Theme and Summary in Summer of the Mariposas: Narrative Writing | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2019 G8:M1:U2

Theme and Summary in Summer of the Mariposas: Narrative Writing

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In Unit 2, students will continue to read Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall. The first half of the unit will focus on theme in Summer of the Mariposas, analyzing how the theme has developed over 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 in a similar manner to the other monsters chosen by McCall. In order to do this, students research a monster from Latin American folklore to choose.

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 The 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.

For homework in Unit 2, students will continue to preread chapters of Summer of the Mariposas before discussing them in class. On any day that a prereading of a chapter is not assigned, students should continue their independent research reading by reading for at least 20 minutes and responding to a prompt. Additionally, students should continue independent research reading over the weekends.

Please note: For the 6-8 Language Arts Curriculum, there are Teaching Notes for each unit that contain helpful information for supporting English language learners. These overview notes complement the more specific English language learner supports and differentiated materials within each lesson. You will find the Teaching Notes in the Unit download below.

CCS Standards

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Folklore of Latin America
  • Task: 
    • Students will track the development of theme in Summer of the Mariposas and will write summary paragraphs.
    • Students will research a "monster" from Latin American folklore and will write an additional chapter for Summer of the Mariposas in which the Garza girls encounter a modernized version of this "monster."
  • Targets: RL.8.1, RL.8.2, RL.8.4, RL.8.9, RL.8.10, W.8.3, W.8.4, W.8.6, W.8.10, L.8.4
  • Texts: Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall, "The Peuchen" by EL Education


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.

Habits of Character/Social-Emotional Learning Focus

Central to the EL Education curriculum is a focus on "habits of character" and social-emotional learning. Students work to become effective learners, developing mindsets and skills for success in college, career, and life (e.g., initiative, responsibility, perseverance, collaboration); they work to become ethical people, treating others well and standing up for what is right (e.g., empathy, integrity, respect, compassion); and they work to contribute to a better world, putting their learning to use to improve communities (e.g., citizenship, service).

In this unit, students focus on working to become ethical people and working to become effective learners of habits of character as they explore deep themes in the novel, build conversation skills, create summary paragraphs, write their own narratives, and peer review one another's work.

Students also continue examining ways in which characters from Summer of the Mariposas exhibit aspects of becoming ethical people. Students look for examples of Odilia and her sisters showing empathy, compassion, and respect. Students also track the challenges the sisters have in showing compassion, empathy, and respect, and search for evidence of ways the sisters show growth in these areas.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 10-18 lessons. The Unit-at-a-Glance charts, available on the grade-level landing pages, break down each unit's lessons, showing CCS standards, agenda breakdown, daily learning targets, and ongoing assessments. The charts also indicate which lessons include mid- and end of unit assessments and the performance task.

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

Preparation and Materials

Prepare vocabulary logs and independent reading journals.

Ensure that families are aware of the sensitive content of Summer of the Mariposas, and prepare students who may be affected by this content in advance.

The following materials are introduced in this unit and referenced throughout both the module and the school year:

  • Work to Become Effective Learners anchor chart
  • Researchers Do These Things anchor chart 

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