My Diary From Here to There/Mi diario de aquí hasta allá: Reading Activities

Getting the Classroom Ready

Picturing the Journey

Materials Neccessary:

  • Related books
  • Map of the United States and Mexico
  • Photographs from magazines
  1. Dedicate a corner of your classroom to a library reflecting the themes of My Diary From Here to There/Mi diario de aquí hasta allá. Put books related to Mexico and immigration in milk crates near a reading center. Also include books in diary form, such as the Dear America series.
  2. Create a bulletin board that illustrates Amada's journey. Feature a large map of the United States and Mexico. Cut out pictures from magazines that illustrate key features of the two countries and put them up at appropriate places on the map. Images might include saguaro cactus, grapes in California's Central Valley, traditional Mexican foods, or photographs of cities in the United States and Mexico.

Getting Ready for Reading

Dear Diary

Students prepare for My Diary From Here to There/Mi diario de aquí hasta allá by discussing their own experiences with diaries.

Estimated Time: 20 minutes

Group Size: Entire Class

CA Reading Standard 2.3: Students ask questions and support answers by connecting prior knowledge with literal information found in and inferred from the text.

  1. Introduce the book to your students by talking with them about diaries. (If your class is Spanish bilingual, remind students that in Spanish, diario means both newspaper and diary–a book you write your thoughts and feeling in.) If appropriate, describe the first time you wrote in a diary or tell the students about a diary you kept as a child.
  2. Elicit responses from students about their own diaries: What do they write about? How often do they write? How is writing a diary entry special? Do they write in their diaries when they're happy? When they're sad?
  3. Explain to the students that they're going to read a book that's an autobiography–a story that the author wrote about her own life. But this autobiography is written like a diary–it's as if the author decided to tell us this life story by letting us read what she wrote in her diary.

Exploring the Book

Diving In

Estimated Time: 30 minutes

Group Size: Entire Class

CA Reading Standard 2.4: Students make and modify predictions about forthcoming information.

Introduce the book to students in a large or small group. The focus of this first reading should be reading for pleasure—encouraging students to enjoy the beauty of the book and the story it tells. In order to foster this enjoyment, try some of the following activities:

  1. Encourage the class to explore the book first by taking a “picture walk†through the book, thinking about the story as it is told in the illustrations. Have students pair up and discuss what they see in the illustrations as you turn the pages of the book in front of them. At the end of the picture walk, ask the students to share one thing that they observed in the illustrations.
  2. Once they've shared their observations about the book, ask students what story they think the book tells. List your students' predictions.
  3. Read sections aloud to the large group, or have students read the book on their own, in pairs, or in small groups. As students are reading, stop them occasionally to check their predictions and to make new ones. Once the reading is complete, return to the list of predictions and alter it as necessary.

First Time Around: Vocabulary Development

Meaning in Context

Students practice strategies to understand the meanings of new words—words that are in Spanish and English or words that are related to immigration.

Materials Neccessary:

  • Flipchart book
  • Markers

Estimated Time: 30 minutes

Group Size: Entire Class

CA Reading Standard 1.0: Students use sentence and word context, as well as the dictionary, to learn the meaning of unknown words.

  1. Ask students what words they didn't know when they first looked at or listened to the book. Ask how they were able to figure out what those words mean. Use a flipchart to list strategies they brainstorm, including:
    • looking at the pictures
    • looking at the word in context
    • using the dictionary
    • asking a friend
    • asking a heritage Spanish speaker or consulting a Spanish-English dictionary (in the case of defining unfamiliar words in Spanish)
  2. Apply these strategies to the non-English words in the English text. Point out that, in the English text, sometimes words are in italics–these words are in Spanish. For your reference, words from the Spanish that appear in the English text are:
    • p. 6–tortilla
    • p. 11–mija
    • p. 13–saguaro
    • p. 14–tamales, pan dulce
    • p. 17–medalla, tío
    • p. 20–tía
  3. After students read the book individually, ask them what new words they found and what strategies they used to figure them out. Add any new strategies to the flipchart and post the list in your classroom.
  4. Point out to students that there is another group of words that might be unfamiliar to them in the book—words related to immigration. Even if students have seen or heard these words before, they might not know exactly what they mean. As a class, discuss the scene at the border on pages 24-25. Talk with your students about what a border/frontera is: an invisible line separating two countries. Ask them what they know about crossing borders. Are borders important? Why or why not? As you lead this conversation, be mindful that students may have their own personal knowledge of immigration; respect their experiences and remember that this topic might be difficult for some members of your class. Words and concepts to discuss include:
    • Citizen/ciudadano (p. 16): The people waiting at the border are not citizens, and that is why it is difficult for them to enter the country. A person who is a citizen/ciudadano of a country usually lives there and has certain rights there, such as voting.
    • "Green Card"/tarjeta verde (p. 16): You can live in a country without being a citizen. One way to do that in the United States is to have a "green card"/tarjeta verde, a card that says that you legally have the right to live and work in the United States. Some people come to a country and become citizens or get green cards later.
    • Immigration/inmigración; immigration patrol/patrulla fronteriza (p. 26): When people leave one country to live in another, it's called immigration/inmigración. In the United States, the immigration patrol / patrulla fronteriza (often called "la migra") tries to keep people out of the country if they don't have the documents the government requires.

Second Time Around: Reading Comprehension

Mapping the Story

Using a map of the U.S. / Mexican border, students summarize and retell the events of My Diary From Here to There/Mi diario de aquí hasta allá.

Materials Neccessary:

  • Large map of the United States and Mexico
  • Push pins
  • Yarn or string

Estimated Time: 1 hour

Group Size: Entire Class or Small Groups

CA Reading Standard 2.4 and 2.6: Students recall major points in the text and extract appropriate and significant information from the text.

  1. Post a map featuring the U.S./Mexican border in your classroom and tell your students that you're going to retrace Amada's journey on it. Have students identify the points on the journey (marked with purple stars), using the map on the back of the book.
  2. Ask students to locate the seven cities on the class map. Mark those cities with pushpins and connect them to each other with a piece of string or yarn.
  3. Break the class into seven groups (either pairs, threes, or fours). Assign each group one city on the route. Ask the groups to summarize in two or three sentences on index cards the major events that occur in their assigned cities.
  4. Beginning with Ciudad Juárez, have a representative from each group post the index cards near the appropriate city on the map. Ask the representatives to read their cards out loud, so that the group as a whole retells the events of the story.

Afterwards: Literary Response and Analysis

Learning, Changing, Growing

Students describe the main character from My Diary From Here to There/Mi diario de aquí hasta allá and discuss how she changed throughout the course of the book.

Materials Neccessary:

Estimated Time: 1 hour

Group Size: Entire Class or Small Groups

CA Reading Standard 3.3 and 3.4: Students determine what characters are like by what they say or do and by how the author or illustrator portrays them. Students determine the underlying theme or author's message in fiction text.

  1. Tell the class that in any story, there are many ways to know what a character is like. What does she say? What does she do? How does she feel? What does she look like in the illustrations?
  2. Break up the class into small groups of three or four students each, then distribute the Character Change Worksheets. Each group should fill out the worksheet together, using adjectives and phrases to describe Amada at the beginning, middle, and end of the story. Tell the groups that it's okay to repeat words or phrases—if something is true in the beginning, it might still be true in the end. But it might be different, so they should pay attention to that, too.
  3. Ask each group to share one of Amada's characteristics from the beginning of the story. Tell the class to listen carefully to the other groups and to avoid repeating words that other groups have used. Then, repeat the process with the middle and the end of the story.
  4. Ask the class what changes they saw in Amada over time. List the responses students give on the blackboard so they can see them. Ask: What does Amada learn? What do you think she is trying to tell us?

* See the Children's Book Press Resources Guide to download worksheets and for a list of more online sources.

** To view this file, you'll need a copy of Acrobat Reader. Most computers already have it installed. If yours does not, you can download it now.


Used with permission of the publisher, Children's Book Press, San Francisco, CA. Teachers Guide for Featherless/Desplumado © 2004 by Children's Book Press. Visit the Children's Book Press website for a complete list of free, downloadable Teacher's Guides.


For any reprint requests, please contact the author or publisher listed.

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