Nine ideas for honoring Hispanic Heritage Month thoughtfully and inclusively
There is no shortage of ways to celebrate the rich and diverse Spanish-speaking cultures around the world. Spanish teachers do this all year long! Hispanic Heritage Month provides an additional, special opportunity to generate discussions and experience cultural events that don’t happen all year round, depending on where you live.
Delving into the history of Spanish-speaking communities, important people and their contributions, and traditions that aren’t always part of students’ day-to-day lives will enrich their study of the language and help them to connect with and build empathy toward others.
Take this opportunity to dispel stereotypes and surface-level understandings of Hispanic, Latin American, and Caribbean cultures. Explore the food, music, dance, and other fun aspects of Spanish-speaking cultures, but also challenge students to learn about the history and the people, as well as the deeper context of how those things came to be.
1. Why is Hispanic Heritage Month celebrated from September 15 to October 15? Ask students to research the dates and make a timeline of the important dates that are included during that time.
2. Why is it called “Hispanic” Heritage Month? Discuss the history of how the word Hispanic came to be used in the United States. The conversation may turn to ideas of inclusion and allowing everyone to identify themselves using whatever words they prefer. Let students know that there is no right or wrong way to talk about their heritage—what’s important is learning about it.
3. Who are prominent figures from Spain, Latin America, or the Caribbean? Assign students to research key figures to help them gain an understanding of the diverse contributions of Spanish speakers to the world.
4. Who are Spanish-speaking influencers on social media? Who do they follow and why? What is their contribution? What do they show about their culture and heritage? Assign students to create a fake social media page or post from the perspective of that person, talking about what they have accomplished.
5. How can you get involved? Encourage or assign students to participate in one (or more!) event and report back to the class on their experiences. They can check the local library, local colleges, or simply Google to see what is happening nearby. They might find themselves listening to a guest speaker, sampling new food, listening to new music, and learning a new dance! If you live in a remote area or are reluctant to interact face-to-face, many institutions also offer virtual options as well.
6. How do you taste the culture? Have students eat at a local restaurant and write a review. Maybe they’ll discover Venezuelan arepas, Salvadoran pupusas, or Spanish tapas. Mexican cuisine is the second most popular national food in America after Chinese, so they’re likely to find a local Mexican restaurant. Afterwards, have them write a review in the target language of their dining experience.
7. How do you bring dishes from Spanish-speaking cultures to life? If your students are more of the hands-on type, they might enjoy researching recipes from Spanish-speaking countries and making something that matches their cooking skill level. Have a class party (in person or virtually) where students can share their dishes and explain how they made them in the target language.
8. How do you choose what to read, watch, and listen to? As a class, start a web page or social media page where students can add their own suggestions for television programs, movies, books, blogs, and podcasts about and by Latinx creators. This will give students a way to continue engaging throughout the year and not just during this month. Ask students to post a short review of their suggestion so others know what it is about. In the process of reading, watching, or listening to the texts students choose to add to this compilation, students will build empathy by learning about others’ experiences. Also, native or heritage speakers in your classroom can learn more about their own roots and read stories that reflect their own experiences.
9. How do you grow an appreciation for Latinx filmmakers? Have a mini film festival showcasing programs and movies featuring Latinx actors, directors, and writers. Invite students to nominate films to watch.
Don’t keep this all inside your classroom! Encourage your colleagues in other disciplines to talk about important contributors to their fields from the Spanish-speaking world. You might also showcase your students’ projects in a gallery walk, in the hallways, online, or in the library or cafeteria so that everyone can benefit from their discoveries and creations!
Janet's teaching experience is in Spanish, having taught all levels, both AP Language and AP Literature, dual credit courses, and native Spanish speaker courses. After seven years of teaching high school Spanish, she joined the Carnegie Learning team, but she still serves as an adjunct Spanish professor at Lone Star College in Houston, as well as an AP Reader for the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam. Her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish is from Geneva College, and she learned my Master’s degree in Spanish focusing on Hispanic Linguistics from the University of Pittsburgh. She enjoys traveling and experiencing new places (when there isn’t a pandemic). She also loves presenting at local, regional, and national world language conferences on a variety of topics from differentiated instruction to cultural biases and how they impact the classroom.Explore more related to this author
Mike taught Spanish and French for 16 years before joining Carnegie Learning. He's from Philadelphia and taught at the elementary, middle, and high school levels and in both public and private school settings. He loves to travel and was fortunate to be able to take students abroad for many years. He also worked as a scoring leader for the Praxis French exam as an AP Spanish Language reader. As a Content Specialist, he is able to work with teachers and also help develop educational content materials for Carnegie Learning world language programs. He has presented at many regional and national conferences, including NECTFL, CSCTFL, and ACTFL.Explore more related to this author