The fifth graders in room 109 are reading and exploring the novel Esperanza Rising. Students are concentrating on the big idea of Change and how this concept is portrayed in the life of the main character, Esperanza. As they are reading the novel, the students are also being asked to connect this concept change to their own lives.

For one of the first assignments of the integrated arts work, the fifth graders wrote bio-poems in the classroom. These poems consist of 10 lines that express personal factors used to label themselves or describe their identity. After writing these works, added a small self-portrait to accompany the poem.

Student #1

Jeremiah Bio poemThe picture above is Jeremiah’s bio poem written in Ms. Terry’s class. The background and mini self-portrait were done in the art room. The poems were a basis for the beginning of the fifth grader’s self-portraiture. Jeremiah self portrait 1Over the course of several art sessions, Mrs. Skylas and Ms. T taught the students how to draw self-portraits. Students used mirrors to help them view themselves and they also had paper guides that showed the correct placement of certain facial features such as eyes, ears, nose and mouth and where the hairline would begin on the human head.

Student #2

Taji Bio poem

The bio poems were the driving force behind the idea of incorporating the literal imagery of the poems into the visual imagery on the frame of the students self-portraits. Ms. T. presented the work of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo as a reference for the students to see how a well-known artist used symbolic imagery in her own self-portraiture.

Taji Self portrait 1


Once students completed their self-portraits, they referenced their bio poems for the visual imagery that would surround their frame. They first drew sketched in their journals.

Student #3

Mariah Bio poemMariah’s first self-portrait had an anime quality to it as seen above in her bio poem work. As she created several self-portrait drafts she began to capture her facial features in her portraits.

Mariah Self portrait 1Students used color pencils and black Sharpie markers to create their visual imagery on their frames.


After creating the bio poems, the students focused on the changes that occurred in the life of the main character of the novel, Esperanza. The pivotal moment in the main characters life was the death of her father and it changed her life. Students wrote about her life before and after his death.

Then using their own life again as the basis of the next arts integrated work, the students examined a pivotal moment or age in their life that they could use as a before and after scenario in their work.Mrs Skylas helping with plaster

Student #1

Jeremiah mask

Jeremiah’s mask

Student #2

Taje mask

Student #3

Mariah mask

Mariah’s mask



For the final project, Ms. T. worked with Ms. Terry in her classroom where they created a background scene of Mexico & United States using oil pastels.  They then reflected on Esperanza’s changes from a privileged life in Mexico to  life on a migrant farm in California. They used decorative papers & yarns to create/contrast her life.

Student #1

 Jeremiah Esperanza

Student #2

Taje Esperanza

Student #3

Mariah Esperanza

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