Flashlight Readers
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Lesson 3: Pam Muñoz Ryan Shares Writing Secrets!

How did our author discover the tale of Esperanza? Take a behind-the-scenes look with Pam Muñoz Ryan by using the Internet to complete a KWL Chart. Students will use the author interview as a model for completing their own interviews. Afterwards, each student will collect pictures and artifacts to complete a scrapbook of the important events in the life of her interviewee.

Grade Level: 3–8

2 Days

Student Objectives
Students will:

  • Use digital resources to explore the life of an author and how she finds her purpose for writing
  • Write a short narrative based on an interview or personal experience

Language Arts Standards (4th Ed.)

  • Evaluates own and others' writing (e.g., applies criteria generated by self and others, uses self-assessment to set and achieve goals as a writer, participates in peer response groups)
  • Writes narrative accounts, such as short stories (e.g., establishes a situation, plot, persona, point of view, setting, conflict, and resolution; creates an organizational structure that balances and unifies all narrative aspects of the story; uses a range of strategies and literary devices such as dialogue, tension, suspense, naming, figurative language, and specific narrative action such as movement, gestures, and expressions)


  • Computer: activities can be modified from one computer to a whole computer lab
  • Flashlight Readers: Esperanza Rising
  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
  • Example of a KWL Chart
  • Paper and pencil
  • Optional: art supplies for creating a scrapbook
  • Optional: LCD or overhead projector to display activities


  • Bookmark Flashlight Readers on the computers students will use
  • NOTE: If students have limited access to computers, print activity screens and make transparency copies to post on an overhead projector


Day One
Step 1:

Draw a KWL Chart on the board. Have the students work together as a class to complete the KWL chart on author Pam Muñoz Ryan. Instruct them to fill out all the details on what they have learned about her so far and everything they want to learn through research.

Step 2:
Have each student choose one of the topics listed under “What do I want to find out?” Then allow students time to go through Ryan’s Author Note and Q&A to find out about their topic. As they gather the information, have them list it under “What did I learn?”

Step 3:
Bring the students back together to share information. Ask if they found out everything they wanted to know. Is there more that they might have wanted to learn? If yes, how might they have found the additional details? Point out that personal interviews are another way to get answers to specific questions. Have students create a list of questions they would like Ryan to answer. (Note: If a live chat is scheduled, students should submit questions online for Ryan to answer during her interview.)

Day Two
Step 4:

Discuss how Ryan got the idea for Esperanza Rising from the life of her abuelita, or grandmother. She was able to get so much detail about life during the Great Depression by talking one-on-one with her abuelita. Assign each student to conduct an interview with a grandparent or other older adult who has played an important role in his life. Before your next class, students should have notes from the interview. (Note: If time is limited, have the students reflect on an important event in their own lives.)

Step 5:
Have students create a scrapbook recording historic moments from their interviewees’ lives. Each scrapbook should include photos or illustrations of significant objects or events in the interviewee’s life. Students can also use pictures found in print or online resources that depict meaningful events. Each photo, illustration, or reference picture should be accompanied by a short description (2-5 sentences) explaining a phase of the interviewee’s life as related to the image. The level of sophistication of this scrapbook will depend on your students’ ability levels and your instructional time constraints.

Step 6:
Give students time to share the scrapbooks. On their own sheets of paper, other students should write their reactions to images and stories in the scrapbook. Have students discuss how their interviewees’ life experiences were similar or different. How was the process of interviewing the grandparent or other adult?

Assessment & Evaluation

  • Informally assess student participation in the creation of the KWL Chart
  • Evaluate student scrapbooks based on the teacher-defined criteria

Lesson Extensions

  1. Many students have questioned Ryan about the relationship between Esperanza and Miguel. Ask students to consider why the author did not provide details on what happens to these childhood friends. Have students write a journal entry from Esperanza's or Miguel's perspective that reveals what their future held and whether they were together or apart.
  2. Give students the opportunity to write a letter to the author to ask their own questions about Esperanza Rising or the writing process in general.
  3. Encourage students to read other books on the list of Recommended Books . Schedule time for the students to discuss the books in small groups and compare the stories to Esperanza Rising.