How to Celebrate Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month in the Drama Classroom
In this blog post, let’s discuss How to Celebrate Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month in the Drama Classroom. First, I want to share a little memory of mine…When I was in my teens, my father, mother and I traveled to Mexico driving from Kansas. Needless to say, it was an amazing trip full of wrong turns, teen angst and hilarity.
The Language Barrier Gone Amok
Anyway, we hadn’t studied the Mexican language prior to traveling there. Consequently, communicating with the Mexican people was difficult for us. One day somehow, we ended up in the middle of a car race. My father turned a corner too tightly and put our travel trailer up on a curb where we were stuck for several hours. The racing cars had to slow down because of us.
When the policeman scolded my dad, I remember my mother (who was raised in Japan) and my father (who fought in WWII) began speaking in Japanese and German to him. Of course, he became even more furious. Needless to say, it was embarrassing and humiliating to poor little fourteen-year-old me. Remember being fourteen?
Fortunately, we were lucky enough to see the Folklorico Ballet of Mexico one evening. As you would expect, it was absolutely amazing! For me, it was the highlight of the entire trip. That, and the really cute boys hanging out on the Matzatland beach.
We returned home and that was the end of my education about the Mexican culture. I studied French in high school, never considering once I might enjoy learning to speak Spanish. At the time, social studies classes didn’t study different cultures. I believe we only studied the United States. Talk about living in a bubble!
However, you and your students can celebrate different cultures right in your drama classroom. Let’s begin with Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month. When I began researching this subject, I was pleasantly surprised by the volume of resources available for this celebratory month. Plus, there are many sources in theater for this celebration. Therefore, not only do you have an opportunity to study a different culture, albeit briefly, you also can integrate drama (or vice versa) into your class.
National Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month’s Beginnings
The year was 1970 only two years after President Johnson proclaimed a week-long celebration of Hispanic people and their culture. However President Reagan expanded the week to a month in 1988 and it was titled National Hispanic Heritage month!
If you are unfamiliar with National Hispanic and Latino Heritage month it is a time to honor and celebrate the rich cultural contributions of Hispanic and Latinx communities in the United States. This month September 15 to October 15 gives a teacher an excellent opportunity to engage their students in a diverse and immersive experience within a drama class. I think you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to celebrate the culture through your drama curriculum. You can foster cultural awareness, appreciation, and creativity in your students. Want to learn more about this subject? Check out another blog post, Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month in Your Drama Classroom Tomorrow
Seven Ways to Celebrate National Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month
- Exploring Hispanic Playwrights and Theater
One of the best ways to immerse your drama class in Hispanic culture is by introducing them to renowned Hispanic playwrights and their works. Discussing plays by writers such as Lin Manuel Miranda opens up conversations about the Hispanic experience, identity, and history. If you teach middle school students, you can study Lin Manuel Miranda through these two resources: Newspaper Article or pick up this free lesson here.
- Performing Hispanic Plays
Organize a class performance of a Hispanic play or scene. You can select a one-act play or adapt a scene from a famous Hispanic playwright’s work. This hands-on experience will not only deepen your students’ understanding of Hispanic culture but also enhance their acting skills. I suggest purchasing a copy of Esperanza Rising play to use as a read aloud. Want to know more about the theater? Check out: The Seven Reasons I Recommend Plays for New Audiences Scripts
- Guest Speakers and Workshops
If possible, I’d suggest inviting guest speaker or theater professionals with a Hispanic heritage to share their experiences and insights with your drama class. They can discuss their journey in the theater world, the importance of representation, and the cultural significance of their work. Workshops on Latinx theater techniques, dance, or music can also add a dynamic dimension to your drama curriculum. Or maybe you want to show your students what is possible for them if they are of Hispanic descent and interested in a professional career. Use this video clip to teach about Hispanic American Theatre Want to know other ways to use video in your classroom? Check out: Underestimate the Influence of Teaching with Videos
- Research and Presentations
Another idea is to assign students to complete a short research project focused on a prominent Hispanic actor, director, or playwright. They can explore their contributions to the theater world and the impact of their work on Hispanic culture. Require your students to make a presentation of it. However, if your students don’t have time to study anyone in depth, check out: Designing Broadway: On Your Feet! Costume Designer Emilio Sosa.
- Bilingual Performances
Although this is a little difficult to do, it would be very interesting for your students to perform a scene or monologue in both English and Spanish. This exercise not only improves their language skills but also allows them to connect with the material on a deeper level. Most importantly, it emphasizes the importance of language as a bridge between cultures. Here are some you could use: Quiara Alegría Hudes: Barrio Girl. Dramatic Publishing. Luis Alfaro. Black Butterfly, Jaguar Girl, Piñata Woman and Other Superhero Girls, Like Me. Playscripts, Coleman A. Jennings: Nine plays by José Cruz González (anthology). Dramatic Publishing. or Karen Zacarías: Cinderella Eats Rice and Beans. How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accent. Looking for Roberto Clemente. Magical Piñata. Frida Libre. Dramatic Publishing.
- Cultural Immersion
To truly celebrate Hispanic culture, consider organizing a cultural immersion day. This could include a screening of a Hispanic film, a salsa dancing lesson or perform a readers theater script. Any of these activities will engage your students. Immersing students in the sights, sounds, and flavors of Hispanic culture can be a memorable and enjoyable experience. Check out these units: The Magic Lake (Peruvian Legend), The Legend of the Poinsettia (Mexican Legend) or In the Heights Broadway Musical Unit (Latino culture).
Lastly, students enjoy learning with a partner. Additionally, they enjoy costume design. How about assigning students to design costumes for a Hispanic version of the story of Cinderella in play form using Vogue magazine fashion design sketching app.? Or creating a stage property with a Latin theme using an app. like Tinkercard.com?
The Hispanic Culture and Heritage is Deserves Our Respect
I’ve only scratched the surface as far as the resources available to use when celebrating this terrific culture. Just remember that celebrating Hispanic and Latino Heritage month in drama class is not only educational but also a celebration of the rich tapestry of American culture. I hope you embrace this month as an occasion to broaden horizons, encourage empathy, and promote the importance of diversity and inclusion in the world of theater. Because as I always say…there’s no better place to learn than through theater!
What celebrations do you have planned for your students? I’d love to hear about them. Contact me at DhcBaldwin@gmail.com and we’ll chat!