Family while Reading "The House on Mango Street"

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SWBAT incorporate stylistic elements into their writing (for a desired effect) and evaluate the evidence of their peers by writing and analyzing vignettes on character traits.

Big Idea

Eyes, Nose, Fingers, and Toes: Students select a physical characteristic and write stylistically about family members.

Do Now

5 minutes

For the "Do Now" today, I am asking students to read or re-read the Hairs chapter in "The House on Mango Street." I am asking them to do this because today, we are going to be writing our own vignettes and we will be using Esperanza's discussion of her family's hair as a model. In fact, I have also created a model about my family's toes that I am going to share with students so that they have two models.

Building Knowlege

15 minutes

After students read the Hairs chapter, I ask them to tell me what stylistic elements Esperanza uses to share information about her family's hair. For those students that might need a reminder of stylistic elements, I might put a short list on the board that includes:

  • Imagery/sensory details
  • simile
  • metaphor
  • personification
  • alliteration
  • repetition

I'll allow students to add additional stylistic elements to this list as they think of them.

After we discuss which stylistic elements are used, we need to figure out what these elements tell us about the relationships that Esperanza has with these people.

For example, in the chapter, she uses a simile to compare her father's hair to a broom. This reveals that the relationship with her father may not be as close as the one she has with her mother because she uses lots of imagery to explain how her mother's hair smells like bread and reminds her of roses. Also, she describes her sister, Nenny's hair as being like fur. Generally animals have fur, so she might think of Nenny as someone that she has to take care of--like a pet.

In their oral responses, the students must mention the stylistic element and explain what it reveals about her relationship with them.

Is this aligned to the Common Core? You bet your boots it is! Students are interpreting figures of speech (e.g., euphemism, oxymoron) in context and analyzing their role in the text (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5a).

It is important they they understand how and why the author makes these stylistic choices so that they can make appropriate choices when they write their own vignettes.

After they have reviewed the chapter in the text, I will show them a few student samples that appear on pg. 10 of . We'll go through the process of orally analyzing what the stylistic elements tell us about the relationship between the writer and their family members, just as we did in the building knowledge section.

Now, it is time for my students to make purposeful stylistic choices in their own writing (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.3 )


Application: Writing about Family Traits

20 minutes

I  am giving them the Hairs_modeling assignment that I found on  You will find student samples for this assignment on the site as well, but I think it is a good idea for the teacher to write one--in front of the students if possible. This way, they can see how you choose descriptions for your family that really show how you relate to them

I am asking them to write silently for 20 minutes and include at least 4 stylistic elements in their descriptions (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3d). This is gonna be good!

Check out the video of me reading one of the Student Vignette.mp4.

Application: Color Coding and Sharing

15 minutes

Each pair of students gets a set of 4 colored markers. I am having them underline each of their examples of stylistic devices in different colors and label them. I am having them do this because I want them to be able to self-monitor to see if they understand and can identify the elements. I can also check to see if they have followed directions. Way to capture the attention of the visual learners! The Color Coding will also make it easier for me to grade when the time comes. Since I have over 140 students, I need to use my feedback opportunities wisely.

Next we will transition to sharing with a partner. The partner can check over their underlining and labeling and ask any questions about what they have written during this sharing discussion (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1a). Each person will be analyzing their partner's style, so they need to make sure they understand what is written.

After about 3-4 minutes of sharing and discussion, it's time to write. Time to close it out with the closure activity for this lesson.


10 minutes

For closure today, students are going to write about what the stylistic elements chosen by their partners reveal about their relationships with family members. (They will have already shared with their partner and discussed, so this is the time to write about it.) They must read closely and analyze fully. This is another opportunity to analyze texts (this time--their peers') to understand the stylistic choices of their partners.

In their responses, they have to tell me which stylistic devices are used, what they mean, and what they reveal about the relationships between the writer and the family members. It will be interesting to see if students' intentions shine through in their writing.  Perhaps it might be a good idea to also have them discuss their analysis with their partners to see if they met the mark. In the sample student response to the closure , the student discusses the stylistic elements used to reveal the relationship between the writer and his brother and sister.

Previewing for next class

20 minutes

For the last 10-20 minutes of class, students will complete Pre-reading 2 for the next section of "The House on Mango Street.

Here's the prompt:

Is living in a house your family owns different from living in a house or apartment your family rents?  How?  Are renters, owners and homeless people all considered equal citizens in America?  Why or why not?

This can be found on

We are discussing this so that we can connect to how Esperanza feels about moving to her new house. We can also debate whether she is justified in her feelings or whether she is just a brat who wants what she doesn't have. (We can fight -with arguments- this one out if necessary.)

When they finish the pre-reading, I will ask them begin reading pp. 12-25 of "The House on Mango Street in order to be prepared for the next day's lesson.