3 Hispanic Heritage Month activities for Spanish classrooms
Whether you teach Spanish to beginning-level students or to native and heritage speakers of Spanish, Hispanic Heritage Month is a great time to embrace your Spanish-speaking students' heritage and for your other students to learn more about the heritage of their classmates.
The month-long recognition was created for Americans of all backgrounds to learn about and celebrate Latinos' contributions to the United States, including everything from art to activism to space exploration. Spanish teachers, read on for some facts about Hispanic Heritage Month to share with your students and fun classroom activities!
Who Is Hispanic Heritage Month for?
During Hispanic Heritage Month, we celebrate the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to our society and culture.
Who are Hispanic Americans? Before American annexation, the term "Hispano" was used in the United States to describe Spaniards who had settled in the Southwest. Today, "Hispanic" refers to people with ancestry in Spanish-speaking countries.
Who are Latino-Americans? During the 19th century, the term "Latino" was also coined when several former Spanish colonies declared independence and became latinoamericano, or "Latin American." This term was meant to convey the similarity of the nations once ruled by Spain. Latinos in the U.S. refer to people with ancestry in these Latin American countries.
It's important to note that not all Latinos are of Hispanic heritage. For example, Brazilians are Latino but aren't Hispanic, given that the primary language used in Brazil is Portuguese. "Latinos" are a group that includes people with different ethnic backgrounds and cultures.
Of the 60.5 million Hispanics living in the U.S., the largest subgroups are Mexican-Americans at 61.4% and Puerto Ricans at 9.6%. But many other groups are also part of the Spanish-speaking community: Central Americans (Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Nicaraguans), South Americans (Colombians and Venezuelans), Caribbean Islanders (Cubans, Dominicans, and Puerto Ricans), as well as Spaniards from Spain who now live in the U.S. All these groups have their own culture, which makes the people we celebrate during Hispanic Heritage Month a diverse, multi-ethnic, and multicultural group!
When Is Hispanic Heritage Month?
Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 to October 15, so keep that in mind when planning your celebration.
What makes these dates significant? Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua all celebrate independence on September 15. Mexican and Chilean independence days are also celebrated on September 16 and 18. October 15 is the end of Hispanic Heritage Month because it’s close to Día de la Raza, which is celebrated across Latin America.
How Can I Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in My Classroom?
No matter which level of Spanish you teach, use these ideas to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in your class this September and October–or any month!
Read more Hispanic authors
Beginning/Exploratory level: There are exceptional English translations of Spanish-speaking authors and many others who write in English. You can't go wrong with short stories by Gabriel García Márquez, Pedro Emilio Coll, and Junot Díaz.
Create an oral history project where native and heritage Spanish-speaking students interview their families about their experiences as an individual of Hispanic heritage. Other students can also interview Hispanic individuals outside of their families who have made an impact in their communities. Students then create presentations using these interviews or write reports about them.
Explore Google Earth's virtual voyages focused on Hispanic figures or Spanish-speaking countries. For example, you can explore this virtual tour focused on Latino Trailblazers, this one focused on Latino Murals in the U.S., or this other one which shows your students incredible Mexico City street food.
For more classroom resources to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, check out these additional options:
The federal Hispanic Heritage Month website
National Hispanic Heritage Month resources from the Library of Congress
Latino History and Culture collection and archives from the Smithsonian Institution
During Hispanic Heritage Month, we can showcase the countless contributions every Hispanic and Latino person, from an elotero to a congressperson, has made to this country. It's crucial that all your students feel seen, heard, and valued, and celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month can help achieve this.
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A former Spanish teacher who is currently based in the Washington DC metropolitan area. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish Language and Literature from la Universidad del Zulia and a Master's degree in Spanish Linguistics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her interests include SEL education in the world language classroom, theater, and finding ways to make the world a less scary place.Explore more related to this author