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Get a sneak peak at C. I. A. Unit of Study, Historical Fiction—Esperanza Rising, 6.3 and download tools to help you prepare to teach this unit of study! Coming soon to the Read Side by Side store!

sneak peak image of historical fiction novel Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz RyanTeachers,

Thank you for waiting so patiently for the release of my last unit of study for sixth grade, Historical Fiction—Esperanza Rising!

I know how frustrating it is to have an author delay printing—waiting for Ashes, by Laurie Halse Anderson to come into print just about killed me!

But as they say, “Good things come to those who wait!” And I have to say, I think the delay was meant to be. Circling back to this unit in the spring of '17 changed my focus from the California strikes to a much more current event in today’s world—immigration and the migrant worker. In this unit, students will continue to study the push and pull factors that cause people to migrate. They will look at the hardships immigrants face, as well as the political challenges. They will learn to feel empathetic for people going through difficult circumstances.


Dorothea Lange in 1932, CaliforniaEsperanza Rising, by Pam Muñoz Ryan, is a historical fiction novel that tells about a young girl’s immigration to the United States from Mexico in the 1930s. Students will read about the hardships the Mexican people endured as they came to the United States in search of opportunity.

This unit of study connects well to the previous unit, 6.2, Children of the Dust Bowl, in which students learned about the migration of the Okies to California during the same time period. Students will naturally make connections between the hardships the Okies faced and the hardships the Mexican people faced as they struggled to survive in the harsh conditions of migrant farm labor camps. Students will link the issues the Mexican people faced in the past to issues this group of people still faces today.

Notes taken from multiple sources throughout the unit of study will support a formal writing piece that students will write at the conclusion of the Formal Writing 6.3 unit. This formal writing piece will explain the political and economic challenges the Mexican people who migrated to the United States faced, and will also highlight the strength of this group of people.

(Washington teachers—this formal writing piece will be Classroom Based Assessment “People on the Move”)

Table of Contents

Our Lady of GuadalupeThis Table of Contents will take 38 days to complete, with 10 days devoted to research and formal writing at the end of the unit.

Throughout the unit, students will read several nonfiction articles, studying topics of Mexico’s history, the myth of the phoenix, the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as well as the topic of repatriation of Mexican immigrants and migrant farming.

Here is a list of the articles and their links:

Additionally, students will study several new elements of craft including author’s style (romanticism), situational irony, myth, motif, and the changing of a character over time. Students will become more sophisticated in their analysis of literature and literary elements.

The Plot Line

Mexican proverb the rich person is richer when he becomes poorIn this final unit for sixth grade, teachers will now transition students from the quadrant language to the literary language of exposition, rising action, falling action, and resolution. They will use words like protagonist and antagonist to describe the main characters, and internal and external conflict to describe the major problems in the book.

(This shift in language inspired the making of a 5th poster to adorn the wall of every C. I. A. classroom—the plot line poster!)


Academic vocabulary will be taught in the 10-minute vocabulary routine throughout this unit. Here is the list of vocabulary words covered:

  • Social system
  • Revolution
  • Patient vs. impatient
  • Resentment
  • Self-Importance
  • Joy vs. anguish
  • Corrupt
  • Resurrected
  • Privileged
  • Selfish vs. unselfish
  • Irritable
  • Separated
  • Grateful vs. ungrateful
  • Tormented
  • Repatriation
  • Charitable vs. uncharitable
  • Indignant
  • Menacing
  • Misjudged
  • Exploit

Mark Your Teacher’s Copy

I know you will want to prepare your teacher’s copy of the book Esperanza Rising in order to be ready to teach this unit! Please access Labels and highlights 6.3 here.


For more information about C. I. A. Unit of Study, Historical Fiction—EsperanzaSarah Collinge, founder & president headshot Rising, 6.3, click here.


Written by Sarah Collinge

Founder and President

Read Side by Side Publications LLC.