Mini-Unit Topic: Hispanic Cultures
Kim A. Loos
prepared for 5th grade level
Table of Contents
The attached lessons are prepared for a 5th grade class. The
overall theme for my unit is "Hispanic Cultures." The unit is set up
to give students a variety of ways in which to expand their knowledge
of Hispanic cultures. The subjects I chose to focus on are the
Language Arts, Social Studies, Art, and Science. More specifically,
my intentions were to integrate all of these subjects by having
literature discussion groups based on Hispanic trade books, a writing
assignment about Hispanic countries, and geography; identification of
Hispanic countries and continent. In addition, I wrote an art lesson
that focuses on customs and celebrations of a particular Hispanic
culture, and also a constructivist science lesson where the students
try to re-create the atmosphere of a South American rain forest.
I think it important for students to know that there are several
ways in which to learn about different cultures. I tried to keep this
goal in mind when preparing these lessons. I wanted to also expand
the students' experiences in reading, discussion, writing, and
problem solving, and appreciation.
- 5-30 minutes/each group
- 2 1/2 weeks.
- Students will be able to comprehend the stories by reading and
discussing the books' content and important cultural points,
thereby expanding their knowledge of Hispanic Cultures.
- Rhoads, Dorothy, The Corn Grows Ripe, Published by the
Penguin Group, 1993.
- Wojciechowski, Maia, Shadow of A Bull, Macmillan
Publishing Company, 1987.
- Palacios, Argentina, The Llama's Secret, Toll Assoc.;
- Sabin, Louis, Roberto Clemente, Young Baseball Hero,
Trolls Assoc.; 1992.
- Divide class into 4 groups according to which book students
- With each group, have students (one group at a time) join
together on rug area after reading to the mid point of their book,
and then again at the conclusion of their book.
- Set guidelines for sharing ideas; one person at a time speaks,
all group members must participate, all group members will respect
one another's questions and ideas.
- The teacher will have questions, phrases, or paragraphs ready
that will draw out examples of culture, customs, and other
important details of the literature books.
- Have students take turn reading selected passages or
paragraphs (for lower readers, giving them practice at reading)
and passages and then ask questions. Give each students that has a
hand raised a chance to answer the questions or analyze the point
that is being discussed.
- Some groups may be able to carry on the discussion with little
supervised input, let them ask questions, share ideas, and points
of interest. Make sure students stay on task, guide them with
questions when needed.
- After the first discussion is over for each group, give
directions for further reading and also welcome students to
prepare their own questions that they may have for the next
- Prior to the second discussion, recap previous
- After the final discussion, sum up stories and briefly review
important points. Review where stories took place (Country), ask
what each student learned abou the culture they read about, and
how and if the discussion groups help them to understand the
culture and comprehend the story better.
- After the final discussion, ask each group what they have
learned from their discussion experience.
- Ask the groups what they have learned about the culture.
- Ask each student what country the story took place in.
- Students will be able to make a paper mache piñata and
understand uses for the piñata in the Hispanic cultures by
making a piñata and listening to a story of how it is used
in the Mexican National celebration called the Posada and other
uses of the piñata.
- Article or book, giving explaining the use of piñatas
during Posada (Mexican National Christmas).
- Shredded newspaper strips.
- Newspaper for work surfaces.
- Ross Art paste
- masking tape
- paper towel rolls/toilet roll tubes
- non-toxic acrylic paint
- paint brushes, assorted sizes
- any other scrap materials, to decorate piñata.
- 5 large tubs/bowls
- model of a piñata
- Read story or article about how piñatas are used in
Mexican National celebrations.
- Show a model of a piñata.
- Write steps and days objectives on board for students to refer
- Have students divide into groups of 4. Each student will make
a piñata, but share supplies.
- Have each group select a person responsible for getting and
cleaning up paper mache paste.
- Have each group select a person responsible for laying down,
and cleaning up newspaper.
- Have each group select a person to clean up scraps on floor
and table, and responsible for getting balloons.
- Have each groups select a person responsible for cleaning
paint brushes; brushes should be washed, then wash again with mild
soap, then rinsed with water and placed in a can, tips up.
- Each person in the group is responsible for selecting and
cleaning up paint, tubes, and any other decorations.
- Begin, by blowing up balloons and shaping the balloons and
attachments to form desired shape.
- Dip the newspaper strips into the art past, squeeze off the
excess paste and apply to design.
- Students will want to continue adding pasted strips in a
criss-cross style until their design has been completely covered,
with the exception of a small opening leading to the
balloon (approx. 3 x 3).
- Allow piñatas to dry overnight before painting.
- When piñata are dry, pop balloon, and paint and
- Allow paint to dry.
- Add a few pieces of candy to each piñata and close
- After drying, have the piñatas displayed above the
desks, on strings, and let the students share why they chose a
- On-going assessment to make sure each student makes a
- Ask each student to give one example, based on the story, of
how piñatas could be used in the Mexican National
- 30-45 minutes every day for 1 1/2 weeks.
- Students are to write a summary of a Hispanic Festival (such
as those celebrated by Mexican Nationals; Independence Day, The
Day of the Dead (primarily celebrated by the working class), Feast
of our Lady of Guadalupe, or the Posada), in order to broaden
their understanding of the Hispanic American cultures and make a
connection between culture and the social, historical or
- Students will use their writing skills thereby presenting a
revised and edited written piece.
- Books and information on the origins of Hispanic Americans,
such as; Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Mexico, and
Venezuela, and other Hispanic Countries (found in the
- Writing materials (students should have).
- Tell students what the objectives and expectations of the
lesson are and list on board the writing skills expected: A web or
power writing, first draft, revise, edit, and type a final paper
onto the computer.
- Allow the students to look through books and visit the library
to find information on festivals.
- Have each student select one festival in which he/she will
summarize, approximately 1/2 to 1 page in length.
- Have each student come up with one or two questions that they
would like to know about their chosen subject.
- Prior to the speaker's visit, explain to the students that the
speaker will be talking about Hispanic festivals and celebrations
and trying to explain the connection to the social, historical, or
religious origin, and how perhaps that these celebrations have a
connection with Hispanic Americans in the United States
- Have a guest speaker (Hispanic American) come in, speak and
answer any questions the students may have. Instruct the students
that they may use any part of the presentation in their paper so
they may want to take notes.
- An evaluation will be based on each student's ability to find
a festival, summarize it, and use their writing skills.
- The students will be able to identify a hispanic country and
all of the locales; Central and South America, Spain and Portugal,
Mexico, and the Caribbean.
- The students will be able to label on a map all Hispanic
countries and continents, given a chance to see a world map and or
use a world globe.
- Maps of Mexico, Spain & Portugal, Central & South
America, and the Caribbean.
- Blank Maps of Mexico, Spain & Portugal, Central &
South America, and the Caribbean.
- World globes.
- Overhead projector and transparencies.
- Discuss the location and identity the continent/countries of
Spain & Portugal, an overhead projector and world map.
- Have the students then located and label on their own blank
map where these countries and continent is located. Students may
use the world map or globes to assist them.
- Repeat step #1 with Mexico.
- Repeat step #2 with Mexico.
- Repeat step #1 with Central America.
- Repeat step #2 with Central America.
- Repeat step #1 with the Hispanic Caribbean Islands.
- Repeat step #2 with the Hispanic Caribbean Islands.
- Repeat step #1 with Northern South America.
- Repeat step #2 with Northern South America.
- Repeat step #1 with Southern South America.
- Repeat step #2 with Southern South America.
- Students be able to identify and label the Hispanic continents
by looking at the shapes of them.
- Each student should be able to locate, identify by labeling on
a map, the Hispanic country that he/she has been studying.
South American Rain
- Constructivist Science Lesson
- Students will be able to write a K-W-L.
- Students will be able to think of possible ways to answer the
questions of "W", leading to "L".
- Students will observe and learn about the characteristics of
the South American Rain Forests by creating their own mini-rain
forests and giving them an understanding of a hands-on approach to
- Printed Sheet with 2 columns, "K" and "W".
- Items needed for experiment:
- Journals to record observations, for each group.
- Large paper to record K.W.L. information on master list.
- Printed copy of instructions on how to make a rain
- Class divides into cooperative learning groups.
- Each group assigns someone to record information the group
comes up with.
- Under the column of "K", the students write down all that they
know on the rain forests and under "W" have the students write
down everything that they want to know about a rain forest
(specifically the rain forests located in South America).
- Then have the groups assign a spokes person to read what their
groups has come with under "K", then "W".
- The teacher will write a master list of all of the responses
from the groups.
- As a class, discuss the possible ways in which the students
can discover the answers to questions: experiment, research,
- Pass out direction on how to "make a Mini-Rain forest".
- Assign each group member to get a material needed for the
- Read the directions and demonstrate how the mini-rain forest
should be made, by making one.
- Label the cups and have the students check on their mini-rain
forest each day to observe and then record their observations, a
minimum, of three sentences.
- When the students have had a week to observe experiment, have
the groups come together and discuss as a whole class, what each
student learned and observed.
- Ask the student if any of their questions ("w") were answered,
(through the experiment or research).
- Complete the "L" as a whole (even if success in Science/2
answering "W" was not found, what was learned should be
- As a class, discuss other possible ways to answer in which the
students can discover answers to their questions.
- Pre-assessment, using a K.W
- Final assessment, using L and collecting science
- Have students write a brief paragraph on what they learned
from this experiment, how it lead understanding or did not answer
their questions. Also, did the experiment or discussions give them
a greater understanding of the rain forests.
As a whole, I felt that this unit worked well, each lesson seemed
to flow into the next one. I was able to teach two of the four
lessons; reading/discussion groups and the science lessons. I also
co-taught the geography lesson with my Coop, and my Coop started the
piñatas and the writing assignment, in which I assisted the
students. I felt that the reading groups were a big success. I found
that the students used the information about culture that they
learned through discussion, in their report and class discussions. I
was very pleased to hear this, this was not a goal, but it certainly
is what one hopes will come out of teaching. I felt that the
geography lesson was somewhat dry, but the students, thus far, have
been able to handle the work, and this lesson coincided with a lesson
my coop prepared.
There were changes I made after I discussed my lessons with my
coop, and the longer I looked over my lessons. I did not make any
changes on my lesson plans after I began ( or my coop began) to teach
them. My coop asked me to come up with a brief reading assignment as
an assessment for the literature books. I wrote on the board, three
things that I wanted the students to do. Most of the ideas came from
my concluding remarks in the group, so I knew that the information
had been reviewed with each group. I asked; 1) What did you learn
about the culture you read about? 2) what country did the story take
place in? 3) Draw a picture of your favorite or the most memorable
scene from the book. The students finished within 45 minutes, and
they all picked up different aspects of the culture.
The speaker was a huge success and was the highlight of the
festival reports. We found that information was limited on festivals
and celebrations of Hispanic countries so it was good to have the
additional information provided by the speaker.