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A Month of Ideas for Celebrating Hispanic Heritage

Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 to October 15, offers us the opportunity to recognize the contributions of Hispanic Americans to U.S. culture.

  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

1. Create a Spanish-language center in your classroom. Fill it with age-appropriate and engaging Spanish activities, such as word-matching dominoes, word-picture matches, and labeling activities. Find free resources at Scholastic's Celebrate Hispanic Heritage online activity.

2. Listen to a bilingual narrative of Mexican history in America and take students through a virtual exhibition of Hispanic artifacts at smithsonianeducation.org.

3. Have students try code-switching, or alternating between English and Spanish, when they write short personal narratives this fall. Share Alma Flor Ada’s I Love Saturdays y Domingos as an example.

4.Host an author study on Sandra Cisneros, Pat Mora, Pam Muñoz Ryan, or Gary Soto. See this list of Hispanic Heritage books for reference.

5. Watch the Hispanic Heritage Awards. View clips at hispanicheritage.org and discuss the kinds of qualities that make someone a leader.

6. Host a travel fair! Have students research Spanish-speaking countries with Scholastic's Global Trek online activity. Then, create travel brochures at office.microsoft.com/templates.

7. Use Spanish words and phrases every day. Give partners sticky notes and a Spanish-English dictionary, and encourage them to label supplies in both languages.

8. Learn about Hispanic festivals such as Cinco de Mayo, La Posadas, and the Day of the Dead.

9. Encourage students to interview family or friends who immigrated to the U.S. from a Spanish-speaking country, if possible. Have students present their findings to the class.

10. Browse images by photographer Manuel Carrillo. Discuss with students how his photographs represent the face and identity of Mexican culture.

11. Learn Spanish numbers with Scholastic's “Piñata Concentration Game.” 

12. Explore Latin music and painting with Música del Pueblo, a virtual exhibition by Smithsonian, online at
musicadelpueblo.org.

13. Eat Salvadorian street food with students. Peel a green mango and cut into small slices. Drizzle slices with lime juice, roasted pumpkin seeds (or pepitas), and a pinch of salt. Enjoy!

14. Cool down with a piragua, a traditional Puerto Rican icy treat. Mix together in a small bowl one cup of coconut and one cup of pineapple juice. Refrigerate the mixture until cold. Blend with ice and serve in cone-shaped paper cups. Ahh!

15. Study baseball great Roberto Clemente, whose life was cut short by a tragic plane crash. Read Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates by Jonah Winter or visit robertoclemente.si.edu, which features four 45-minute lessons about him.

16. Study individuals who have made contributions to American life. Just a few examples: Representative Romualdo Pacheco, Senator Octaviano Larrazolo, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor. For additional names, visit Scholastic's “Latinos in History.”

17. Try your hand at arepas, flat corn cakes often eaten in Colombia and Venezuela. Go to epicurious.com to find a recipe for your class.

18. Have kids make maracas, percussion instruments that are native to Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. Decorate paper bags with paint, fill them with dried rice, and fasten with a rubber band. Finally, make some music!

19. Study Hispanic artists, such as Diego Rivera, Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, and Frida Kahlo. Read Jonah Winter’s Frida or Laurence Anholt’s Pablo Picasso and the Girl With a Ponytail.

20. Decorate your room with chile ristras. Brought to the Southwest from Mexico by Spanish settlers, chile ristras are strings of colored peppers that are tied and hung together. Using gloves, string the chiles together in bunches of three with rope or ribbon, and then hang!

21. Hold a Día celebration in honor of Latino literature. Visit ala.org/dia for more information about Día. Showcase Spanish- and English-language books with Latino characters such as Abuela by Arthur Dorros, Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto, and Family Pictures by Carmen Lomas Garza.

22. Paint a brightly colored piñata. For directions, visit familycrafts.about.com. Then to celebrate the end of Hispanic Heritage Month, fill it up with sweet treats or special prizes and let the breaking of the piñata begin!

23. Make a Puerto Rican instrument called a guiro. Instead of using a gourd, remove the label of a 16 oz. water bottle with ridges. Paint and let dry. To play, have students scrape a stick or pencil up and down the bottle.

24. Create traditional Ponce carnival masks. For directions, visit americanhistory.si.edu/ourstory

25. Build Afro-Cuban bongos. Fasten together two empty, circular containers of different sizes with a lightweight block of wood. Paint sides of the containers in various designs and let dry. Then host a drum circle instead of a typical morning meeting.

26. Have students compose their own corridos, or Mexican ballads, about a person they admire. Corridos typically have four-line stanzas with eight syllables in each line, have no chorus or repeated lines, and tell a story. Learn more at corridos.org.

27. Take turns reading aloud Francisco Jiménez’s autobiographical La Mariposa, then learn more about Jiménez

28. Read Hispanic poetry. Try the poems of Fracisco X. Alarcón, such as “My Mother’s Hands” from Angels Ride Bikes and “Keys to the Universe” in From the Bellybutton of the Moon. Both poems underscore the importance of learning from other cultures.

29. Throw your own Dominican Day Parade! Celebrate the 1863 restoration of the Dominican Republic’s independence from Spain with a procession through the hallways. Make colorful instruments, wave flags, and cheer “República Dominicana!”

30. Gather a heritage garden. Find a small plot of land on campus and plant staple crops common in many Spanish-speaking countries, such as corn, beans, squash, and peppers. Then, host a party and invite other classes to taste-test what you’ve grown. What better way to celebrate the end of Hispanic Heritage month than with a feast!

  • Subjects:
    Hispanic and Latin American, Hispanic Heritage Month
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