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Hispanic Heritage month is one of my favorite things to teach. Many people have schools with large groups of Hispanic students. I do not. But it is still fun.
If you do not usually do music lessons from different cultures, this Hispanic music is one of the easiest ones to start with. A lot of kids know some Spanish words or have seen Dora the Explorer, so they are used to some Spanish.
And it is super fun.
I do a lot of music from different cultures. And Spanish songs are some of my favorites.
How do you celebrate Hispanic heritage month?
There are tons of Hispanic folk dances. Last year we learned the Mexican hat dance (well a variation of it), and it was super fun.
This year, my 2nd and 3rd graders are going to learn Los Machetes. I found it on Pinterest, and here is the link to the YouTube video so you can try it too. And as I was looking for a video of it, I found this one which just happens to be of my college music professor teaching this to his elementary music class. I am not sure how that happened, but it did.
The salsa is always a good one—and actually pretty easy to learn.
There are a ton of Spanish folk songs. You can sing them in English or Spanish (but it’s so much more fun in Spanish!). Here are some songs that my students are learning this year, or learned in the past:
- Al Citron: This was super fun. Here is a link to a video of the game. I used old tin cans instead of rocks. I found this from Pinterest. (try with grades 3-4)
- Los Pollitos: This is a super fun song for younger students about chickens. It is fun and it can lead to very interesting discussions (like how Mexican chickens say pio). I learned this song from the podcast Make Moments Matter, which is fabulous, by the way. (Here is a link to a red hen puppet, if you are into that.) And here is a link to the words.
- Que Llueva: This is basically a Spanish version of “It’s Raining”. That is actually how I am going to teach this to my K and 1—they will learn “It’s Raining”, then we will learn “Que Llueva”. And I will be pulling out the rain sticks! Here is a link to my TPT version of this song that has the solfege, rhythm, Spanish, and English words, and rhythm cards.
- Vamos a la Mar: I found this song on this website. I am going to do the lesson pretty close to how she wrote it. The only difference is that I wanted larger rhythm cards so that we can do the composition activity together before they do it alone. Because I wanted them larger, I actually created my own rhythm cards (some of the rhythms are different than hers, because I did them independently of those) which you can check out on my Teachers Pay Teacher page here.
- Las Mananitas: I love this song. I actually sang an arrangement of this in college choir, and I loooove it. So when I found it in one of my textbooks at school, I knew we had to do it. Some people use this as a birthday song, so we are going to learn it and do an informal compare and contrast with our birthday song. Here is a link to a mariachi band singing it.
You can play instruments with the songs or with the dances, or with something totally different. Of course, you can use Orff instruments or ukuleles or whatever you have in your classroom, but try using some Hispanic instruments like these:
- Maracas: always a good one. We all have maracas.
- Castanets: I just got a few of these (the cheap plastic ones) and I love them! We used them a few weeks ago and the kids loved them too. A lot of them said they liked them even better than the drums. Here are plastic kid ones and here are some wooden ones.
- Claves: Claves are super cool. If you only have one or two sets (like I do), you could totally cheat and have most of the students use rhythm sticks, and just let one person use the real claves. They can switch out.
- Cajones: So I do not have these, but they are on my wish list, because they are so cool.
- Guiros: Instruments shaped like fish? Yes please!
I like to include some videos so that students can see more of the Hispanic culture. I can’t bring in professional mariachi bands in their costumes to my classroom (if you can, then go for it!). But there are YouTube videos about with professional mariachi bands in their costumes!
Here are some videos that are fun to show the students.
- Mexican Hat Dance
- Los Machetes (a totally different version than I am teaching my students)
- This one has pretty dresses
I would also suggest showing the students some pictures of Mexico, Costa Rica, Spain, Venezuela, etc. You can just google (ahead of time so you know what will pop up!) “pictures of Mexico”. It really helps when the students can see these places, so they know they are actual places. Without the pictures, you may as well be talking about Middle Earth for all they know.
And please, please talk about places other than Mexico. I love Mexico– I used to live there– but let the students know that hispanic heritage means everywhere that speaks Spanish, not just Mexico.
And I have a YouTube channel now! Check it out here!
How do you celebrate Hispanic heritage month? Do you use songs and dances from other countries? Let us know in the comments!