Tag Archives: Great Depression

Voices from the Dust Bowl: the Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, 1940-1941

Bibliographic information: Library of Congress: Voices from the Dust Bowl: the Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, 1940-1941. www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/connections/dust-bowl/

Brief description: This website has links to many different resources, in multiple formats, such as photographs and interviews with migrant workers in California during the Great Depression. Two journalists visited migrant agricultural work communities and attempted to record the conditions and experiences of the workers. The stories shared by the workers are includes as audio recordings made during interviews and transcripts of the conversations, as well as photographs. There are also musical recordings. The site has a search function, which allows you to see which standards align with the resource. It is a quality source because it is a primary source with first hand accounts of life as a migrant field worker, told by the workers themselves. It is compiled with other resources on the topic by the Library of Congress, which is a respected institution.

Qualitative Analysis: A background of historical knowledge on the Great Depression, migrant workers, labor conditions and tensions in the early 1900’s would all be a useful base for better understanding the photographs, narratives, songs and factors at play in the migrant workers situation. Language is mainly explicit and easy to understand. However, references are made to cultural elements of the time, place and people. Several themes are portrayed. Experiences will likely be unfamiliar to students, though some may be immigrants and able to connect to the experience of coming to the US, though not necessarily life as a worker in the fields. Vocabulary is conversational and familiar and sentences are mostly simple and compound in the oral accounts recorded in this collection. Photographs enhance the audio recordings, but are not necessary for understanding. Just as the audio recordings enhance the photographs, but are not integral to appreciating the photographs. Pictures also include captions to aid in comprehension.

Subject area: History, Social Studies

Personal thoughts: This website is interesting because it has primary sources and you can hear the stories of the immigrants in their own words and have a first hand account of what life was like at that time. I think it would be interesting to compare the life of migrant workers during the Great Depression and now. Sadly I don’t think a whole lot has changed in the decades since these accounts were recorded.

Subjects/themes: immigration, history, great depression, dust bowl, migrant farm workers

Series information: Voices of the Dust Bowl

Character names/descriptions: Jose Flores and Augustus Martinez, two farm workers who share their story in audio recordings. Photographs and music from unnamed workers.

High interest annotation: Hear music performed in work camps, by migrant workers during the Great Depression, as well as seeing photographs and hearing first person accounts of life working in the fields.

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Esperanza Rising

Bibliographic Information:

Ryan, Pam Muñoz (2000). Esperanza rising. New York: Scholastic Press.

Plot Description: Esperanza is a wealthy young girl whose family owns El Rancho de las Rosas in Mexico. All her life she has been waited on by servants and given everything she could desire. Then one day her life changes forever. Her beloved Papa is killed and his evil brothers threaten Esperanza and Mama if they do not do as they are told. So they flee to America under the cover of darkness with their former servants. In America their lives are vastly different. Mama and Esperanza live in a farm labor camp and must learn to work for a living, and work hard. At first Esperanza is left to take care of the babies while the others work, something which is very difficult for her, since she has never had to take care of herself before, let alone others. Then when Mama is taken ill, Esperanza must find the strength to work and be El Patron of her family. Set against the backdrop of Great Depression Era California and workers strikes, this is a story of family, community and hope.

Quantitative Reading Level : Lexile Measure: 750L, ATOS Book Level: 5.3, Interest Level: Middle Grades (4-8), AR Points: 6

Qualitative Reading Analysis: The organization of the text is clear and chronological. The conventionality of the text is fairly complex in that it employs many examples of figurative language such as similes, metaphors, and personification throughout the story to paint a vivid picture of the scenery and Esperanza’s experiences. The vocabulary is mostly familiar and conversational, including dialogue. It also has Spanish words mixed into the English narrative, but they are always in italic font, so they are easy to recognize and the English equivalent always follows. Sentences are simple, complex and compound phrases. Themes are clear, but conveyed with some subtlety. The experiences are not common to most readers, though some students will have immigrated from other countries, so be able to relate to some experiences of being new to a country and a few may know what it is like to completely start over. There are some references to historical and cultural events, such as the Mexican Revolution and the Great Depression, but everything that is essential for understanding the story is explained.

Content Area: English, Literature, History

Content Area Standard: History–Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools

California: A Changing State-4.4 Students explain how California became an agricultural and industrial power, tracing the transformation of the California economy and its political and cul­tural development since the 1850s.

  1. Describe rapid American immigration, internal migration, settlement, and the growth of towns and cities (e.g., Los Angeles).
  2. Discuss the effects of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and World War II on California.

English Language Arts Standards for Reading: Literature

Key Ideas and Details: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.2 Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.

English Language Arts Standards: Writing

Text Types and Purposes: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.7 Conduct short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.

Curriculum Suggestions: Have students research the Mexican Revolution and the Great Depression (in particular finding out about the farm workers in California and forced repatriation). Have students write a letter to Abuelita explaining what life is like in America. Analyze how Esperanza changes over the course of the novel and what brings about those changes. Have students record examples of figurative language throughout the story. Chart the ‘mountains and valleys’ of Esperanza as the story unfolds.

Supporting Digital Content: 





Awards: YALSA Top Ten, Americas Award for Children’s Literature, Smithsonian’s Notable Book, NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts, Jane Addams Book Award/Honor Books, Pura Belpré Award/Honor Book, Jefferson Cup Award/Honor, Publishers Weekly Best Book, Judy Lopez Memorial Award: Children’s Literature

Character names/descriptions: Esperanza is a young girl who loses her life of comfort in Mexico and must begin again in America. Mama is her mother who tries to be strong in her new role as head of the family, but finds it increasingly difficult. Miguel, their former servant whose family helps Esperanza and Mama escape to the US. Abuelita, Esperanza’s grandmother who stays behind in Mexico. Marta, an outspoken field worker who wants better wages for workers and helps organizes a strike.

High interest annotation: After terrible tragedy takes her father and her home, Esperanza must listen to her Grandmother’s words and rise like a phoenix from the ashes of her privileged former life to start again.

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