Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! This U.S. national observation began 55 years ago in 1968 under President Lyndon B. Johnson. You may wonder why it begins in the middle of the month on September 15. That date represents the independence of several Latin American countries such as Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Chile. With the varied Latin cultures that comprise the Hispanic diaspora, there is always something new to learn about and from Hispanic heritage.
Let’s explore Hispanic culture through the lens of culturally responsive teaching which encourages learning about your students’ cultural backgrounds, including celebrations, traditions, and foods, to provide a more enriched learning experience for all students.
Check out these coloring sheets of famous and influential Hispanic Americans. Just enough information is provided about each featured person to set the tone for learning more by listening to or reading a book on Hispanic heritage. The coloring sheets and any books read can also be used as writing prompts; new writers can draw pictures or write a few words about what they learned whereas students able to generate sentences can write a sentence or short paragraph.
A hallmark of any culture is the traditional foods. Enjoy making one or more of these 60+ recipes from one of 17 different Latin countries with your students and/or asking families to participate in a Hispanic Heritage Month potluck by bringing in one of the recipes or sharing a family recipe. Students can engage in language and math learning along the way by reading and implementing the recipes, using measuring cups and spoons to portion out ingredients, and learning food vocabulary across multiple Latin countries.
Kids and adults alike love to hear and move to the beat of good music. This interactive video covers five Latin music genres like Ranchero and Bachata, and encourages students to learn the rhythm of each genre via finger snaps and claps. Listening to music with lyrics may not only bolster background knowledge, but also has been found by researchers (e.g., Aksoy, 2023; Cameron et al., 2019, Eccles et al., 2021) to improve early literacy skills, like phonological processing, and student engagement.
Rounding out the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month with games is a great idea! Consider playing Hispanic games like Lotería, which is the Hispanic version of bingo. Instead of numbers, players will see pictures of objects and their label written in Spanish; this is a wonderful way to make a connection between the object labels in Spanish and English. Another featured game is one akin to I, Spy called Veo Veo, which supports students’ ability to say and write detailed descriptions of objects, people, and events in Spanish and/or English.
There are so many fun ways to incorporate Hispanic Heritage Month into your classroom activities, particularly literacy instruction. The more all students hear, describe verbally, read, and write about other cultures, the more culturally competent our society will become.
With regard to reading and students who speak Spanish and/or English, consider using a free, science of reading- and research-based digital early literacy program: WORD Force: A Literacy Adventure. It was designed to help K-2 students build literacy skills that have been proven to move them from “learning to read” to “reading to learn”! The instructions are in Spanish and English, which promotes accurate early literacy practice in English. If you are looking for a home or on-the-go practice option, check out the new WORD Force Reading Adventures app. WORD Force is from EVERFI, which has the ISTE Seal and Digital Promise Certification.
Aksoy, S.H. (2023). The effect of music on reading skills: A meta-analysis study. International Online Journal of Education and Teaching (IOJET), 10(2).
Cameron, A., Dixon, R., Warren, J., & Verenikina, I. (2019). Joining the dots: Connections between phonological processing, language, literacy and music. Australian Litearcy Educators’ Association Mini Conference, Canberra ACT.
Eccles R.M., van der Linde, J., Le Roux, M., Swanepoel, D., Maccutcheon, D., & Ljung, R. (2021). The effect of music education on phonological awareness and early literacy: A systematic review. The Australian Journal of Language, 44(1). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03652064.
Dr. Jaumeiko Coleman
Dr. Jaumeiko Coleman is the Vice President of Early Literacy Impact at EVERFI. In her role she enjoys collaborating with colleagues across units as well as external stakeholders on early literacy projects as a subject matter expert. Dr. Coleman’s career focus on spoken language and literacy has been infused in her work in public and private schools, public and private universities, and a not-for-profit association. She is a board member of Learning Disabilities Association of Georgia and Learning Disabilities Association of America.