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Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month!


September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. Education World offers activities that will help teachers focus attention on the contributions of people of Hispanic heritage to the history of the United States.


More Facts,
Figures, Lessons

For 12 more lesson ideas be sure to see another Education World article:
Lessons for Hispanic Heritage Month

Stats from U.S. Census
--- At 48 million, Hispanics constitute 16 percent of the U.S. population (as of 2010).
--- Hispanics are the fastest-growing minority group.
--- The Census bureau projects that the U.S. Hispanic population will reach 102.6 million by 2050.
--- 64% of the U.S. Hispanic population are of Mexican background. Another approximately 10 percent are of Puerto Rican background.
--- The median age of the Hispanic population is 27.2 years; that compares with 36.2 years for the population as a whole.
--- 49% of the U.S. Hispanic-origin population lives in California or Texas. California is home to 12.4 million Hispanics, and Texas is home to 7.8 million.
--- 13 states (AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, IL, NV, NJ, NM, NY, NC, TX, and WA) have at least half a million Hispanic residents.

Teaching of the contributions of Hispanic Americans, and learning about the cultures from which they come, will be the focal point of many classroom activities and discussions in the weeks ahead as students across the United States recognize Hispanic Heritage Month -- September 15 to October 15.

But why teach about Hispanic heritage? Or, for that matter, why teach about any heritage?

Clearly, teaching about the contributions of Latinos can only help to build the self-esteem and the pride of those who identify themselves as Mexican-American or Cuban-American or Puerto Rican-American or . . . .

But, even more importantly, it is essential that all students learn to understand the ethnic diversity that is our country, according to Multicultural Education: Issues and Perspectives (Banks and Banks, 1992). Integrating the cultures in the social studies classroom helps develop "ethnic literacy" in all students. Developing ethnic literacy fosters pride in one's own culture and a respect and appreciation for the uniqueness of others.

Many Hispanic Americans trace their roots to the cultures of the indigenous peoples of the Americas -- including the Arawaks (Puerto Rico), the Aztecs (Mexico), the Incas (South America), the Maya (Central America), and the Tainos (in Cuba, Puerto Rico and other places). Some trace their roots to the Spanish explorers -- who in the 1400s set out to find an easier and less costly way to trade with the Indies. Other Latinos trace their roots to the Africans who were brought as slaves to the New World. For purposes of the U.S. Census, Hispanic Americans today are identified according to the parts of the world that they or their ancestors came from, including Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Spain, or the nations of Central or South America.

What follows is a loose series of activities that teachers might use to explore Hispanic heritage. But these activities -- which touch on the people, the statistics, the Internet resources -- are just the tip of the tortilla. Feel free to pick and choose, and (by all means!) to adapt these ideas in any way. Use these activities as a jumping-off point for a real fiesta celebrating and honoring the contributions of Hispanic Americans! Buena suerte!


U.S. geography. Many U.S. place names are derived from the Spanish language. Invite students to locate, tag on a U.S. map, and translate the following states and cities:
States -- Arizona, Colorado, Florida, and Montana.
Cities -- El Paso, Texas; Los Angeles, California; Pueblo, Colorado; San Antonio, Texas; San Diego, California; San Francisco, California; San Jose, California; and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Challenge students to find additional U.S. place names of Spanish origin.

Study skills. Use the Hispanic Americans in History worksheet with this activity. Invite students to use classroom, library, and Internet resources to match each famous Hispanic American listed on the worksheet with the brief description (in the second column) that tells what that person is noted for. Students might work cooperatively to complete this activity.
Hispanic Americans of the Past Answer Key: 1. i, 2. e, 3. a, 4. j, 5. h, 6. b, 7. g, 8. d, 9. c, 10. f.
Hispanic Americans of Today Answer Key: 1. d, 2. h, 3. c, 4. f, 5. e, 6. a, 7. j, 8. i, 9. g, 10. b.

Graphing. Invite students to use the following information from the U.S. Bureau of the Census to create a bar graph, a picture graph, or a circle graph showing the country of origin of U.S. Hispanics. The information below shows how many of every 100 Hispanic Americans list each of seven different countries as the nation from which their ancestors came.


Mexico 67 out of 100
Puerto Rico 9 out of 100
Cuba 4 out of 100
Nations in Central & South America 14 out of 100
Other Hispanic Nations 6 out of 100

Art. Invite students to design a postage stamp that could be part of a Hispanic Heritage stamp series. The stamp might show a famous Hispanic American or some aspect of Hispanic-American history or culture.

Dictionary skills. Many common English words are very similar to Spanish vocabulary. Following are a list of Spanish words and their English translations. Invite students to read each Spanish word below and to tell what the English equivalent might be.


Spanish   English   Spanish   English
armadillo   armadillo   banana   banana
barbacoa   barbecue   botella (boh-TEH-yah)   bottle
cafetería   cafeteria   can (kan-YOHN)   canyon
chocolate   chocolate   colores   colors
ensalada   salad   explorador   explorer
inteligente (in-teh-lee-HEN-teh)   intelligent   mapa   map
mucho (MOO-choh)   much   música (MOO-see-cuh)   music
no   no   números (NOO-meh-rohs)   numbers
papel (pah-PEL)   paper   patio   patio
rosa   rose   tomate (toh-MAH-teh)   tomato
tornado   tornado   vegetal (veh-heh-TAHL)   vegetable

Language. Invite students to create books (libros) to help them learn the Spanish words for the numbers one to ten and for common colors.

  • Each page in the student's Number Book has it on the numeral (1), the English word (one), and the Spanish word (uno) for that numeral, and a drawing that depicts that number of a given item. You might choose words from the list that accompanies the dictionary skills activity above (e.g., 1 armadillo, 2 ensaladas, 3 rosas, 4 bananas, etc.) and label the illustrations appropriately. The Spanish-language numbers, in sequence from one to ten, are: uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis , siete, ocho, nueve, and diez.
  • The Color Book is made of pages of different colored construction paper with the Spanish and English words for each color written on the appropriate pages. Include the colors amarillo (yellow), anaranjado (orange), azul (blue), blanco (white), café (brown), gris (gray), morado (purple), negro (black), oro (gold), plata (silver), rosado (pink), rojo (red), and verde (green).

World geography. Introduce students to the idea that the United States is a "melting pot." That means that people of many cultures have joined together to make this country great. Invite students to learn where their ancestors came from. Place a tag(s) with each student's name on the world map to indicate his/her place(s) of family origin.

Bulletin board/current events. Create a big black kettle (representing the "melting pot" that is America) out of construction paper and staple it to the bulletin board. Use white chalk to write the cultures represented in your students' families on the pot. Then ask students to keep an eye out for articles in newspapers and magazines that include references to different cultural groups that are part of the American "melting pot." Hang those articles on the bulletin board.

Biographies. Invite students to select one of the famous Latinos from the worksheet list (see Latinos in History) or one of the ones that follow and to learn two new facts about that person. Set up a "share time" when students will share with each other the information they've learned.


Vasco Núñez Balboa Explorer
Simón Bolívar Statesman
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra Writer
Salvador Dalí Painter
Roberto Durán Sportsman
Julio Iglesias Musician
Antonio Carlos Jobim Musician
Pablo Picasso Painter
Juan Ponce de León Explorer
Tito Puente Musician
Queen Isabel of Castille Ruler
Captain Angela Salinas Military
Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario Sportswoman
Andrés Segovia Musician
Lee Treviño Sportsman
Emiliano Zapata Statesman

Trivia. Challenge students to use Internet or library resources to locate answers to the trivia questions below.

  • Why should you think of Hispanic Heritage when you see the yellow veil of mustard blossoms on the roadside? Spanish soldiers and friars scattered the mark a trail.
  • What event do Mexicans and Mexican-Americans celebrate on Sept. 16? September 16 is Mexican Independence Day.
  • What are sikus, quenas, wankaras and charangos? Andean musical instruments.
  • What three U.S. states are home to most Hispanic-owned businesses? California, Texas and Florida.
  • Who is the city of Galveston, Texas named after? Marshall Bernardo de Galvez
  • What historic event is remembered in Puerto Rico on Sept. 23? El Grito de Lares.
  • What historic event is celebrated on May 5th (or Cinco de mayo)? On May 5, 1862, Mexican forces defeated the invading soldiers of France at the Battle Of Puebla.
  • What is one of the accepted roots of the word Mariachi? It is a variation of the French word mariage, meaning wedding or marriage; or that it comes from the name of the wood used to make the platform on which the performers danced to the music of the village musicians.

Holiday research. Divide the class into groups and assign each group a holiday to research. Many of these holidays are celebrated today by Hispanic Americans: Guadalupe Day, Cinco de mayo, La Navidad, La Posadas, Three Kings Day, and The Day of the Dead.


Celebrate Hispanic Heritage
Scholastic's home page for Hispanic heritage resources, which includes...

What Does My Heritage Mean to Me?
In this Scholastic resource, a handful of Americans explain what Hispanic heritage means to them. Lesson plans included.

Famous Hispanics in the World and History
The site includes links to biographies of dozens of famous Hispanics.

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month
The National Register of Historic Places presents lesson plans and much more.

Annotated Bibliography of Children's Literature
This particular list focuses on Latino people, history, and culture.

Make a Paper Mache Bowl
In Hispanic cultures, clay bowls often conveyed history.

How to Make a Pinata
Pinatas are easy to make, though they require a few days and some planning ahead.

The Society of Hispanic Historical and Ancestral Research (SHHAR)
SHHAR (pronounced "share") is a non-profit volunteer organization with the specific goal of helping Hispanics research their family history. Includes much research support and links to many other sites for additional help in genealogical research.

Integrating Mexican-American History and Culture into the Social Studies Classroom
An ERIC Digest looks at selecting texts and preparing teachers for integrating the Mexican-American experience into the social studies curriculum.

History of Hispanic Heritage Month
A legislative history.

Desi Arnaz
A biography lesson plan.

The following link is appropriate for secondary school studies of Hispanic culture:

Lesson Plans for Teaching About the Americas [archived copy]
More than 65 lesson plans written by secondary teachers in 1995 as part of a summer institute at the Latin America Data Base. Many activities are cross-disciplinary and some integrate the Internet.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World®
Copyright © Education World


Last updated 09/23/2011