Lesson plan

Writing Opinions About Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was a 17th century writer and philosopher who today is considered one of the first documented feminists and advocates for women’s education. In this lesson, students will read two nonfiction texts about Sor Juana and discuss her life and accomplishments before writing an opinion piece about her.
Grade Subject View aligned standards

Students will be able to integrate their knowledge from two texts on Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz to write an opinion piece about her.

(10 minutes)
  • Ask students to consider the word feminism. Tell them to turn to a partner and discuss their understanding of the word. Acknowledge their ideas and clarify any misunderstandings. Jot down some notes from the discussion on the board.
  • Explain that the meaning of the word has evolved, or changed over time, and can also have different meanings for different people. Tell students that for the purposes of this lesson, we will define the term feminism as the belief that women should have equal rights and opportunities as men.
  • Ask students to name any famous feminists they know of and describe what they think makes them a feminist. Add the names they mention to the board.
  • Tell students that today they will learn about one of the world's first known feminists, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Show students a picture of Sor Juana on the computer or tablet. (See materials for a sample image.)
  • Lead students in a visual thinking exercise by asking the following three questions, allowing time for students to discuss each one:
    • What's going on in this picture?
    • What makes you say that?
    • What else can we find?
  • Paraphrase students' observations, and point to the part of the picture as they talk about it. (Note: Students should notice Sor Juana's clothing, the books around her, her expression, and other details. At first, they should focus on describing what they see; eventually, the discussion may lead to inferences as they add their background knowledge to the image they are analyzing.)
  • Explain that Sor Juana was a self-taught 17th century writer, poet, scholar, and nun. Elaborate that they will first read two texts written about Sor Juana, then discuss the texts before writing an opinion piece about her.
(15 minutes)
  • Show students the front cover of the book A Library for Juana: The World of Sor Juana Inés. Preview the pictures, and read the title aloud to students.
  • Read the book aloud, pausing to ask students if they have any questions or comments.
  • Choose a page or two from the book and invite a couple of students to read these aloud to the class.
  • Ask students to share their initial thoughts about Sor Juana, using the following prompts as a guide:
    • What did Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz do that made her influential?
    • What was an obstacle that she faced?
    • How did she overcome this obstacle and come out triumphant?
    • What was something that surprised you about Sor Juana?
    • Do you have any questions or curiosities about Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz?
  • Let your learners respond to the questions, and guide the class in a brief discussion about her.
(15 minutes)
  • Distribute the worksheet Who Was Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz? and display a teacher copy on the document camera.
  • Read the text aloud, occasionally asking student volunteers to read a paragraph aloud to the class.
  • Model how to answer the first couple of questions as a whole group with the students.
  • Assign students a partner, and have them respond to the remaining questions together.
  • Circulate to offer assistance to any struggling students.
(15 minutes)
  • Tell students that they will prepare to write an opinion essay about Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, using the two texts they read (the book and the worksheet). Ensure that students have access to the book throughout the lesson so that they can reference it for their essays.
  • Distribute the Graphic Organizer Template: Bubble Map to each student. Tell students that they will use this graphic organizer to help them organize and plan their writing piece.
  • Explain that they will use information they gathered from both texts to come up with an opinion statement about Sor Juana.
  • Model how to write a sample opinion statement in the center of the bubble map. (For example, Sor Juana was a pioneer and an influential writer.) Encourage students to come up with their own unique opinion statement about her. Brainstorm some opinion statements as a class to give students ideas.
  • Remind students that it is important that their opinion is backed up by evidence from the two texts. Model how to incorporate text evidence in the outer circles in the bubble map. Explicitly make the connections between the text details/evidence and the opinion statement, so that students see clearly how the details support their opinion.

Support:

  • Provide sentence frames to help students in their discussions. (For example, ____________ overcame the obstacle of ____________ by ____________.)
  • Put students into mixed-ability partnerships for independent practice.
  • Give students a paragraph frame to use as they write their opinion piece.

Enrichment:

  • Ask students to prepare a presentation about Sor Juana. Have them present to the class.
  • Have students conduct research on another influential woman from the 17th century, then compare and contrast her with Sor Juana.
  • Students could type up their essays on the computer.
(15 minutes)
  • Give students lined paper or writing journals and instruct them to write their essay, using the completed bubble map as an outline/guide.
  • Provide ample time for students to write their essay.
  • Assist students as needed.
(5 minutes)
  • Invite a few writers to share the sentences from their essay they are most proud of.
  • Have students give compliments to their classmates after they listen to them reading their writing pieces.
  • In a follow-up lesson, students could peer review their opinion essays with a rubric before going back to edit and revise them based on the peer reviews.

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