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Almost a Woman
Masterpiece Theatre Almost a Woman
Teacher's Guide [imagemap with 8 links]

Before Viewing

  • Explain that Almost a Woman is about Esmeralda, a 13-year-old girl who comes from Puerto Rico to New York with her family in the early 1960s. Ask students to predict what she might encounter when she arrives in the U.S. As they watch the film, have students compare their predictions to what happens in the film.

  • How does where you're from or your family's heritage influence who you are? Ask students to reflect on their own geographic, ethnic, cultural, or religious background. Have them choose one or two aspects of their heritage and write a brief essay about how those aspects are reflected in who they are. Have students exchange papers with a partner and then discuss their essays. How are the influences different? How are they the same?

  • The immigrant experience is central to Almost a Woman. Have students interview someone who has migrated to this country -- themselves, a classmate, a family member, neighbor, teacher, etc. Have them develop a list of questions beforehand, such as: What were some of the difficulties you encountered? What were some of the triumphs? What was it like to learn English? After the interviews, select several students to represent their subjects on a panel. Then have the rest of the class ask questions of the panel.

  • Ask students to define success. Is it making a lot of money, choosing a career you love, having a family, having a lot of leisure time? Once students have identified what success means to them, have them create a road map to achieving their goals. What do they think will be most difficult about achieving their goals? Whose help will they need along the way?

  • Almost a Woman begins entirely in Spanish, with subtitles in English, and ends almost entirely in English with some Spanish. As you watch the film, consider how this technique affects the viewer. Ask students to note scenes in which characters communicate despite speaking a different language. How is this accomplished?

  • Discuss films students have seen that use flashbacks. How do flashbacks add or detract from the film? As students watch the film, ask them to look for flashbacks and keep in mind the following questions: At what moments in the film do they appear? Does the character or the viewer gain any knowledge after the use of a flashback? Do the flashbacks have a different visual quality than the rest of the film? If so, what is it?

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