National Writing Project

Resources for Teaching Hispanic Heritage Month

Date: August 24, 2011

Summary: September marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, so NWP has collected these resources and lesson plans from NWP teacher-consultants to support learning about Hispanic history and current issues.


Dolores Perez speaks at 2008 NWP Annual Meeting.

This September NWP joins in the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month —September 15 to October 15—by collecting a selection of resources that Writing Project teachers across the nation have created over the years.

There's a reason the month's activities begin on September 15 rather than, as one might expect, the first of the month. September 15 is the anniversary of the 1821 independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Additionally, Mexico, Chile, and Belize all celebrate their independence in September.

The congressional resolution in 1988 that authorized the month singled out the education community, urging educators to use this time period to provide "appropriate ceremonies and activities."

NWP teachers—many of whom work regularly with students of Hispanic background—have never limited their focus to a single week or month. As the following resources illustrate, NWP's interest in honoring Hispanic culture has for many years been a significant priority.

Classroom Practice and Hispanic Heritage

Preserving the Cultural Identity of the English Language Learner

The authors suggest techniques for fostering cultural identity among ELL students, including encouraging the use of native language in classroom activities and establishing cooperative learning groups that allow students to use their native languages to maximize learning. More ›

Long-Term English Learners Writing Their Stories

Lynn Jacobs, a teacher-consultant with the Northern California Writing Project, describes her work with long-term English learners, explaining how a six-sided "writing cube" strategy draws on description, association, comparison, analysis, application, and argument to prompt these students to create connected, reflective essays. More ›

Building Culturally Responsive Units of Study: From Texas to Mexico and Back

By crafting units of study that cast immigration as part of the American historical process, Katie McKay, a teacher-consultant at the Heart of Texas Writing Project, creates opportunities for her bilingual students to explore immigration in a trusting and productive classroom environment. More ›

That's Right. Thirty-Six Hours.

Two Merced Area Writing Project teacher-consultants, Diane Shaw and Diana Jiménez, outline the content of their Migrant Summer Young Writers Academy, which had as its goal to motivate and provide direction toward academic success for these mostly English language learners. More ›

Creating Intentional Communities to Support English Language Learners in the Classroom

Judith Rance-Roney, who is with the Hudson Valley Writing Project, advocates for inclusion of ELL students in English classrooms by proposing strategies that encourage interaction of native English and ELL students in ways that benefit both groups. More ›

NWP teachers, working regularly with students of Hispanic background, have never limited their focus to a single week or month.

Love Ties My Shoes: Long-term English Learners as Thoughtful Writers

Every now and then someone would ask Lynn Jacobs if she thought her class could really make a book. After much hard work, they did. More ›

Building Bridges: Supporting English Language Learners in AP English Literature and Composition

When enrollment in an AP English program doubles, how does a teacher help those students succeed? These strategies proved successful for Jennifer Pust, a teacher-consultant with the UCLA Writing Project. More ›

La Pluma es Lengua del Alma: Using Writing to Chronicle the Soul's Journey

Teachers must lead their students through literature by authors from many cultures to provide the inspiration and models necessary to master the written word. More ›

Time is Not on our Side: Literacy and Literature for High School Language Learners

Given that teachers often have too much to teach, and too little time, Dana Dusbiber, a teacher-consultant with the Area 3 Writing Project, suggests an alternative approach to teaching literature for secondary English language learner students. More ›

English Language Learners, Classroom Drama

Through a drama and playwriting project, Dana Loy, a teacher-consultant with the Oklahoma Writing Project, discovers a strategy to engage her Spanish-speaking eighth-graders that both taps into and strengthens their academic skills. More ›

Narrative Writing Works Magic in the ELD Classroom

Using personal stories as the basis for their projects, Lisa Ummel-Ingram's third-graders created text, storyboards, and art that led to complete books. Ummel-Ingram, a teacher-consultant with the Oklahoma State Writing Project, notes gains in the students' language arts skills and confidence. More ›

Mi Voz Suena Asi (My Voice Sounds Like This)

Cathy Carmichael demonstrates how she brings Paulo Freire's concept of "generative themes" into her ELL classroom, facilitating the expression of student voices and awakening social consciousness. More ›

When Third-Grade Writers Do Case Studies

Janet Kiddoo describes how third grade bilingual students became "helpers" in a first grade bilingual class, leading them to understand that each learner is different and to experience the "joy of watching another person grow." More ›

Professional Development and Hispanic Heritage

Educating English Language Learners: Implementing Instructional Practices

This guide is designed for teachers and other educators. Teachers of English language learners and bilingual classes should find its instructional strategies and guidelines helpful for engaging ELL students. More ›

A Social Networking Space for Teachers of English Language Learners

The Know ELLs social networking space supports educators in sharing an array of resources on the teaching of English language learners and provides a supportive space for them to discuss their successes and challenges in the classroom. More ›

"It's about Teachers Teaching Teachers," says Massachusetts Teacher of the Year

Floris Wilma Ortiz-Marrero, a teacher-consultant with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project and member of the ELL leadership team, will promote respect for student achievement, teacher accomplishment, and diversity during her tenure as 2011 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year. More ›

Supporting Teachers of English Language Learners in Kansas City

To help local teachers address the needs of a growing population of English language learners, the Greater Kansas City Writing Project strategically calls on NWP resources, related events, and local experience. More ›

Tucson Teacher-Consultants Help Students "Gear Up" for College

Leaders of the Southern Arizona Writing Project have guided much of the thinking in Tucson's GEAR UP program, which aims to prepare students in the city's high-needs schools for postsecondary education. More ›

Flipping the Educational Script: Teachers as Learners

If teachers learn to recognize and value the translation work that students do with their immigrant parents, they can better build those skills into academic literacies. More ›

Spotlight on the World of Four Bilingual Educators

Four bilingual teachers discuss how and why they became bilingual educators, and provide insights into the students they teach. More ›

Technology and Hispanic Heritage

Literacy, ELL, and Digital Storytelling: 21st Century Learning in Action

Produced by the Pearson Foundation, this short video documents a semester-long digital writing project led by two Bay Area Writing Project teacher-consultants. The video follows students through the creation of digital stories about their family members' immigration experiences.
More ›

Digital Storytelling for Language and Culture Learning

Judith Rance-Roney, a teacher with the Hudson Valley Writing Project, explains digital storytelling, discusses its strengths in promoting literacy, and, by documenting her own multilingual classroom work, suggests a path for getting started with this technology. More ›

Digital Is Resources

The resources in this Digital Is collection assume that curricula and teaching approaches for English language learners should honor students' own languages, cultures, and interests; engage them in meaningful projects for real audiences; and provide them with a range of tools, including digital tools, for inquiry and composing. More ›

Essays Related to Hispanic Heritage

Bicultural Literacy: A Personal Exploration

Marcia Venegas-Garcia tells her personal biliterate, bicultural story to "encourage . . . particularly those in power, to recognize that all children have their stories of literacy," and to encourage a "less myopic," more diverse view of teaching and learning. More ›

Academic Language: Everyone's "Second" Language

If English language learners are never engaged critically with the curriculum or taught to use higher-order thinking skills, how can they be expected to effectively express themselves in academic settings? More ›

Cultural Citizenship and Latino English Language Learners

A student's image of a teacher devouring his failing students is a powerful metaphor of Latino students' sense of powerlessness in the classroom. Fostering "cultural citizenship" can make the classroom a safe place. More ›

Con Respeto, I am Not Richard Rodriguez

Bilingual teacher Norma Mota-Altman of the UCLA Writing Project recounts her experience as a Spanish-speaking child in school and explains why "English only" policies exact too high a price from English language learners and their families. More ›

Words Have No Borders: Student Voices on Immigration, Language and Culture

The College Board's National Commission on Writing collaborated with the National Writing Project to publish this series of essays from high school students around the country. The essays express the pain and joy of moving from one culture to another, and focus on how learning to write in English opens up new worlds for non-native speakers. More ›

Subtraction Sometimes Means Taking Back—Not Taking Away

In her speech at the 2008 NWP Annual Meeting General Session, Sabal Palms Writing Project teacher-consultant Dolores Perez describes the obstacles to learning and expressing herself in Spanish growing up—and how reclaiming the language led her to the work she now focuses on with the NWP. More ›

Curriculum, School Reform, and Hispanic Heritage

ELLs at the Center: Rethinking High Stakes Testing

The authors propose ways to ameliorate the tensions of high stakes testing of ELL students by fostering high expectations for all students while honoring the home languages of English learners. More ›

The Pathway Project Demonstrates Success with Cognitive Strategies for Reading and Writing for English Language Learners

Can sustained Writing Project professional development in cognitive strategies for reading and writing lead to improved academic literacy outcomes for English language learners? The Pathway Project demonstrates that it can. More ›

Theory, Politics, Hope, and Action

In this article Carole Edelsky employs the arguments of theory and the techniques of case study to make a plea for rationality in the education of English language learners. More ›

Becoming a Writer of Spanish and English

Employing a case-study method, the writers make the point that bilingual students, progressing according to general patterns of writing development, make their own way and need to be understood, respected, and appreciated. More ›

Best Practices for Adolescent ELLs

Judith Rance-Roney, a teacher with the Hudson Valley Writing Project, argues that the nation's ELL population is more heterogeneous than is generally acknowledged and that this diverse population will benefit from reforms such as a team-oriented faculty, extended learning time, and the monitoring of individual students' learning. More ›

Karen Vocke Addresses the Unique Needs of Migrant Students

Author and teacher Karen Vocke, keynote speaker at the 2009 RSN conference, has been working to help migrant students and their families ever since her experience at Head Start in 1982.
More ›

Books and Bibliographies

Book Review: Where Do I Go From Here? Meeting the Unique Educational Needs of Migrant Students

Where Do I Go from Here? examines ways teachers can make the most of each day with the "invisible" offspring of rural migrant farmers by creating educational experiences that will serve all children long after they leave the classroom. More ›

Book Review: Immigrant Students and Literacy: Reading, Writing, and Remembering

Stephanie Paterson, co-director of the Great Valley Writing Project, which is in the same Central California region where Gerald Campano taught and did his research, finds his book an inspiration in the ways it links inquiry, pedagogy, and social justice issues. More ›

Book Review: English Learners, Academic Literacy, and Thinking: Learning in the Challenge Zone

Debra Schneider, a teacher-consultant with the Great Valley Writing Project, says this book gives teachers the resources needed to develop a "high-challenge, high-support" classroom for English language learners. More ›

Resources for Educators of English Language Learners: An Annotated Bibliography

The purpose of this annotated bibliography is to collect diverse perspectives in the field of teaching English language learners and to provide audiences with readings that will involve, inform, and inspire. More ›

Annotated Bibliography on Teaching English Language Learners

Norma Mota-Altman developed a close-to-comprehensive (at the time it was written) bibliography of the most important works available on the teaching of English language learners. This is a sampling. More ›

Other Resources on the Web

Colorin Colorado: Hispanic Heritage Month

Colorín Colorado, a free bilingual web-based service, celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with activities, books, lesson plans, and more for students, educators, and Spanish-speaking families with English language learners. More ›

National Hispanic Heritage Month

The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society. More ›

EDSITEment: National Hispanic Heritage Month

EDSITEment, a project of the National Endowment for the Humanities, features additional useful websites and lesson plans in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month for teachers and students to learn about Latin America and Hispanic culture. More ›

Smithsonian Education

Each year, the Smithsonian honors Hispanic Heritage Month with a calendar full of activities and teaching resources. More ›

Related Resource Topics

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