Return to homepage

 

Autobiography Writing

Lesson 5: my name

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Class:

Advisory

Grade:

9th

Timeframe:

40-Minute Lesson

 

 

Materials Needed:

Autobiography Notebooks

Copies of “My Name,” vignette from The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (attached)

“My Name” Writing Prompts Worksheets

 

Essential Question:

 

How can writing an autobiography help deepen understanding of one’s identity?

How have the people, places and events of your past shaped who you are today?

Unit Question:

 

Why is it important to reflect on one’s past?

 

Rationale:

Adolescence is a particularly sensitive life stage of questioning and trying to make sense of one’s identity.  The vignette "My Name,” from Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street, offers students a wonderful opportunity to explore the connection between one's name and one's sense of self.  By engaging with the protagonist Esperanza’s contemplation of her name, students will also benefit from learning that one’s name can have multiple meanings through multiple perspectives.  Then students will be prepared to reflect upon and write about their connections to their own names in their notebooks.

 

 

LESSON

 

1. Prewriting Activities (12 mins):

a)      Teacher asks the following warm-up question: “What is the connection between one’s name and one’s sense of self/identity?  In other words, in what ways are our names meaningful?”  Students share ideas with the class.

b)      Teacher introduces the vignette "My Name” as a model for the lesson, and asks students to keep the following question in mind as it is read aloud to them: “In the vignette “My Name,” what does Esperanza’s name mean to her?”  They may underline/highlight accordingly. (Vignette Vocab. Preview at end of this document)

c)      Teacher reads the vignette aloud while students follow along with copies.

d)      Teacher asks: “What did you notice about what Esperanza’s name means to her?”  Students share their observations/comments, and teacher guides them in seeing how one's name can have various shades of meaning from different socio-cultural perspectives.

 

2. Focused Free-Writing (18 mins):

Students first write their names in large, clear print on the top of a fresh page in their notebooks, and respond to at least 3 of the following prompts (15-20 mins):

  1. What’s the story behind your name?  How and why was it chosen for you?
  2. What people, places, events, things or ideas do you associate with your name?
  3. Do you feel like your name represents/reflects who you are?  Explain why or why not.
  4. How would you describe the connection between your name and your sense of who you are?
  5. If you could change your name, would you?  Why or why not?  If you changed it, what would you change it to?  Why?

 

3. Sharing (8 mins):

Student volunteers read their “gem,” their favorite line about the meaning of their names.  Students should be reassured that they are encouraged to share only that with which they feel comfortable.

 

4. Closing (2 mins):

Teacher reminds students that what they’ve written about their names could be a passage in their autobiography, or can serve as “seeds” for related autobiography ideas.

 

 

 

Vignette Vocabulary Preview

Teacher can preview unfamiliar vocabulary with students prior to reading the vignette aloud:

Ř      vignette – a short, descriptive literary piece

Ř      sob – to cry uncontrollably

Ř      chandelier – a decorative (fancy) light fixture

Ř      inherit – to receive or take over from an ancestor or predecessor (I inherited my mother’s eyes.)

 


Autobiography Writing

Lesson 5: my name

 

My Name

From The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

 

 

In English, my name means hope.  In Spanish it means too many letters.  It means sadness, it means waiting.  It is like the number nine.  A muddy color.  It is the Mexican records my father plays on Sunday mornings when he is shaving, songs like sobbing.

It was my great-grandmother’s name and now it is mine.  She was a horse woman too, born like me in the Chinese year of the horse—which is supposed to be bad luck if you’re born female—but I think this is a Chinese lie because the Chinese, like the Mexicans, don’t like their women strong.

My great-grandmother.  I would’ve liked to have known her, a wild horse of a woman, so wild she wouldn’t marry.  Until my great-grandfather threw a sack over her head and carried her off.  Just like that, as if she were a fancy chandelier.  That’s the way he did it.

And the story goes she never forgave him.  She looked out the window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow.  I wonder if she made the best with what she got or was she sorry because she couldn’t be all the things she wanted to be.  Esperanza.  I have inherited her name, but I don’t want to inherit her place by the window.

At school they say my name funny as if the syllables were made out of tin and hurt the roof of your mouth.  But in Spanish my name is made out of a softer something, like silver, not quite as thick as sister’s name—Magdalena—which is uglier than mine.  Magdalena who at least can come home and become Nenny.  But I am always Esperanza.

I would like to baptize myself under a new name, a name more like the real me, the one nobody sees.  Esperanza as Lisandra or Maritza or Zeze the X.  Yes.  Something like Zeze the X will do.

 


Name: ___________________________________                                       Date: _______________

 

 

Autobiography Writing: My Name

 

Directions: First write your name in large, clear print on the top of a fresh page in your notebook.  Then, respond to at least 3 of the following prompts in your notebook (be sure to attach this prompt sheet into your notebook for future use):

 

1.      What’s the story behind your name?  How and why was it chosen for you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.      What people, places, events, things or ideas do you associate with your name?

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.      Do you feel like your name represents/reflects who you are?  Explain why or why not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.      How would you describe the connection between your name and your sense of who you are?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.      If you could change your name, would you?  Why or why not?  If you changed it, what would you change it to?  Why?

 

 

  Return to homepage