This spring, students in Fay’s ELP 2 Literature and Composition class read The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, a coming of age story about Esperanza, a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago. Over the course of the term, each student created a portfolio of artistic and written responses that explored the topic of individual identity while reflecting on their own backgrounds and experiences and comparing them to Esperanza's and other characters' in the book.
Fay’s English Language Program (ELP) is an immersive program for international students who want to become proficient or fluent English speakers. A combination of specialized coursework in reading, writing, history, and study skills and mainstream Upper School classes in math, science, art, and wellness immerses ELP students in the Fay community and quickly builds their language skills. Through their writing and class discussions in Literature and Composition, students worked on seeing themselves in a larger community and explored how individual, cultural, familial, educational, and shared identity are shaped. “This novel does a great job of opening readers up to different viewpoints,” says ELP Coordinator Sarah Ripton. “For many of our ELP students, their first impression of the United States could be Fay and the surrounding community. I want them to understand that this experience is an opportunity and a privilege, and literature like this can open their eyes to that.” Through their writing, students reflected on the reading and explored and shared ideas about how a person’s name influences their identity, how gender roles impact opportunity, and how a person’s environment shapes who they will become. “This project requires students to demonstrate all the skills learned in class from writing analytically, to editing and revising their work, identifying and explaining figurative language, and exploring the plot through the metaphoric vignettes in the book,” says Sarah.
By the end of the term, each student built a portfolio of written and visual reflections including a map of Mango Street using metaphors, symbols, and quotations from the book to accurately depict the neighborhood. “I loved this book when I was younger,” says Sarah, “and I think it’s still really relevant. “One of my goals with literature is to expose students to ideas that are relevant to today’s world and to their lives.”