10 Tips for Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month in Your Classroom
You’re halfway through September. You’re hitting your stride, and you’re always looking for ways to grow the sense of community in your classroom.
Monthly heritage celebrations are a great way to enrich your curriculum while building your classroom community at the same time.
Hispanic Heritage Month is from September 15th through October 15th each year. This year’s theme is “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope.”
Here are ten ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in your classroom.
1. Hispanic and Latinx cultural influences are everywhere.
Did you know that Spanish is spoken in twenty-one different countries¹ and by 559 million people around the world²? It’s also the second most common language spoken, and it’s the only language that allows you to travel throughout a whole continent!
Look for Spanish influences in your classroom and school. Have students point them out when they see them. You and your students will see that it’s everywhere!
2. Should I use Latinx or Hispanic?
People often use Latinx and Hispanic as synonyms, but they actually mean different things. Latino refers to people from Latin America. These are countries such as Mexico, Peru, and Colombia. Hispanic usually refers to people from a Spanish-speaking background.
If you are not sure how your students identify, ask them. It’s a great way to start a conversation about culture, and it makes them feel valued.
3. Why September?
It’s no coincidence that Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in September. September 15th is the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. September 16th marks the anniversary for Mexico and Chile.
If you have a classroom calendar, put these dates on it. It’s a great way to kick off the month!
4. Learn the language.
Is there anything cooler than speaking another language? Talking to students in their native language makes them feel valued and included.
If you have students that speak Spanish, ask them how to say common classroom words. Even better, label the items in your classroom in Spanish.
Here are some simple Spanish phrases to teach your students:
- “Buenas días.” Good morning.
- “Buen trabajo.” Good work.
- “Es hora de recreo.” It’s time for recess. Your students will love to hear that one!
- “Hasta mañana.” See you tomorrow.
Continue to use these phrases throughout the school year, and add more. Just imagine how much your students will know by the end of the year, and so will you!
5. Have students get their research on.
Project-based learning is one of the best ways students learn. Even students as young as first grade can do a research project with your help. Assign them a country individually or in groups. Here are some questions to get students started:
- What is the name of your country?
- How many people live in your country?
- Where is your country located?
- What are some important traditions in your country?
- What are some interesting facts about your country?
6. Crank up the music.
Playing music in your classroom is a wonderful way to reinforce classroom routines. Play the same song every time it’s clean up or when it’s classwork time. Listening to music also makes your students stronger math students. And hey. Music just makes things better.
Check out playlists that highlight Hispanic and Latinx artists. Play up-tempo songs for high-energy activities and slow-tempo songs when it’s time for deep work.
7. Collaborate with your specials teachers.
Working with the other staff in your building is a powerful way to reinforce what you are doing in the classroom. Your students learn better when they hear things from more than one teacher.
Here are a few ideas for collaborating with your specials teachers:
- Ask your librarian or media specialist to pull books that celebrate Hispanic-Latino culture.
- Have your art teacher help your students create pieces in the style of Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Frida Kahlo.
- Sing songs in Spanish during music class.
- Ask your specials teachers for ideas, and watch the creativity flow!
Specialists in your building are a wonderful resource, and they love to know what you are doing in your classroom. It helps with their planning and makes them feel like an important part of the education team.
8. Field trip time!
Field trips are truly one of the best ways the students learn. Tell me what your favorite worksheet was when you were in school. Chances are you can’t. Now tell me what your favorite field trip was, and you’ll probably have a hard time choosing just one.
Field trips take students into the experience. Are there any exhibits in your area that highlight the accomplishments or traditions of Hispanic and Latinx communities? Many museums offer reduced and even free admission to students.
Aren’t able to take any off-campus field trips this year? No problema. Virtual field trips are just a click away. You and your students can spend the morning at a market in Mexico City and the afternoon on the beach in Majorca.
9. Get the whole school involved.
Does your building have school-wide assemblies? If so, plan for an all-school assembly towards the end of Hispanic Heritage Month. Students and classes can showcase their projects, and students can sing the songs they have learned in music as a school. Remember to invite families to attend.
If your building doesn’t have regular school assemblies, this is a great time to start. Make a plan and ask your administrators for support. These types of activities build school communities, and families love seeing what their children are doing at school.
10. Food! Food! Food!
Did I mention food? Enjoying a meal together is a great way to celebrate any culture and especially Hispanic and Latinx cultures. Food and family are very important in both Hispanic and Latino families, so bring that into your classroom.
If you have older students, have them prepare and bring a dish from one of the twenty-one Spanish-speaking countries. If you have younger students, make a dish with them in class.
While Hispanic Heritage Month is a specific time set aside to celebrate your students of Latinx and Hispanic heritage, you want to celebrate your students’ cultures and backgrounds every day. This will deepen your relationships with your students and strengthen your classroom community.
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