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Why We Love Teaching Sandra Cisneros in Middle School


It’s no secret that we LOVE to incorporate short stories into our middle school ELA curriculum (click here for our favorite short stories), and one of our favorite authors to study with our students is Sandra Cisneros. Below we outline why we think her writing style is so wonderful for meeting our ELA standards and why students enjoy her writing so much (win-win!)

Note: We use Cisneros’s short story “Eleven” as a summer reading assignment (which you can read about here) and an excerpt from The House on Mango Street, “My Name” with our middle schoolers. We teach The House on Mango Street in its entirety in 8th grade and find that exposing students to Cisneros’s signature style earlier on really helps them navigate her novel with a sharper lens when they are older.

So here we go ... the three reasons incorporating Cisneros’ writing in our ELA curriculum is so effective:

Reason #1 - Close reading strategies can really be practiced and fine-tuned with Cisneros’s writing. 
Both “Eleven" and “My Name” lend themselves to close reading strategies such as making predictions, forming opinions, asking “big idea” questions, and making connections. These stories in particular promote lots of text-to-self connections, as readers can easily identify with the protagonist’s experiences with a memorable birthday and the meaning behind her name. We use these Close Reading Strategies Bookmarks for all the literature we read with our students.

Reason #2 - Cisneros’s writing is filled with figurative language. 
This allows students to gain practice in not only identifying personification, metaphors, etc., but analyzing why Cisneros chose to use a particular figurative device and its effect on characters, setting, and plot. Before reading Cisneros’s stories, we review figurative language with this fun Bingo Game. Then, when doing our close reading of the stories, we have our students do a figurative language scavenger hunt and discuss why Cisneros used these particular devices to strengthen her characters’ perspectives and make her arguments more compelling. We find it so helpful to give our students concrete practice in analyzing figurative language in shorter works before they dive into a novel like The House on Mango Street.

Reason #3 - Cisneros’s writing encourages readers to look at every sentence and see what is important. 
There is just so much beneath the surface in her writing. For example, in “Eleven,” what appears to be a simple story about a young girl facing a humiliating experience on her birthday is filled with opportunities for analysis about how the protagonist (Rachel) is growing and maturing all within a few hours. Stories like these really force students to look at the text from different angles - identifying allusions and discussing their relevance to the story. It's a fascinating way to read a literary piece with your students!

Do you teach Cisneros or The House on Mango Street in your middle school classroom? If yes, we'd love to know why you've chosen to teach her literature! Please leave a comment below or send us an email at ebacademiccamps@gmail.com :)


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We love teaching Sandra Cisneros's short stories (and vignettes from The House on Mango Street) in our middle school ELA classrooms! These are the perfect way to study close reading strategies, figurative language devices, and digging deeper into in-depth analysis of the text. Read about why we love Cisneros and why you will, too!

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