Part 1a: Zoot Suit: The Production and From Mexico to the United States


Activities and strategies to prepare the learner before reading the text.

Prediction Activity

  1. Read the Zoot Suit Discovery Guide Home Page. The home page states that after reviewing this guide and learning about the 1942 Sleepy Lagoon Murder Trial and the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots, “you will be better equipped to understand this contentious period in Los Angeles history.”
  2. Write a paragraph on one of the following prompts:
      a. Predict what significance these historical events may play in the struggle for equal rights and social justice? 

      b. Why you think playwright Luis Valdez “re-envisioned these dark events as pinnacles of Chicano unity, empowerment and pride”?

  3. Read the Objectives of the Discovery Guide. Choose one of the objectives that is important to you and explain one reason why you chose it. Share with your group members and then with the class as a whole.

Anticipatory Guide


  1. Although the production of Zoot Suit shattered all box office records when it played in Los Angeles, a Chicano play would never make it to Broadway.
  2. The Sleepy Lagoon Murder Trial was symbolic of the racial intolerance against Mexicans in Los Angeles.
  3. Mexican American youth who assimilated into American culture received the same privileges and treatment as other American youth.
  4. There was plenty of adequate housing for immigrants during the early 1900’s.
  5. Gangs have existed in the United States since as far back as the nineteenth century.

Language Connection

  1. Divide students into groups of 4 or 5. Each group will conduct a brief analysis/investigation of a term or name that is important to the understanding of the text. The teacher will assign each group the following:
      a. Caló 

      b. Chicano/Chicana

      c. Pachuco/Pachuca

      d. Sleepy Lagoon Murder Trial

      e. Zoot Suit

      f. Zoot Suit Riots

      g. Corridos

      h. Latino/Latina

      i. El Teatro Campesino

  2. Students will complete a poster that includes the following:
      a. Definition according to Wikipedia, the free online dictionary 

      b. Definition according to the Zoot Suit Discovery Guide

      c. Five important facts

      d. Examples, graphics or pictures

(Suggested Teacher’s Grading Rubric: Each section is worth 5 points for a total of 20. Neatness and creativity is worth another 5 for a total of 25 points.)


Janet Johns, Abriendo Caminos
Migrant Education, Region XI
Curriculum for the Zoot Suit Discovery Guide, 2009