Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated from September 15 to October 15, provides an opportunity for students to focus on the voices, experiences, and legacies of Hispanic Americans. Fishtank ELA brings Hispanic voices to the forefront of K–12 units year round, but we know that it can be particularly impactful to dedicate this time to these stories. To support teachers, we have collected some of our favorite ELA units and lessons to teach during this time of the year.
In the kindergarten Falling in Love with Authors and Illustrators unit, students are introduced to award-winning authors and illustrators, including Mexican-American author Yuyi Morales and Peruvian-American author Monica Brown. Morales introduces students to Spanish vocabulary in Niño Wrestles the World, a story of a boy wrestling imaginary monsters. The unit includes four Monica Brown texts that highlight the stories of Hispanic artists Celia Cruz, Gabriela Mistral, and Tito Puente, and soccer star Pelé.
Students build upon their knowledge of Hispanic artists in 1st grade with the biography-based Inspiring Artists and Musicians unit. Students are challenged to think about where people get their inspiration, and how a person’s decisions and actions can change their life, especially when facing instances of prejudice and discrimination.
In the 2nd grade Stories of Immigration unit, students learn about the experiences of people immigrating to the United States from countries including El Salvador and Mexico. This unit aims to help build students’ sensitivity and empathy for varying cultures and experiences within the United States.
In the first unit of 3rd grade, students read My Name is María Isabel as they explore the importance of respecting and valuing a person’s identity and specifically, their name. The next unit, Passing Down Wisdom, introduces students to the history and power of oral storytelling in Hispanic cultures through folktales.
As students learn about the structure of the American government in the 4th grade Politics and People: U.S. Government unit, they are introduced to famous Hispanic Americans who fought for change and overcame racism to secure their positions of power. Students continue to hear Hispanic voices in 5th grade in the novel Return to Sender which explores the complexity of immigration and stereotypes.
Middle and High School ELA
6th grade students approach the yearlong exploration of “coming of age” through the lens of the transformative power of art in the Expressing Yourself: Women in the Arts unit. Students learn about the lives and works of artists including Afro-Peruvian activist Favianna Rodríguez. In the final unit of the year, students explore the topic of “coming of age” through the stories of young refugees including Isabel, a young Cuban girl whose family seeks safety in the United States in the novel Refugee.
In 7th grade, students explore the question of what it means to be American and the diversity of the American experience. The first unit, Defining America: Poems, Essays, and Short Stories, allows students to discuss topics including immigration and DACA as they interact with various poems, audio interviews, and articles. In a later unit, students explore the American experience through the eyes of a young Latina girl as she struggles to define herself in relation to her community in The House on Mango Street.
Similar to the structure of 7th grade, the 9th grade curriculum begins with a unit of short stories, poems, and essays: Me, Myself, I: Examining Personal Identity in Short Texts. In this unit, students explore the factors that contribute to and impact a person’s identity. José Olivarez’s poem “(citizen)(illegal)” introduces students to the complex experiences of a child of immigrant parents. Afro-Latina poet Elizabeth Acevedo’s “Hair” allows students to examine the impact of traditional American beauty standards on women of different cultures.
In a later unit, 9th grade students continue to grapple with the concept of personal identity as they read Julia Alvarez’s historical fiction novel In the Time of the Butterflies. The story centers around the experiences of the Mirabal sisters during the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic.
Stay up to date with timely texts and ideas for engaging students year round on the Fishtank Blog. Do you have amazing resources for highlighting Hispanic Heritage in your classroom? We want to hear from you!
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