Adventures in Hispanic Heritage Month


September 15th has arrived and it’s now Hispanic Heritage Month… so what do you do in your Spanish classroom?! Well, first let’s pause and acknowledge that Hispanic Heritage Month is about more than Mexico’s Independence. Why? Because as a first year (and for a year or two after) teacher, I thought Hispanic Heritage Month meant that you had to teach about Mexico’s Independence. You can – and it’s an awesome thing to teach about – but what if we moved beyond just teaching about Mexico? Another realization I had was that you don’t only get to teach about Hispanic culture between September 15th and October 15th – you can, and should, work in elements of culture continuously. So, what do I do during Hispanic Heritage Month? Let me tell you:

In my Level 3 class, we do our Sports Unit during Hispanic Heritage Month. Why? Because this unit gives honor to every Spanish speaking country and their appearances and efforts in the Olympic Games over the 100+ years. Did you know that Chile, Mexico, & Spain lead the Spanish speaking world in Olympic Game appearances with 24 appearances each? This unit also honors athletes of all abilities, from all over the Spanish speaking world, with mini biographies on their successes in the Olympic Games. Finally, this unit sets students up for a debate / discussion on the equity of the Olympic and Paralympic Games with topics like, “why does Guatemala have 50% less appearances than their close neighbor, Mexico?” and “Is it just a numbers game, or why do countries like Honduras have no Olympic medals?” Allowing my students to explore all of the Spanish speaking world and see perspectives from all athletes and all countries has been an amazing way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.

In my level 2 class, my students do a multi-day gallery walk with biographies of “famous” (in quotes because some of these “famous” people to you and me are total strangers to 12 year olds!) Hispanics and Latinos. My students read about astronauts, musicians, politicians, athletes, authors, and more. One reason I love doing this activity is because it exposes students to career pathways they might not have considered; but seeing someone “famous” taking a similar path is inspiring for them! Another reason I love these biographies is because it opens students up to new artists, role models, “heroes” that they have never heard of before. It’s awesome when a student comes and tells me “they didn’t know non-white people could…(insert thing here).” Another huge reason I love doing these gallery walks is because in hanging these biographies in the hallways, non-Spanish class students, particularly our ELL Newcomer students, will stop me and tell me how happy they are to see someone celebrating the good from their country instead of the bad. It’s amazing to see these students swell up with pride in their homeland just because they see a familiar face and name. In Level 2 we also talk about quinceñeras leading into reading Mata la piñata and talking about birthday celebrations!

In Level 1 we spend some time, in English, talking about the where Hispanic Heritage Month gets its timeframe from. We also spend a good chunk of time talking about Spain and colonization and the war. For most of my students, this is the first time they’ve ever heard about any of these things. For the most part, this is the first time they’re learning that Mexico wasn’t always Mexico. That Spain (like England) used to “own” a large chunk of the world and that large chunk of the world finally had enough and fought for their freedom. These conversations are valuable and a great learning experience for students! And… it’s 100% okay that these conversations happen in English. Could they be made comprehensible in Spanish? Probably. Could students truly understand them in Spanish? Probably. Is it a valuable use of precious time when it could be done in English? Not to me. You do you, Profe! If it’s valuable enough to you to spend the time needed to make it comprehensible and understood – you got this! But I want to let you know that it’s okay to do this in English.

So what are you teaching Profe? Let me know! Looking for something to teach? You can grab these Hispanic Heritage Month Resources here: Sports Unit for Level 2/3, Athlete Biographies for Level 2/3, Athlete Biographies in English, Hispanic Heritage Biographies 1 for Level 2, Hispanic Heritage Biographies 2 for Level 2.

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