Coming Into Language

Coming Into Language

Author: Grace Ortega

Students will use textual evidence to support their claim on the power of literacy through the point of view of the narrator.

California Common Core Standards:

R 1. Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text. 

R 2. Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text. 

R 3. Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme. 

R 6. Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature. 


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Introduction to Psychology

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DO Now

Choose one of the words listed below:

Mangle - Vigilante - Vitality - Famish - Loathing - Lucidity - Extradite

  • Write on a piece the word and definition.
  • Next, use the word in a sentence.
  • Finally, draw an image that represents the definition. 

We will share our examples after 7 minutes. Do not throw away your piece of paper after this activity is over because we will be using it taking notes and complete other activities later in today's lesson.


Brutalities- Great cruelty 

The students were shocked when they heard about the brutalities that occurred in World War II during their history class.  


Education in Prison

Recall your opinion on offering education to prisoners...

Follow-up Questions

THINK: Has this video (or anything else) changed your mind about prisoners receiving a college degree in prison? Why or why not?

PAIR: Who deserves access to education?

SHARE: How could an education benefit a prisoner?


Jimmy Santiago Baca

  • Born 1952 in Santa Fe
  • Abandoned by his parents and ran away from the orphanage at 13 years old 
  • Convicted on drug charges and spent 5 years in prison
  • In prison he learned how to read and write poetry



Guided Question

In the essay “Coming into Language,” what conclusion can be drawn about Jimmy Santiago Baca’s point of view regarding literacy?  Support your answer with evidence from the text. 

Activity #1: Before & After

Work with your table partner and create a "Before and After" chart. 

On the left side, write at least 3 examples of how Baca was before he learned how to read and write. 

You will have 7 minutes to complete this activity. If you finish early, please quietly discuss the guided question above. 


Activity #2: What Do You See?

Baca uses a lot of figurative language to explain his story. 

Choose one of Baca's descriptive sentences below and explain what it means:

  • Until then, I had felt as if I had been born into a raging ocean where I swam relentlessly, flailing my arms in hope of rescue, of reaching a shoreline I never sighted.  -page 6
  • But when at last I wrote my first words on the page, I felt an island rising beneath my feet like the back of a whale. -page 7
  • The only reality was the swirling cornucopia of images in my mind, the voices in the air.  -page 9

After you have translated Baca's sentence, use the Paper 53 app on your iPad to draw an image that interprets one of Baca's descriptive sentences. 

Exit Ticket

In at least 8 sentences, explain how Baca was after he learned to read in prison. How did he change as a person? What opportunities were open to him? What was his opinion of reading and writing? Use at least one quote from the text.

This is your exit ticket and is due at the end of class!

Here are some sentence starters....

Baca was ______ when he entered jail and became ________ when he learned how to read and write in prison. Although Baca didn't like reading, he decided to learn when _________. Reading changed Baca as a person when _________. If it weren't for learning how to read and write then Baca wouldn't be able to __________. He showed that he was a different person when he ______________. Baca was _________ to be able to reach his goals to read and write. "My words did not come from books or textual formulas, but from a deep faith in the voice of my heart" explains that Baca felt ____________. Baca's story in "Coming Into Language" inspired me to _________.