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Using "The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros to Inspire and Teach Creative Writing - A Lesson Plan and a Poem

Updated on August 16, 2013
donnah75 profile image

I am a high school English teacher who is passionate about writing, theater, directing and enjoying a positive life with family and friends.

Sandra Cisneros gives us the wonderful story of a young girl name Esperanza in her short novel The House on Mango Street. This is an interesting novel, because it doesn’t follow the “normal” structure of a novel. Instead, it is comprised of a series of vignettes, or short sketches that can stand on their own. I think of it like those brilliant photo puzzles that are made up of small individual pieces with photos on them. All the small photos come together to make one large picture. In the novel, all the individual sketches, or vignettes, come together to create the full story of Esperanza and her coming-of-age.

I enjoy reading this novel with my students for a few reasons. First, it is simply a great story of a young girl facing the world, learning and growing. It is beautifully creative, which can be inspiring to young student writers. It is poetic, which is appealing to the English teacher in me that needs to find as many ways as possible to expose students to examples of literary elements. Last, the vignettes are short and accessible to young (and old) readers.

Modeling is Good Teaching!

I have used The House on Mango Street as an inspirational model for creative writing with ninth grade students. Modeling is good teaching. Modeling writing for students is essential for them to gain a base for their own writing voice. With the Mango Street creative writing assignment, I always start with the vignette entitled “My Name.” I read it with students and we discuss the elements that we see. We explore the structure and the language. Then, I put up my own model. I used Cisneros’ vignette as a model to write my own version, so I can make a side by side comparison for students. That allows them to brainstorm ideas from their own experience to create their own personal creative piece entitled ‘my name.’

My Poem

My Name – Donna. Woman.


In Italian my name means woman. Growing up it was an

old pair of shoes lying in the middle of the living room

floor. Too big and clunky. Grown up and unfamiliar.

Donna. Woman. I have always been Donna, but not

always grown woman. Those are big shoes to fill and so many to

choose from. The fun is in the trying on. Something to

grow into and discover.


It is an old song on the radio as my father drove to the

hospital to watch me enter the world. A beautiful love

song unnoticed for too long. Named for a song. There

is music in that. Music that is free to grow into whatever

melody it chooses. No traditions to uphold. No mold to

fill. No false expectations to be something that I’m not.

No guidelines. Faltering freedom. A woman can be what

she wants. A woman can do it all. Those are big shoes

to fill.


When Americans say it, it is certain and strong. When

Europeans say it, it exotic and familiar. Rolling off the

Italian tongue, striking, smooth, spontaneous.

I am glad it wasn’t the other way around. A child with a

grown up name is better than an adult with a child’s name.

As a woman it fits. Comfortable with room to grow.

Woman. Donna.

Article and poem written by Donna Hilbrandt. 2012.

Cisneros discusses the story behind the writing of The House on Mango Street.

© 2012 Donna Hilbrandt

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    • donnah75 profile imageAUTHOR

      Donna Hilbrandt 

      5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thank you, Robin. I don't teach 9th grade anymore, but I always enjoyed teaching Cisneros. She inspires me, and I hope I have passed that on to my students. I appreciate the read and oomment.

    • RobinGrosswirth23 profile image

      Robin Grosswirth 

      5 years ago from New York

      Pieces of writing touch souls and make it easier to become a platform for inspiring others to write. You had your goal and were on target. Great lesson.

    • donnah75 profile imageAUTHOR

      Donna Hilbrandt 

      6 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thank you swb78!

    • swb78 profile image

      Scott Biddulph 

      6 years ago from Gainesville Georgia

      I really enjoyed your Hub. I found it both useful and interesting--voting up!

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