Tips for Teachers is a monthly column in which experienced teacher and children’s librarian Emmie Stuart shares book recommendations and a corresponding teaching guide for fellow elementary school teachers.
Kicking off on September 15 and running through October 15, Hispanic Heritage Month is a national festival that recognizes the histories, cultures and contributions of Americans whose ancestors can be traced to Spain, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. Sharing stories that honor these countries and cultures is joyful and necessary. As Pura Belpré, a pioneer in Latino storytelling and librarianship, has explained, “Books help give the child a sense of belonging. They bring understanding between people of two different cultures and help [them] to see their similarities and values instead of the differences that keep them apart.” Create a monthlong classroom festival by sharing books rich with characters, color, language and traditions that celebrate and honor Hispanic culture.
¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market by Raul the Third
Described as the Mexican American version of Richard Scarry’s Busytown, Raul the Third’s picture book graphic novel recounts a day in the life of Little Lobo and his dog Bernape as they deliver “much needed supplies” to the Mercado. The warm-hued illustrations buzz with retro energy that matches the scurry and hustle of the “pathways, shops and booths” that is the Mercado. With cultural details (churros, Frida Khalo, street performers, piñatas, etc.) and Spanish vocabulary seamlessly interwoven into the narrative, the book teaches and communicates through a festive, fresh and funky story.
- Vocabulary Guessing Game
Items throughout the book are inconspicuously labeled with their Spanish terms. Point out the terms to your students and ask them to use the illustrations to infer the meaning of the word. Write the terms and students’ guesses on the board and then compare their guesses to the Spanish-English glossary included in the back of the book.
- Lucha Libre
At Little Lobo’s favorite shop he buys masks, posters and toys that remind him of his favorite wrestler. Let your students study this illustration for two to three minutes (these exercises help foster the discipline of attention) and encourage them to tell you what they learned about Lucha Libre through the illustration details. Read aloud the books Lucha Libre: The Man in the Silver Mask and Niño Wrestles the World. Here is a link to Morales’ excellent read-aloud version. Allow children time to create their own Lucha Libre personality. Provide art materials and invite them to design masks that reflect their wrestler’s persona.
My Papi Has a Motorcycle written by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña
Daisy Ramona loves nothing more than a sunset ride on the back of her father’s motorcycle, for it’s on these rides that she feels “all the love he has trouble saying.” They zigzag through the California city streets, passing the familiar market, the church and murals that show “our history—of citrus groves and the immigrants who worked them.” They nod to neighbors, stop to buy gummi bears and note with mixed emotions the inevitable changes occurring in their community. Quintero’s prose (including Spanish speech bubbles) paired with Peña’s dynamic illustrations capture Daisy’s motorcycle joy and genuine hometown affection, offering students insight into the life of a southern California neighborhood.
- Personal Writing
Daisy cherishes motorcycle rides with Papa. Ask students to reflect on a ritual or tradition they share with a special person. Invite them to write a narrative explaining the tradition. Walk them through a sensory writing exercise and encourage them to address all five senses in their writing. What are the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and textures of their special memory? After they have crafted their narrative, let them use various art supplies to illustrate their memory.
- Characteristics of Cities
Read aloud other books that showcase urban communities and neighborhoods. My favorites include Last Stop on Market Street, Daniel’s Good Day, Maybe Something Beautiful, Blackout, and Keats’ Neighborhood. As a class, reread the books and let the students tell you the urban elements that are similar across the books. Make a list of these things and then discuss how these settings are similar and different to your local neighborhood.
- Mural Art
“We roar past murals that tell our history…” Revisit this page and discuss and show pictures of local murals. Do they show the history of the community or are they just decorative? Give children oversized paper and chalk pastels or watercolors. Invite them to design a mural that reflects their family history, community history, or the values that are important in your classroom community. Remind them to “think big.” Many of my students started drawing small pictures and we had to revisit the idea of oversized and simple mural art.
One is a Piñata: A Book of Numbers written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong, illustrated by John Parra
From uno piñata to diez friends, students will enjoy counting their way up to a fiesta. Following Round Is a Tortilla and Green Is a Chile Pepper, this concept book is a series of rhymes representing a year’s worth of Hispanic celebrations. Para’s bright illustrations incorporate several cultural details that further enhancing the text and explaining unfamiliar words. It’s a quick and effective read-aloud that teaches numbers, new words and various aspects of Hispanic festivals.
- A Year of Celebration
Write the names of significant Hispanic celebrations on anchor chart paper (one celebration per paper) and hang them around the room. Provide books, articles and computers/tablets and let children research the various festivals. This exercise is an opportunity to demonstrate or remind that notes are short bits of information. I tell my students that researching is like gold-mining: They must read through the “sand” and find most important “gold nuggets” of information. For younger children, provide a graphic organizer that will scaffold the note-taking process. Once students have gathered their information, invite them to record their facts on the respective pieces of anchor chart paper. If one of the festivals or holidays is on the horizon, help the students use their notes to plan a classroom celebration.
Hummingbird written by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Jane Ray
The migration of the “tz’unun,” a word that means hummingbird in several Latin American languages, is interwoven into the story of a young girl and her Latina grandmother. As they sit in her garden, Granny explains, “They’ll soon be gone—flying North like you.” The next spreads showcase the ruby-throated hummingbird’s migration from Central America through the United States to their destination of Canada. The narrative comes full circle when a hummingbird from Granny’s garden crosses paths with the young girl in New York City’s Central Park. Bolded informative facts are interspersed throughout serving to enhance the text. Gentle and informative, this nonfiction narrative is sure to spark classroom conversations about ruby-throated hummingbirds as well as human migration and difficult family separations.
- Hummingbird Feeders
If you live in an area with a hummingbird presence, ask your students to collect plastic water bottles or baby food jars and repurpose them into homemade hummingbird feeders. If this is too daunting, buy a feeder to hang outside your classroom. Create a hummingbird observation clipboard and let students record the number and actions of the hummingbirds. Be sure to graph the frequency of the birds and visits. Do they decline as the season change and the weather become cooler? Sept. 1 marks the beginning of the fall migration season.