Thursday, September 27, 2007

Latina Genius: Sandra Cisneros

Picture Courtesy of Ray Sebastian

Lesson plans created by Claudia Treviño García M.A., M.Ed & Doctoral Student
Ph. D. Program in Culture, Language and Literacy
Division of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies

University of Texas, San Antonio

Background Information

Born December 20, 1954 in Chicago, Sandra Cisneros is an American novelist, short-story writer, essayist, and poet. Cisneros is one of the first Hispanic-American writers who has achieved commercial success. She is lauded by literary scholars and critics for works which help bring the perspective of Chicana (Mexican-American) women into the mainstream of literary feminism.
Cisneros received her B.A. from Loyola University in 1976 and her M.F.A from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1978. This workshop marks an important turning point in her career as a writer. Cisneros had periodically written poems and stories while growing up, but it was the frustrations she encountered at the Writer's Workshop that inspired Cisneros' realization that her experiences as a Latina woman were unique and outside the realm of dominant American culture. Thus, Cisneros decided to write about conflicts directly related to her upbringing, including divided cultural loyalties, feelings of alienation, and degradation associated with poverty. These specific cultural and social concerns, coupled with Cisneros' feelings of alienation as a Latina writer, came to life five years later in The House on Mango Street (1983).
In addition to writing, Cisneros has taught at the Latino Youth Alternative High School in Chicago and has been a college recruiter and counselor for minority students at Loyala University of Chicago. She served as literature director for the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio, Texas, and was an artist in residence at the Foundation Michael Karolyi in Venice, France. She has been a guest professor at California State University, University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Irvine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. Cisneros is also a member of PEN and Mujeres por la Paz, a women's peace group which helps organize. Cisneros was the only daughter among seven children, and her brothers’ attempts to make her assume a traditional female role is reflected in the feminist strains of her writing, glorifying heroines who dream of economic independence and celebrating the "wicked" sexuality of women. The family frequently moved between the United States and Mexico because of her father's homesickness for his native country and his devotion to his mother who lived there. Consequently, Cisneros often felt homeless and displaced. She began to read extensively, finding comfort in such works as Virginia Lee Burton's The Little House and Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Today, Cisneros' works give both solace and realistic lessons about feelings which, as a child, she felt were uniquely hers, namely cultural division, loneliness and shame.

A prime example of how Cisneros' writing speaks to the experiences of the forgotten or invisible of American society is The House on Mango Street. In this work, widely celebrated by critics, teachers, adults and adolescents alike, Cisneros introduces the reader to Esperanza- a poor, Latina adolescent who longs for a room of her own and a house of which she can be proud. Although Cisneros is noted primarily for her fiction, her poetry has also garnered attention. In My Wicked, Wicked Ways (1987), Cisneros writes about her native Chicago, her travels in Europe, and, as reflected in the title, sexual guilt resulting from her strict Catholic upbringing. A collection of sixty poems, each of which resembles a short story, the work exemplifies one of Cisneros' acclaimed knack for combining and crossing the boundaries of genre.
Cisneros' other works include Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories (1991), and the poetry collections Bad Boys and Loose Woman (1994). She has also written a book for juveniles, Pelitos (1994). Cisneros has also contributed to numerous periodicals, including Imagine, Contact II, Glamour, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Village Voice and Revista Chicano-Riquena. These works, short in titles but great in fresh literary ideas and cultural resonance, have garnered Sandra Cisneros wide critical acclaim as well as popular success. By reaching deep into her Chicana-Mexican heritage and articulating sensations of displacement and longing, Sandra Cisneros has created a lasting tribute to those who must conquer similar battles as she, and has thereby left a lasting friend for all who have let their imaginations build a house all their own.

Lesson Plan Title

Sandra Cisneros: An Artist and Activist-Fuerza e Inspiración

Please access the webquest below at the following link for Lesson Procedures

Learning Level
Grade level 9-12

TEKS Standards:

§113.31. Implementation of Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Social Studies, High School
(24) Social studies skills The student applies critical-thinking skills to organize and use information acquired from a variety of sources including electronic technology. The student is expected to:
(A) Locate and use primary and secondary sources such as computer software, databases, media and news services, biographies, interviews, and artifacts to acquire information

§110.42. English I
Writing/inquiry/research. The student uses writing as a tool for learning.
C) Compile information from primary and secondary sources in systematic ways using available technology

Pre-Instruction or Prerequisite Knowledge/Skills
Basic Internet search capabilities and basic writing skills

Lesson Duration
1-2 sessions, 1-2 hours each
Student may choose to do research outside of the classroom as well

Learning Location
Computer Lab, online, in the classroom, at home or in community library

Computers with Internet connection and printer/paper,

Learning Objectives
Task 1: Student will be able to conduct research in order to write a bibliography about writer and MacArthur Fellow, Sandra Cisneros
· Students will be able to type their bibliography and print a copy to post on the classroom bulletin board and display in final display in the library.

Task 2:Using the information written in your biography research to create a book which will highlight a variety of events, accomplishments or contributions

Task 3:Contsruct a timeline focusing on Sandra's works and/or life events

Task 4:Write your own biography (autobiography). This too can be displayed in the form of a book or timeline!


Included in the webquest (see link above)

About the Author

Claudia Treviño García is a first generation Mexicana/Chicana. She has a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies with Bilingual/ESL Education Certification and an M.A. In Bicultural-Bilingual Education, both from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). She taught 13 years in the San Antonio Independent School District, 10 of which were at Storm Elementary, a Dual Language Campus. She is currently in her second year of her doctoral studies at the UTSA. Her research interests include, teacher retention, pre-service teacher preparation, induction year support and teacher ethnic identity. She is currently the Assistant Director for the Academy for Teacher Excellence. She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas with her husband Gus and their three children Gustavo (18), Carolina (17) and Jonathan (12).

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