Napa County Reads study guide the Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child

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Overall Reaction

  1. How did the story impact you and what did you learn from the book?

Comparing the Immigrant Experience

  1. If you are an immigrant to this country how was Professor Jiménez’s life story similar or different than your own story?

  1. If you were born in this country, how werewas your parents’ or grandparents’ lives similar to or different from the Jiménez family?

  1. Given that the story was written about events nearly 45 years ago, how do you think things are similar or different for immigrants in 2003?

  1. Given the continuous controversies surrounding immigration laws in the state and country, are there any changes you think need to be made?

The Role of Our Community in Educating Our Children

  1. What teachers made an impact in your life and why?

  1. Should the community play a role in supporting the education of ALL students?

  1. What suggestions do you have for assisting and improving bilingual education?

Relating One's Own Personal Story

  1. What times have there been in your life when you have had an experience similar to something described in The Circuit?

  1. What helped you succeed?


  1. As a result of the Napa County Reads project, what impact do you think reading and discussing the book will make on you or the community as a whole?

  1. Do you have any suggestions for future book selections for the community?


The Circuit
These activities may be done separately or as a unit.

Students will be given a topic from the story, The Circuit, to research using the internet, resources page, reference books, and personal family histories.


  • Guadalajara, Mexico

  • Jalisco, Mexico

  • El Santo Nino

  • Braceros

  • Francisco Jiménez

  • Migrant Workers

  • La Migra


Students will organize information in a format that can be presented to the class. This can be in the form a poster, oral report, bag report, role play, maps, or other presentation of the student’s choice.


Students will prepare a meal consisting of the foods eaten by the Jiménez family in the book to celebrate the end of the unit and the completion of the projects.


Students will compose an e-mail to Francisco Jiménez, the author of the book, The Circuit, to comment on their thoughts on the book and the impact his stories have had on them.

The Circuit

Classroom Activities

  • Social Studies:

1) Bring in a classroom guest who works with migrant laborers or who has lived within "the circuit" of migrant labor camps. Have the guest discuss how the experience affects children.

2) Visit a local historical society or museum to learn more about the contributions of members of the Hispanic community; for example, Cesar Chavez, Henry Cisneros, or Ernesto Cortes.

  • Language Arts:

Have students compare The Circuit with John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Begin by identifying the basics (author, theme, tone, mood, style and the books’ messages to the readers). Before students begin writing, brainstorm and discuss questions such as: What do the authors' lives have in common? How the books’ themes are similar or different? Do the books have the same type of tone or mood? Have the class share their findings with the class in small group presentations.

  • Spanish:

Present a unit comparing the differences and similarities between the Spanish spoken by the U.S. Chicano community and that spoken in the villages of Mexico, such as El Rancho Blanco, the author’s hometown. Listen to Chicano music, to literature being read aloud, and to people speaking in the target language.


The Circuit
Students will see the following themes, or main ideas, developed in detail in The Circuit.

  • Breaking down barriers

  • Striving for a better way of life

  • Helping to support your family

  • Having a strong work ethic

  • The value of education

  • Being respectful to others

  • Encountering racism

  • Being proud of your heritage

  • Making friends and becoming a leader at school

  • Having your parents rely on you for many things

  • Trying to balance the traditions of your family with a new set of values and a different way of life

  • Working hard to fulfill your dreams

  • Writing a story about your life


The Circuit

A summary is a short restatement of written material. Summaries are much shorter than the original passage, but they provide basically the same information as the original.
Summarize the story of how Francisco and Roberto came to the United States.







Understanding Character

The Circuit
Describe Francisco’s relationship with each of these characters. State briefly what the relationship tells you about Francisco. Did any of the relationships change with time?

Character Characteristics

The Circuit
Characteristics help us understand the character’s qualities or traits - Write the character’s characteristics in the space provided.
Francisco _________________________________________________________


Papá _________________________________________________________


Mamá _________________________________________________________


Roberto _________________________________________________________


Trampita _________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________


Others _________________________________________________________


Vocabulary - Antonyms

The Circuit

Circle the letter of the antonym of each vocabulary word below.
1. illegally

a. illicitly b. lawfully c. obviously d. happily
2. melancholy

a. dense b. gloomy c. familiar d. lively
3. spacious

a. cramped b. thorough c. roomy d. lonely
4. sheepishly

a. quickly b. defiantly c. shyly d. sparsely
5. startled

a. canceled b. shocked c. watched d. unfazed
6. console

a. aggravate b. forgive c. comfort d. watch
7. disheveled

a. tidy b. messy c. crooked d. drenched
8. pensive

a. hungry b. thoughtful c. cheerful d. peculiar

Vocabulary - Synonyms

The Circuit

Circle the letter of the word or phrase that most nearly defines the word in bold type.
1. As I skimmed it, my eye caught the name Hermán Cortés.

a. scanned b. sauntered c. scrutinized d. crumpled

2. I savored the thought of helping Roberto clean Main Street School and not having to work in the fields any longer after school.

a. dreaded b. magnified c. enjoyed d. experienced
3. Sometimes I imagined hearing the laughter and bickering of my brothers and sister.

a. agreement b. arguing c. dancing d. singing
4. chemical company to fumigate the fields.

a. plow b. drain c. contaminate d. disinfect
5. Parents and friends milled around the cafeteria waiting for the ceremony to start.

a. lined up b. moved aimlessly c. sat quietly d. stood
6. Mama saw the stains, shook her head, and gave us a stern look.

a. sympathetic b. funny c. severe d. another
7. Papa felt special and looked for ways to show Ito his gratitude.

a. happiness b. disagreement c. forgiveness d. appreciation
8. Trampita was snickering and hiding something behind his back.

a. giggling b. crying c. shouting d. sneezing
9. "Nothing," I said, wincing.

a. teasing b. apologizing c. flinching d. willfully
10. The highway snaked through green rolling hills.

a. straightened b. twisted c. reversed d. narrowed

Vocabulary - Definitions

The Circuit

Read carefully the definition of each word. Then, write a sentence of your own using that word.
1. sharecropper n.: a tenant farmer who pays as rent a share of the crop.




2. undocumented adj.: lacking proper documents or working papers



3. rotate v.: to cause to turn around an axis or center point; revolve




4. reflection n.: an image; representation



_____________________________________________________________________5. wrath n.: strong, stern or fierce anger; deeply resentful indignation; ire



Essay Topics

The Circuit
Use your own paper to write an essay on any of the given topics.

  • Jiménez writes about his life as it was for a migrant worker some fifty years ago. Do you think that the lives of migrant workers are better today?

  • One of the book’s themes is “breaking down barriers.” Think of a barrier in your own life that you have had to overcome. Write about the hardship and the process you used to break through.

  • Jiménez had some wonderful teachers that influenced his life in a very positive way. Write about someone that has touched your life to make you achieve goals that you never thought were possible.

Name __________________________________ Score __________
Date ___________________________________

History/Social Science

The Circuit

Francisco Jiménez

The Circuit
Lesson Title:

Francisco Jimenez and the Purpose of Public Education

Unit of Study:

The Divergent Paths of the American People: 1800-1850; The Northeast

History-Social Science Standard:

      1. Trace the development of the American education system from its earliest roots, including the roles of religious and private schools and Horace Mann’s campaign for free public education and its assimilating role in American culture.

Setting the Context:

Though Thomas Jefferson and other early American leaders brought up the idea of universal public education, it was Horace Mann who is given credit as the “father of the public school system.”

It would be reasonable to believe that by the 1950s and 1960s the issues would have been worked out enough that public education would serve as an institution that would benefit the children of migrant workers. It was not. One of the goals of the migrant farm worker movement was to secure a proper education for their children. It was as important to the migrant workers to be activists for public education as for any of the demands they fought for in the fields.

Focus Question:
Was education one of the goals that migrant workers fought for?
Historically, how were Mexican American migrant workers’ children treated in some of the public schools?
Expected Learning Outcomes:

Through the use of a JIGSAW reading activity, students will be able to analyze how some migrant worker families felt about the educational experiences their children were receiving.


Students will generate a consensus list of the aims of public education from the discussions that they have on the oral interviews. Students can be measured in comparison to the other cooperative education groups.

Key Concepts:


Essential Vocabulary:


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