Esperanza Rising


Research Scenario


The novel Esperanza Rising tells the story of a young girl living in Mexico in the 1930s who finds herself transplanted to the San Joaquin Valley of California due to difficult family circumstances. While in California, she experiences life not only as a Mexican girl whose life is influenced by the customs and traditions of her heritage, but also as a migrant farm worker in the U. S. during the Depression.

To better understand the novel and its historical context, you will investigate a topic related to one facet of Esperanza's experience. Your research should enable you to answer the following question:

How does an understanding of the historical and cultural background of Esperanza Rising enhance your reading of the novel?

Task and Product



Your task will be to work with a team of 3-4 classmates to research one aspect of Esperanza's experience. Your team will use the information from your research to create a visual about your research topic for a classroom display which will be used by your classmates to enhance their understanding of the novel. The type of visual guide that you will create will relate to your particular topic area:

  • The growing seasons group will create a seasonal calendar representing the variety of crops grown in California at various times during the year and how they "mark time" for the agricultural workers.
  • The living conditions group will investigate the different types of farmworkers' camps in California in the 1930s and the conditions that were found there. The group will then create a chart to compare and contrast living conditions in the different camps.
  • The glossary group will research unfamiliar words from the Spanish language and the Mexican culture and will create a classroom glossary.
  • The customs and traditions group will investigate some of the Mexican traditions that are represented in the novel and create a scrapbook page display for at least three of them.
  • The growers vs. workers group will examine the labor movement among migrant workers during this time period and create a compare/contrast display of attitudes and beliefs of these two groups.
  • The author's heritage group will examine how the background and experiences of the author influenced the writing of the novel and design a poster to represent this information.

You will act both as an individual researcher and as a member of a team to produce your final product. After conducting research individually, each team member will share his/her findings with the rest of the team. Team members will then work together to prepare the group's product. All team members must do individual research and participate in team planning, production, and presentation of the display. You will need to plan as a team how to divide responsibilities for creating and presenting your final product. Click on the links in the bulleted list above for your group's product guide.

Research Process Model


The most difficult part of a research assignment is knowing where to begin! You may feel overwhelmed by the assignment, the vast amounts of information, all the reading you will need to do, and the decisions you must make in order to ace this assignment.

Check out the the Information Literacy Process Model for a step-by-step guide.





The following scoring tools may be used or adapted by your teacher to evaluate your research process and your final product and presentation.

Research Process Assessments:

  • Daily-- Formative
  • Research Process--Summative (Student/Self)
  • Research Process--Summative (Teacher)

Final Product Assessments: 




Essential question guiding your team's research:
How does an understanding of the historical and cultural background of Esperanza Rising enhance your reading of the novel?

Subsidiary Questions for each group:

Click on your topic from this list to print out a worksheet to organize your group's research.

Growers vs. Workers and Labor Unions

Gather and Sort


Gather information about your research topic from a variety of sources.

Record and sort your research findings by taking notes on your copy of the research organizer for your group . If you prefer to take notes on lined paper, write each of your subsidiary questions at the top of a separate sheet of notebook paper. You may also use a graphic organizer or note cards if you prefer.

Be sure to avoid plagiarism by properly paraphrasing and quoting in your writing.

Keep track of your resources for a bibliography. Cite all information sources you use for your team's list of Works Cited. Follow a guide to prepare your bibliography (works cited) or use an online site for help, such as EasyBib, CitationMachine, or Noodle Tools Express.




checkmarkIndividual Team-members:

  • Analyze your research notes to determine if you have answered your subsidiary questions.
    • Have you gathered sufficient details about your topic to create your section of the team display?


  • Analyze your research notes to determine which details will best address the needs of your audience and the demands of your research task.
    • Meet with your team-members to share research notes, bibliography entries, pictures, etc
    • What new insights have emerged about your topic?
    • Which facts are the most important and would be most interesting for your classmates to know?
    • Which facts are irrelevant or unimportant and could be eliminated?
    • As you go through your notes, each team member should highlight the information you decide as a group to include in your display. If team members have any identical information, only one person should highlight those notes.
    • Evaluate the effectiveness of your team's research for the task..
      • Does your team have sufficient information to answer the essential question?
      • Is your team ready to create your final product?

checkmarkSynthesize your findings by working with your team members to plan and create your display.




Meet as a team in order to:

  • Design and create the visual for your team's classroom display which should include the name of each team-member.
  • Write a brief introduction to the information. Why is it important?
  • Have each team member create his/her own section of information based on his/her specialty area.
  • Re-visit the scoring tool for your task for your product and your product guide to be sure you have satisfied all requirements.
  • Follow your teacher's directions for the presentation of your display.


After reading the novel, reflect on the essential question above. In a well-developed paragraph, explain how understanding the historical and cultural context of the novel enhanced your understanding of the plot. Use at least three specific examples from the novel in your explanation.


  • Research the life of Cesar Chavez, who was a Mexican American labor activist and a leading voice for the migrant farm worker. Although he was just a child during the 1930s, he went on to focus national attention on the plight of this group in the 1960s. How much of his experiences was similar to the characters in this novel? What did he do as a result?