Folklore of Latin America | EL Education Curriculum

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Why do we see evidence of myths and traditional stories in modern narratives? How and why can we modernize myths and traditional stories to be meaningful to today's audiences? In this module, students develop their ability to analyze narratives and create their own stories and to analyze informational essays and create their own as they learn about Latin American folklore.

Students begin Unit 1 by reading Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall. Theme and point of view are introduced through the text, as well as discussion norms, as students discuss their responses to the text. They also analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the reader create effects like suspense or humor. While reading Summer of the Mariposas, they closely read complex informational texts about the folklore of Mexico. In the second half of Unit 1, students analyze how incidents in the story reveal aspects of a character in order to prepare for a Socratic Seminar discussion. Theme is introduced and tracked in preparation for Unit 2.

In Unit 2, students continue to read Summer of the Mariposas. The first half of the unit focuses on theme in Summer of the Mariposas, analyzing how themes have developed over the course of the text and writing summaries. In the second half of the unit, students write a new scene for Summer of the Mariposas in which they modernize a different Latin American folklore “monster” as a replacement for one of the other monsters chosen by McCall. In order to do this, students research a monster from Latin American folklore to choose.

In the first half of Unit 3, students read the informational author’s note for Summer of the Mariposas as well as a model essay to determine central idea and write a summary. In the second half of the unit, students write a literary analysis essay using the Painted Essay® structure comparing and contrasting how La Llorona was portrayed in Summer of the Mariposas with the original story to explain how McCall has rendered the story new. For their end of unit assessment, students write another essay explaining how they modernized their own monster in the narrative piece they wrote in Unit 2.

Finally, for their performance task, students create a webpage for both their narratives and their essays, enriching their communities by raising awareness about Latin American folklore.

Notes from the Designer

Summer of the Mariposas contains references to sensitive topics such as a family’s abandonment by their father, a murder and children’s discovery of the corpse, illegal crossing of the border between the United States and Mexico, and Latin American folklore that includes references to magic, spells, witchcraft, and monsters. The issues presented must be carefully and sensitively discussed to give students context as they read the story. Speak with students and families in advance, especially those who may have sensitivity to topics discussed.

As English Language Arts educators know, theme is a nuanced concept. It is a big idea, a message that develops over the course of the text, emerging from the events and character responses in the text itself. In Summer of the Mariposas, as in other literary works, several notable and thought-provoking themes develop over the course of the text. EL Education has chosen to emphasize two prominent and important themes of the text (“Being kind and pure of heart can help people live fuller, more meaningful lives” and “Things are not always as they appear”) in order to allow students to track the development of these themes over multiple chapters of the text. This will not only help students deeply understand this particular text—it will also allow students to better understand the concept of theme development, so it can become one of the habits of mind they bring to any rich literary text. 

It is important to note that EL Education has decided to include a theme statement at the end of chapter summary paragraphs. A summary is an objective synthesis of the key ideas of the chapter. It is true that a theme statement is not a core requirement of a summary, and not all summaries that students write anywhere else will include this type of analysis. However, this approach of ending with a theme statement (as a sort of “so what” after the synthesizing summary) helps students make a connection between summarizing and analysis.

Guiding Questions and Big Ideas

Why do we see evidence of myths and traditional stories in modern narratives? 

  • Elements of myths and traditional stories often form the basis of modern narratives.
  • We can learn about other cultures through engaging modern renderings of myths and traditional stories from other places.
  • Myths and traditional stories have stood the test of time because they contain important cultural and moral messages that are still relevant today.
  • Modern authors use myths and traditional stories as a basis for stories because the cultural and moral messages have stood the test of time.

How and why can we modernize myths and traditional stories to be meaningful to today's audiences?

  • We can use the themes, patterns of events, and character types from myths and traditional stories as a basis for modern narratives set in the present day.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards and to be taught during the literacy block. But the module intentionally incorporates social studies content that may align to additional teaching during other parts of the day. These intentional connections are described below.

College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards

  • D2.Geo.10.6-8: Analyze the ways in which cultural and environmental characteristics vary among various regions of the world. 
  • D2.His.4.6-8: Analyze multiple factors that influenced the perspectives of people during different historical eras. 
  • D2.His.6.6-8: Analyze how people's perspectives influenced what information is available in the historical sources they created.
  • D4.1.6-8: Construct arguments using claims and evidence from multiple sources, while acknowledging the strengths and limitations of the arguments.

Independent Research Reading

  • The ability to read and comprehend texts is the heart of literacy instruction. Comprehension is taught, reinforced, and assessed in the module lessons. 
  • In this module, students read research texts independently for homework and engage in frequent research reading shares during the module lesson for accountability.

Technology and Multimedia

  • Online word processing tool: Complete note-catchers. Students complete their note-catchers and write their essays and narratives in Google Docs.
  • Speech-to-text/text-to-speech: Aid students in reading, writing, and note-taking. Students listen to audio (or text-to-speech) versions of texts to assist with fluency and comprehension. They also use speech-to-text technology to assist with writing and note-taking.
    • Many newer devices already have this capability; there are also free apps for this purpose.

Refer to each Unit Overview for more details, including information about what to prepare in advance.

Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions


  • The novel relates to Latin American folklore and to the way culture and family shapes identity. Contact families or local community figures to share folklore or stories of family from their own culture and to share how these have shaped their own identities.


  • Invite experts in folklore or versed in traditional myths and legends to share their expertise with students. Also invite book authors or illustrators or website designers to assist students with their narratives and performance tasks.


  • Bringing students to cultural centers or meeting places for individuals from different countries and backgrounds could be a valuable experience in orienting students to a variety of cultural experiences. Students may also have the opportunity to meet individuals who can share their stories with them.


  • Students might take up the challenge of raising awareness and seeking out more information about Latin American folklore, a topic which is not well-documented in free or easily available sources.


  • Throughout the module, students are provided with extension opportunities in the context of the classroom, but students eager to expand their engagement with the topic can record videos of their interviews with family or community members who may share how culture and family has shaped their identity or may share myths and legends from their culture. Students may work on mini documentaries or write stories of the people they interview in order to share with larger audiences.


Each unit file includes supporting materials for teachers and students, including guidance for supporting English language learners throughout this unit.


Each unit in the 6-8 Language Arts Curriculum has two standards-based assessments built in, one mid-unit assessment and one end of unit assessment. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize students' understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.

Performance Task

Class Website: Folklore of Latin America

This performance task gives students the opportunity to contribute to a whole class project. Throughout Unit 2, students write and revise a new scene for Summer of the Mariposas, modernizing a monster of their choice from Latin American folklore. In Unit 3, students write an informative essay comparing their modernized monster to its original depiction in Latin American folklore. For the performance task, each student creates a webpage for their new scene and their essay. Students' webpages will be organized on a class website showcasing all of their work. 

Texts and Resources to Buy

Texts and resources that need to be procured. Please download the Required Trade Books and Resources Procurement List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
Summer of the Mariposas
by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
One per student
ISBN: 9781620140109


Each module is approximately 6-8 weeks of instruction, broken into 3 units. The Module-at-a-Glance charts, available on the grade level landing pages, provide a big picture view of the module, breaking down the module into a week-by-week outline. It shows how the module unfolds, the focus of each week of instruction, and where the six assessments and the performance task occur.

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