Building Inclusive Classrooms: How to Teach About Latinx Culture and History
To help educators like you build inclusive classrooms where Latinx culture and history is taught and celebrated, we asked Latina and Hispanic-identifying Teacher-Authors to share their experiences and advice for doing so. Read on for ideas you can implement in your own classroom.
3 Ways to Bring Latinx Histories, Cultures, and Experiences into the Classroom
Use these strategies from Latina and Hispanic-identifying educators to teach about the breadth and depth of Latinx histories, cultures, and experiences throughout the school year.
1. Have students research influential Latinx leaders.
Take time to tell the stories of famous individuals from the Latinx community who’ve helped shape our collective history in your own classroom or schoolwide. In Sra Davila Madwid’s Spanish classroom, she loves to teach about important Latinx figures all year long through film, decor, and projects. And during her school’s Character Day she dresses up as Frida Kahlo and shares a short clip about her life. “You would be surprised how many students have never heard of her!” she says.
Similarly, bilingual educator Hilda Escamilla also leverages her school’s multicultural days to teach about Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, among other popular Latinx leaders and famous individuals.
As a middle school math and science teacher, Mata Math and Science teaches about influential leaders from the Latinx community by assigning a “mathematician of the quarter” project to encourage students to learn more about little-known, but important leaders in the STEM fields. “I provide students with the option to choose from a list of ‘not-so-popular’ trailblazers in history who have impacted mathematics and STEM,” she says. “This list highlights minorities and females and helps bring more attention to these individuals and their cultures.”
For ELA classes, The Little Ladybug Shop has her students read and research influential Latinx leaders during the school year. “Students conduct research projects about these influential leaders and present [them] to the class,” she says. “It’s a month-long project, but students enjoy learning and studying all cultures in our classroom.”
2. Incorporate Latinx and Hispanic voices in your classroom.
Third grade teacher Sailing into Second stresses the importance of seeking out, listening to, and amplifying the voices of Latinx and Hispanic individuals in your classroom. “Latinx history and culture is everywhere! It’s important to remember to bring articles, books, guest speakers, anything relating to Hispanic and Latinx culture into as many lessons as you can throughout the year,” she says. “Representing Hispanic and Latinx voices isn’t just something to do during September and October, it’s something you can do every day with your students! [And] you can start with something as simple as using inclusive images and visuals that make sure all your students can see themselves represented in the classroom.”
Additionally, books written by and about Latinx and Hispanic-identifying individuals are another way to incorporate new understandings, perspectives, and voices into your teachings. The Little Ladybug Shop recommends checking out these books for your classroom:
3. Explore cultural traditions and connect them to material they’re already learning.
As a high school Spanish teacher, First Generation Dreams takes advantage of opportunities to mix Latinx culture into her lessons every day. “I begin my classes with a short warm-up that includes an interesting fact from the Hispanic culture in addition to including many cultural lessons into my curriculum,” she says. “I have a couple of movies I love showing to the kids each year, including: Coco (to shine a bright spot on the Day of the Dead traditions, which is one of my favorite ones to teach), and La Misma Luna (to bring awareness of immigration myths, issues, and challenges).”
As an 11th grade Spanish teacher in Puerto Rico, La Misi de Espanol loves to find opportunities to integrate Puerto Rican culture and history into her lessons whenever possible, particularly things that students might not know on their own. “Sometimes I’m surprised at how little our students know about our own history and folklore. That’s why I like to show them videos of modern ‘trovadores’ singing décimas — a type of poem that is improvised live from a single line given by the audience and accompanied by traditional music,” she says. “If we are reading a story about the 1950s in Puerto Rico, I show them pictures of that time so we can compare and contrast to the present day. Kids love history, especially our own, so I try to find opportunities to incorporate it in our lessons.”
If you’re looking for resources on Latinx history, culture and experiences, check out this curated collection of resources to help you tackle many of the strategies discussed in this article.
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