Patricia here! Before we start discussing a great pre-reading tool that you can use to engage and prepare your young readers, I’d like to make a confession: even as an experienced teacher and a seasoned curriculum writer for EB Academics, I was nervous when I learned that I would be helping to create our novel study of Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street. There is just so much to explore in this beautifully poetic, tragic, and powerful collection of vignettes. Where to begin?
Of course, I knew we would need to create a pre-reading activity. All good story or novel studies begin with at least one activity to pique students’ interests and build any knowledge they will need in order to understand and appreciate the story. But there is just so much to unpack before reading The House on Mango Street! What should we focus on before students read? A biography of the book’s author? An exploration of the story’s topics? A look at its language? Student predictions of what the book will be about?
It all seemed so important, but we didn’t want the story’s anticipation to take days and days. And that’s when it hit me: stations! Stations are a great way to pack a lot of learning into one or two class periods. And as a bonus, stations keep students’ blood moving as they travel about the room, which is very helpful in their learning.
If you decide to pick up our novel study of The House on Mango Street, then you will get these stations as part of the resource. However, maybe you don’t intend to get this resource, or perhaps you’re reading a different novel. If you’d like to create your own Anticipation Stations in your classroom, simply follow these steps!
Create Your Stations
- Pick a Theme. This part is optional, but it’s a lot of fun. Consider choosing a theme for your stations, which connects with the novel students will be reading. For example, with The House on Mango Street, we chose a neighborhood theme, with all the stations named for a neighborhood element.
- Choose Your Stations. We recommend creating 4-6 stations, depending on what you want to cover before students begin reading. Think about the information students should know before they read, along with any ideas they should think about. Here are the ones we used for The House on Mango Street:
- Bio Boulevard: Students read a quick bio of Sandra Cisneros and learn about her life and how it contributed to her story. They then answer questions using the information they read.
- Chapter Center: At this station, students open their books and read through its titles. They then use these titles to make a written prediction of what the book will be about. It’s a little like Popcorn Predictions, but when you focus on chapter names, you don’t have to go through the novel to pull out quotes.
- Topic Town: Here, students read six provocative statements that are related to ideas in the story (for example, “Adults are always right”). They then take a position on these statements. After they have read the book, they can return to their positions to see if they have changed!
- Prediction Plaza: Students view six images (for example, a high-heeled shoe) that represent items that come up in the story. After, they use these items to write a prediction of what the story will be about. If you would like to create a station like this, you can simply do an image search online for pictures to use that relate to your class’s novel.
- Vocab Village: At this station, students read through a list of vocabulary terms and definitions from the novel, then they fill out a small crossword puzzle using these words as answers. The House on Mango Street uses simple language, so we used the whole vocab list for this station. However, if your novel has a lot of words for students to study, you have two options. You can have students use the words from just the first few chapters, or you can take one or two words from each chapter.
More Station Ideas
The sky’s the limit when you’re creating Anticipation Stations! The focus of your stations will depend on what your students are going to be reading and thus what they need to know and consider. Here are a few ideas to get your wheels turning:
- Background: Is historical or geographical context important to your novel? Have a station for kids to read about this time and/or place.
- Culture: Does your novel highlight a culture that is different from most of your students’? Create a station where students can explore different elements of the culture!
- Structure: Is your story written in a different structure than students are used to? For example, if the story is a script, you can create a station where students identify the different elements of a script (acts, scenes, blocking, etc.).
- Genre: Is this a new genre for your students? Create a station that teaches students how to read in this genre. For example, if this is a mystery, you can have students read about suspects, clues, and red herrings.
3. Create a Guide. Trust us, you don’t want students filling out a different piece of paper at each station. The headache of stapling everything together in the right order, not to mention the paper waste, isn’t worth it. Before students begin, create a guide in which students can fill in their answers for each activity. You can even use a brochure or pamphlet template to make it more visually appealing. And don’t forget your theme! For The House on Mango Street, we call ours a “Travel Guide,” to keep with the neighborhood theme.
4. Start the Stations! After you have printed your materials and laminated your station cards (you’ll want those bad boys in good condition the next time you use them), place students in groups of 3-4 and set each group at a station. You can print two sets of each station card if you want groups to spread out more. We recommend taking about 10 minutes at each station before rotating. When students are done with each station, talk about their responses as a whole class. During and after reading, return to these stations as you discuss. Students will love seeing the ideas from their Anticipation Stations pop up as they read!
And that’s it! We hope you consider these stations the next time you want to begin a story or novel unit in a fun, informative, and hands-on way. If you teach (or are considering teaching) with The House on Mango and these Anticipation Stations spoke to you, we suggest picking up The House on Mango Street Novel Study, which not only includes these stations, but everything else you’ll need for a great teaching and learning experience: a reading guide, activities, quizzes, graphic organizers, narrative and argumentative writing opportunities, and more! We anticipate that you and your students will love it. Happy teaching!