“…But when they see themselves represented, then they are told … ‘You are important. You are authors. You are scientists. You are explorers. You are special. You are leaders. You are respected. You are the reason we are here.’”-John Leguizamo on the importance of representation for children
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15) I wanted to start by sharing this quote. It reminds me why something that seems so small, like a cute craft, fun game, or a reading passage can help make the students in your class feel bigger. Don’t have Hispanic students in your class? Teaching students to celebrate and explore the cultures of others is so valuable. This post will walk you through four fun activities you can pull into your classroom this month.
Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration of the contributions made by those of Hispanic descent. Being Hispanic generally means coming from or having a connection to a Spanish-speaking country. Since this encompasses SO MANY different groups there are a lot of ways to celebrate this month.
The activities in this post are fun ways to celebrate in class with supplies you probably already have or can get for pretty cheap. Bringing other cultures into your class is valuable but being a teacher is expensive and we made sure to keep that in mind.
One last disclaimer, no Hispanic experience is the same. The activities below come from Mexico & Guatemala because those are the cultures in which my experience lies. There may be similar activities in other cultures with different names but this is what my family calls them. I encourage you to continue exploring and celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month using activities that are connected to the students in your population.
Jump To An Activity
Let’s start with a game you can play with your class that may already be familiar with. Loteria is a bingo-like game that is closely tied to Mexican culture. Loteria is perfect for all ages because it’s easy to pick up and difficulty can be added based on age. Variations include playing multiple boards at once or using riddles to describe the cards instead of their names.
How to Play Loteria:
This classroom version of Loteria is great for our little learners.
- The caller pulls a card from the deck.
- If the card matches one on their board (“tabla” or ”carta”) then students cover it with a bean.
- The caller continues to pull and announce cards. It’s up to students to keep track of what’s been called. That’s part of the game!
Part of the fun of Loteria lies in a little good ol’ fashioned distraction. The caller often attempts to distract the players so they miss spots on their board. At home this looked like throwing things at your cousins, cracking jokes, speaking in riddles, etc. In the classroom, this might look like saying, “those pointy things that magically disappear” instead of “el lapiz (pencil)” or “sticky plastic” instead of “la cinta adhesiva (tape)” Again, it’s not mandatory but it does add a layer of difficulty that always made the game more fun.
I LOVE making papel picado in the classroom because it hits on so many different fronts. It’s awesome for building fine motor skills. It has a rich history AND it looks super cute when you hang it up! If you want a more grown-up version of the History & Tradition of Papel Picado in Mexico this video has a lot of great information. The video below from the Hispanic Museum & Library has a little history and then has a video walkthrough that you and your students can follow along with.
How To Make Papel Picado
Using tissue paper or any colored paper you prefer cut designs of your choosing. Creating papel picado is similar to making paper snowflakes, except they’re colorful and you string them all together for hanging! This page has a step-by-step tutorial as well.
When I asked my dad to help me brainstorm some classroom activities from Guatemala (where he’s from) he immediately told me all kinds of ridiculous & dangerous stories. Our conversation was a lot of me saying things like, “this is for school, the kids can’t throw arrows at one another” and “Dad, parents will freak out if their kids come home bloody.” So… I got him to come up with a school appropriate version of a toy he made as a kid called a chajalele (cha-ha-leh-leh).
His childhood version used a smashed metal bottle cap and my mom’s was made with slice of avocado pit but this version uses a big button and some string. My son and I found a coin from a fast food restaurant and hammered some holes into it to make the chajalele below.
How To Make A Chajalele
You’ll need: a button & yarn
Take a large button and thread about 24-36 inches of yarn through the holes and tie the ends. That’s it!
All that’s left is twirling and spinning it. Here’s my dad showing you how to do it. Yes, he made the one he’s using out of a sharp metal bottle cap even though I told him we were doing SCHOOL APPROPRIATE crafts. Please pretend it’s a button with me.
Guatemalan Worry dolls have a special place in my heart. I was an anxious kid so my dad used to give me (and my sisters) worry dolls to help. He would hand us the doll right before bed and we would whisper our worries into the doll’s ear. Then, put the dolls under our pillows. The dolls carry the worries away or help give me the wisdom to deal with whatever was worrying me. I have a sneaking suspicion my dad just sat close by and listened to my worries then tried to do what he could to help so I’d believe in the magic.
In any case, the students in our classes have some worries of their own. Making little worry dolls is a great way to combine social-emotional learning and Hispanic Heritage Month. The book Silly Billy by Anthony Brown tells a sweet story of a boy and his worry doll.
How to Make A Worry Doll
You’ll Need: pipe cleaners (1 per student), colored yarn, scissors to cut the yarn/pipe cleaners, paper (optional)
Start with a pipe cleaner cut into thirds. Usually, worry dolls fit in the palm of your hand. Twist two pipe cleaner pieces together in the shape of a person. Take the last piece of pipe cleaner and twist it around the “body” and curl it up to make the head. Take whatever color yarn they like (traditional worry dolls are colorful) and wrap up the pipe cleaners completely except for the head. Finally, feel free to create little paper faces to add to the head.
I hope you and your students love these activities. Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!