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Classroom Activities for Hispanic Heritage Month
Because September is both National Hispanic Heritage Month and the time when several Spanish-speaking regions celebrate their independence, now is the perfect time to use lesson plans that incorporate Hispanic culture.
Hispanic culture in America is a vibrant mix of language, folklore, history, religious customs, and culinary tradition and invention that have melded together over the centuries. People with Hispanic heritage may have ancestry from Spain but cultural influences originating from countries including Mexico, Cuba, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Ecuador.
Hispanic men and women help shape political and economic spheres throughout the world today. In 2007, there were more than 5,000 Spanish-speaking elected officials in the United States. It is important for children to learn how Hispanic heritage contributes to American culture by examining Hispanic history, language, celebrations and traditions.
It is equally important to teach Hispanic students about their ancestry by building a stronger connection to their past. Beginning with the stories of explorers like Vasco da Gama, Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan, educators can illustrate how the United States was shaped by people from around the globe.
Online Hispanic Culture Resources
In the article Teaching Kids About Hispanic Culture, Kori Ellis encourages parents to look for venues to expose their children to Hispanic history, such as museums, libraries and community events. She also suggests having children play games like Paco’s Passport, which connects them to mini-lessons about Hispanic countries, food and people.
Leanna at All Done Monkey, a bicultural blog, says language is a cultural aspect that sometimes presents barriers for bilingual kids and parents. She talks about the challenges of educating monolingual grandparents to improve communication with their bilingual descendants.
Annissa Hambouz and Michael Gonchar collaborated on an article for the Education Section of the New York Times titled La Vida Latina: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month With The New York Times. They list several celebrities with Hispanic or Latino heritage such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Mario Molina, singer/actress/businesswoman Jennifer Lopez, and baseball great Roberto Clemente.
Hispanic Culture Lesson Plans for All Ages
Educators looking for new lessons plans to spark student interest and build cultural awareness may enjoy the six options below.
- Cesar Chavez Quilt Square. For grades 3-6, this lesson incorporates politics, social studies and art. Students design quilt squares representative of their knowledge of Cesar Chavez.
- Songs for Cinco de Mayo. Kindergarten. Simple, fun songs teach your class about Mexico’s independence and Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Combines music and social studies with voice and instrumentation.
- Creating a Mayan Pyramid. For K-5. This art and social studies project uses recycled materials and craft supplies to recreate a Mayan pyramid. The exercise builds teamwork and illustrates Meso-American architectural details.
- Mexican Food Investigation Designed to teach fifth graders about Mexican dishes, this lesson focuses on ordering from a Mexican menu, recognizing various ingredients, and comparing them to American cuisine and food history. Access to a computer and art supplies is required. Uses language, history, art and computer skills.
- Stump the Teacher. Grade 7. Working in groups, students try to stump the teacher with questions about Simon Bolivar, Father Miguel Hidalgo and other Latin American historical figures.
- Spanish Vocabulary Baseball. For grades 7-12, this lesson helps students practice speaking and comprehending Spanish words and phrases within a baseball-structured game. Reinforces conjugation, sentence structure and spelling skills.
Learning about Hispanic culture will give all students a better understanding of the ways this heritage has influenced, and continues to enrich, contemporary American life.