Adult Ed


Overview | Activities

Introductory Activities | Learning Activities | Culminating Activity
Cross-curricular Extensions | Community Connections

Introductory Activities (Holidays month-by-month)

  1. Brainstorm a list of American holidays and write the responses on the chalkboard. Then give out the HOLIDAYS MONTH-BY-MONTH HANDOUT (or on the chalkboard) and ask students to write down the months of the year as category headings. Under each month, have students write down as many holidays or observances that they can think of that are celebrated in that month. Compare your list to the lists provided at

  2. Ask students to research the origins of one holiday occurring within their birth month using search engines like Google, Yahoo Search and MSN Search. For example, if a student is born in January, he may choose to research Martin Luther King Jr. Day. If a student is born in September, she may choose to research Labor Day.

      NOTE: A more advanced student can choose to research events that occurred during their birth year, instead of holidays during their birth month. This alternative exercise will challenge a student's ability to synthesize activities from a variety of content areas.

  3. Distribute index cards to each student or the RESEARCH NOTES HANDOUT. Instruct students to write their name on the first line of the index card; ask students to write their birth date on the second line of the index card. Ask students to write five facts on the remaining lines of the index card that pertain to the holiday they choose to research.

  4. Organize the class into "month pairs" for group conversation according to the list shown below:

    January & July March & September May & November
    February & August April & October June & December

    Each person will discuss the holiday he/she chose to research by using the questions provided on the RESEARCH NOTES HANDOUT and combining sentences with fellow group members. Allow 10 minutes for students to complete both exercises in small groups. Check that students understand the strategy of this assignment and monitor their sentence construction. Ask the class for volunteers who are willing to repeat their responses to the questions in front of the entire class.

      a) Chain drills
      Model the chain drill strategy of conversation. Chain drills help students to develop strategies of conversation by helping them to practice colloquial questioning. For example, say to students: "My favorite color is red. What is your favorite color?" Students pattern their response after the model set by the teacher or previous student.

      b) Sentence combining
      As the teacher, first show students how to complete the chain drill by asking them to repeat two statements. Then show them how to combine simple statements using the conjunctions shown on the RESEARCH NOTES HANDOUT. For example, say to students: "The weather is hot. The weather is humid". Have students repeat both simple statements and then ask them combine the statements with a conjunction from the handout.

  5. Explain to students that some holidays are actually created by governments in recognition of various people, events, places or things. Ask students to define the term "holiday" as it is used in their native country/language. [Many countries/languages use the term "holiday" to refer to any day(s) off from work. The term may refer to a specific day, as it does in the United States, but it more often refers to several days (or a season) where the government recognizes and sanctions leisure time.]

  6. Explain to students that Proclamation 4310 was signed on September 4, 1974 by President Gerald Ford to commemorate the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Week. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to identify when it evolved to become National Hispanic Heritage Month. Direct students to log onto the Hispanic Heritage Web site ( to find the answers to these questions.

      NOTE: National Hispanic Heritage month was celebrated for the first time in 1989. An executive order (proclamation) of President Ronald Reagan dated September 13th, 1988 was the last observance of National Hispanic Heritage Week. The Senate and the Congress of the United States approved the designation of 31 calendar days after September 15th as National Hispanic Heritage Month on August 17th of the same year.

  7. Explain to students that National Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15th rather than September 1st to commemorate the anniversary of independence for several Latin countries. Among those countries that celebrate independence in mid-September are Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile.

Learning Activities (Picture Files)

Students will research the biography of at least one Hispanic cultural hero. Many of the Hispanic immigrants living in the United States can trace their roots back to Cuba, Mexico or Puerto Rico. Organize the class into two groups that will each study the biography of one of the heroes listed below. Each member in the group will have a chance to learn more about one of these contributors to the American experience before developing a short biography of their own experiences in the United States.
  1. Distribute the BIOGRAPHY FACT SHEET to each student. Ask each group to visit the Web sites listed above to answer questions about their hero on the BIOGRAPHY FACT SHEET.

  2. Ask students to use the bottom portion of the BIOGRAPHY FACT SHEET to answer questions about themselves. Ask students to stand and take turns reporting their responses to the autobiography questions to the rest of the class.

  3. Direct students to the Manuel Carrillo Web site where they will gather pictures to help document their understanding of the Latino experience. Ask students to print three of their favorite pictures from the Web site and glue them to the cardboard squares. (Note: make the cardboard squares from torn up boxes) After allowing the picture files to dry, ask students to orally describe why they choose these picture(s).

  4. Differentiate this activity according to reading level by assigning students various writing exercises listed below:
    • For beginner students, teachers may want to record a few key words, phrases or ideas expressed in the student's response and go over the vocabulary with the students.
    • For intermediate students, ask the student to write down the name of at least three objects shown in the picture and five words to describe why they like the picture.
    • For advanced students, ask the students to develop a paragraph describing the picture. In the paragraph, students should develop a theme or title for the picture and explain why the picture portrays Latino culture.

Culminating Activity (Everyday life research, planning and conversation)

Students will use the El Museo del Barrio Web site to record a list of exhibitions they would like to see and/or the Cantos Latinos Web site to learn about events they can attend and broadcast programs they can watch to learn more about Latino culture. Distribute copies of the HISPANIC HERITAGE 2005 CALENDAR HANDOUT to each student. Ask students to write down a minimum of two activities for each week over the course of the month that they would like to view or attend.
  1. Pick out activities: Use the El Museo site and/or Cantos site to find activities to celebrate Hispanic heritage. Record any programs or events you're interested in on the HISPANIC HERITAGE 2005 CALENDAR HANDOUT

  2. Map the events by logging onto the New York City Subway site ( or the Sightseeing site ( Group together students who plan to attend the same events and/or watch the same programs. These students can serve as information leaders/curators during the sharing event listed below in the Community Connections section of this lesson plan.

  3. Ask students to write out subway directions to at least one event of their choice from their home or school. This will allow you to check for critical reading skills and allow them to begin building their everyday language skills as it relates to reading maps and interpreting symbols.

Cross-curricular Extensions
  • Social Studies: Explore family as a universal theme
    One of the greatest things about multicultural pedagogy is the opportunity we teachers have in helping our students understand the universal themes that exist among people without regard to race, class, gender or culture. As an assignment, ask students to watch an episode of The American Family. Go to the American Family Web site ( to identify a theme you and the class would like to discuss in a subsequent class. As a homework assignment prior to the discussion, ask students to take notes on a particular episode of The American Family. Have them record the names of the main characters, where the episode occurs, the major problem being discussed in the episode and how the problem was solved.

  • History: Investigate the various revolutions that have helped make Hispanic Heritage
    Month a regular part of the American experience. Log on to the Infoplease Web site to learn more about independence movements in Latin America. Use an encyclopedia to analyze the various flags of these countries or visit a good reference Web site to gather information about the various flags of the world and their fights for independence; the CIA's World Factbook ( contains a database of flags, along with brief descriptions of the country. Consider the colors of each flag and the various symbols used on each flag. Explain what it means to be declared "independent" and why flags are important cultural symbols.

  • Language Arts: Conversation skills building; critiquing skills building
    At the end of Hispanic Heritage Month, convert the classroom into a museum by having students dialogue about the various celebrations they attended or conducted. Students can summarize the classroom exhibit by participating in Sentence Combining or Chain Drill exercises to practice these important techniques for building a conversation.

Community Connections

  • Encourage your students to watch P.O.V (Point of View), PBS' unique independent documentary program on Thirteen/WNET. The POV series highlights the socio-political climate of our dynamic world and is a great tool for generating advanced discussion on issues affecting your students.

  • Extend your celebration of Hispanic culture by attending Latino cultural events occurring in your own community throughout the year. Repeat the activities done in this lesson during other culture heritage months (Black History Month: February; Women's History Month: March; Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: May) or during important cultural seasons throughout the year (Passover, Easter, Ramadan, Rosh Hashannah, Lent, Chinese New Year). The goal is to help students understand that they can celebrate their culture anytime, and to be proud of and take advantage of our many cultures.

  • Plan a field trip to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. There are various sites dedicated to the study of race and ethnicity, and admission to most of the exhibits is FREE! The National Museum of American History, the Behring Center at the Smithsonian Institute houses the Celia Cruz exhibit, the Brown vs. Board of Education exhibit and the Julia Child exhibit. It is a great place to learn more about modern America and popular culture.

  • Visit the Smithsonian Institute Hispanic Resource list online at resource_library/hispanic_resources.html to gather additional lesson plans and conversation starters for more advanced ESL or History classes.