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One of my favorite things about music is that it can transport you all around the world and help you to learn about different cultures. We are always striving to do this in my elementary music classroom. Although I use songs from different cultures all year round, I love any excuse to highlight a culture! So, for Hispanic Heritage Month, we are typically doing Spanish songs in every class. These are a few of my favorite folk songs for Hispanic Heritage month.
Although these are my favorite folk songs for Hispanic Heritage month, again, I use them all year long– and you should too! I will pull out Los Pollitos and Al citron in the Spring, Dulce Dulce around Halloween, and Que Llueva any time that I want to.
So use these folk songs for Hispanic Heritage Month– but also think about how and when you could use them throughout the year!
With that being said, let’s get started! These are going to be loosely organized by grade level. Don’t feel that you HAVE TO use a piece with that grade level, but I thought that it would be easier to incorporate each piece if you know who I use them for.
Although spoiler: 2-3 grade definitely have the most folk song for Hispanic Heritage month.
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Kindergarten and First Grade Folk Songs for Hispanic Heritage Month
Let’s start with one that is always a hit– Los Pollitos! This is a folk song sung in many countries, although from what I can tell, it seems to be from Mexico.
It is about baby birds being taken care of by their mom.
My favorite way to do this one is to sing it with actions, and have the kids guess the different lines of the song. This helps to show that they can understand some things in other languages even without knowing the language.
Here’s a few of the moves we do:
- Los pollitos dicen “Pio, pio, pio”: move hands in talk in motion
- Cuando tienen hambre: rub belly
- Cuando tienen frio: shiver
- La gallino busca el maiz y el trigo: Hand to head like searching
- Les de la comida y les presta abrigo: hands to mouth like eating
- Bajo sus dos almas, acurrucaditos: Flap wings
- Duermen lo pollitos, hasta otra dia: Sleep motion
Then, I teach the kids the actions, and they pick up on the words surprisingly quickly.
I also have this super cute picture book from Amazon that has flaps that flip up and goes with this song. All of the words are the lyrics to the song. The kids think it is just so much fun to see what’s under each flap.
There’s also some cute animations on Youtube, like the one below!
I found this piece on a whim, and it has been a hit.
El Coqui is a tiny tree frog in Puerto Rico. They have apparently invaded California and Hawaii (how this little guy got to Hawaii is beyond me) and are reeking havoc, but this Puerto Rican folk song about the coqui is adorable.
I teach the students the chorus, and the words are just “coqui” over and over and over again.
We also trace the melody of the chorus, because some of them go up and some go down.
I found a recording of Dora singing this, and they think it is the greatest thing ever. If you are not sure which piece to incorporate, this may be the one– especially if you are not confident with Spanish. The main part of this song only has one word!
Dulce, Dulce is a song that is actually from the US (according to the Smithsonian Folk Ways, it’s from the African American community), but it’s a fun Spanish song with not too many words. I use it to work on quarter rest.
Also, dulce means sweet, so I love to do it around a candy holiday like Halloween or Valentine’s Day.
Mama means mom, and chiquita means little girl.
Need more ideas? Check out Ideas for Hispanic Heritage Month by clicking here!
2-3 Grade Hispanic Heritage Month folk songs
Agua de Limones
Agua de Limones is a simple singing game from Columbia that features sol, mi, and la.
For this piece, we work on the solfege and then we play the game!
The game for this piece is categories. Basically, you sing the song. At the end of the song, one person calls out a category– it could be shirt color, favorite animal, pets, whatever. The kids group by that category.
So if they said shirt color, all of the people with the same shirt color would get together. Anyone left over would be out, and they become the leader for the next round.
I use this with the digital (or now printable!) board game Lucky Lemons! For sol, mi, and la. The digital version is hosted on Google Slides. Both the digital and printable versions are played the same.
- Roll the dice (or the digital dice)
- Move that many spaces
- Complete the challenge!
- If you complete the challenge correctly, you get a point
Challenges include singing a solfege pattern, putting notes onto the staff, identifying notes on the staff, and more!
Lucky Lemons is included in the Agua de Limones lesson pack, which includes:
- Presentation to teach the song, the singing game, and la
- Digital activities to practice la
- Lucky Lemons board game for La
- Printable worksheets for la
Click here to purchase the lesson pack (or just one item out of it)!
En la Pulga de San Jose
En la Pulga de San Jose is a Puerto Rican folk song that talks all about instruments.
In this piece, we walk on the chorus, and we act out each of the instruments on the verses. It is a cumulative song, so as each verse goes on, there are more and more instruments to add!
After that, we look at each of the instruments featured in the song and listen to a short clip of the instrument.
I like to pair this one with a book about instruments– Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin and I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello are both hits.
(PS I also have lessons that go with each of those books– click here to read about I Know a Shy Fellow and here to check out Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin.)
I have a Google Slides lesson that goes with this piece, and will make life super easy. It includes the lyrics, translation, pictures and videos of each of the instruments featured, and a recording of the piece so that you can play it if you don’t want to sing all of the words in Spanish. It also talks about Puerto Rico, and shows pictures of the country!
Vamos a la Mar
It is a Guatemalan folk song all about going to the sea and eating fish. At first, I have the students sing and snap on the “tum tum” part. Then we learn the lyrics.
Then, I pull out our Spanish and English sea animal rhythm cards, and we compose rhythms! We do this over a few different days, so on the first day, I’ll usually pick, then they will do it in groups.
I also like to leave this as a centers option, and have them do it in small groups, and then play castanets or egg shakers with it.
I pair this with a few ocean themed activities, like the song Charlie Over the Ocean, digital Save the Fish! Google Slides game for solfege, or the book There was an Old Mermaid Who Swallowed a Shark (click here to watch the rhythm lesson associated with that book!)
Que Llueva is a Spanish folk song that uses sol, mi, la, and do. It is all about rain, so it pairs well with any weather related activities like Rain Rain Go Away and the book Tap Tap Boom Boom.
I like to use this for improv.
Basically, we learn the words and actions (see the video below). Then, we talk about how “rain” is a quarter note word and “llueva” is an eighth note word. I make up some patterns with rain and llueva– sometimes I even give kids the cards and we arrange them in different orders in the front of the room.
Then, we improvise our own patterns! We sing the song as the A section, and improvise with the words llueva and rain on the B section (about 8 beats). We switch back and forth until we run out of time.
Want to make it more interesting? Use egg shakers or maracas! Play the beat or rhythm during the song, then the improvised rhythm on the B section.
Click here to read the full article.
Duerme mi Tesoro
Duerme mi Tesoro is a lullaby from Puerto Rico that uses half note.
I don’t have anything revolutionary that we do this this piece– we just play the rhythm and use it as an excuse to calm down at the end of class. Sometimes, I have them pretend to rock a baby to the steady beat while we sing.
4-5 grade Hispanic Heritage Month Folk Songs
Las Mananitas is a Mexican song written by Alfonso Esparza Oteo. It is used as a birthday song in many Spanish speaking countries.
For this piece, you can compare and contrast with the birthday song we typically use in the US.
I like to use it as a stepping stone to talking about mariachi music. We listen to mariachi music and dance to La raspa/Mexican Hat Dance.
A la lata al latero
A la lata is a beat passing game and movement activity from Columbia.
This Columbian folk song is perfect to use as a beat passing game. Traditionally, the pattern is
Right Right Right Left Right
Here is a video to help you out!
You can also do movement along with it. Stand in a circle. Students go in, then out, then to the right. Next verse in, then out, then move to the left.
You can do this at the students’ seats by just having them move to the side a little bit, or even at their houses!
Here’s a short video of that.
It’s so simple, but SO MUCH fun. My fifth grades loved it.
If you want some visuals, it is included in my FREE chants presentation, which includes the lyrics and the rhythm in both regular and stick notation of many different chants, including Engine Engine Number Nine, Queen, Queen Caroline, How Much Wood Could a Woodchuck Chuck?, A la Lata, and more!
Click here to get it for free AND gain access to the free resource library!
I think I may have saved the best for last.
Al citron is a beat passing game from Mexico that features a dotted quarter note. I like to play this in 4-5 grade.
Traditionally, you would use rocks. Students sit in a circle and pass to the steady beat. At the end, they tap right, left, right.
If you mess up the pattern, you’re out!
Click here to read the full lesson.
So there you go– enough Hispanic Heritage folk songs to get you started! If you’re looking for more ideas, click here to read about different ideas for Hispanic Heritage month– including dances, listening selections, and more!
What’s your favorite folk song for Hispanic Heritage month? Head over to my Instagram @beccasmusicroom and let me know!