This year I wanted to do something more connected to nature in some of my classes for Thanksgiving, but this resource can be used any time during the school year. It’s a great and simple way to talk about gratitude with your students. I came across these two beautiful books that inspired my short story in Spanish called “Gracias Madre Tierra.”
The first book is called “Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message” by Chief Jake Swamp. If the book is not available, you can find different read alouds on YouTube, but the one below is my favorite.
It’s also a great idea to team with homeroom teachers and ask them to read the books with your students. What a beautiful way to create cross-cultural connections!
Here are some ideas that can be done in class:
Have a conversation about the true story of Thanksgiving. Hopefully, this conversation is also happening with your students’ homeroom teachers. And yes! I have this conversation in English with my students.
I have attended some conferences that start with land acknowledgments, especially the People of Color Conference. The school where I currently teach has a land acknowledgment on their website, and many other public and private institutions have one too!
Land Acknowledgement: This is usually done at the beginning of a public event to recognize and acknowledge Indigenous Peoples’ land and belonging to a certain territory. It’s a way to honor and show respect to the Indigenous Peoples of the land on which we live or visit. Once you have identified whose lands you are on, you can share the information with your students. It is not necessary to use Spanish for this portion of the class, but you are of course welcome to give it a try.
Here is an idea of what you can say:
I do have to clarify that I am not an expert on this topic, but given the history of these lands, it’s important for our students to know and acknowledge the Indigenous Peoples whose lands were stolen and not to sugarcoat this issue.
Use this website to learn about the territory you live on: Native-Land.ca
Resources to learn more about Land Acknowledgement:
I am proud of this resource I created in connection with the gratitude theme. With this resource I also invite teachers to bring Land Acknowledgment to their classes, take a nature walk, and invite students to be thankful to our Madre Tierra.
Growing up in Colombia we didn’t have a “Columbus Day.” This “holiday” was called “El Día de la Raza” to celebrate the different races born after the mix of a not a very pleasant encounter. Even though it wasn’t known as Columbus Day, it was still meant to focus on the “great” things Columbus did for us (we celebrated Cristobal Colón, as he is known in Spanish). I have a vivid story of when I was in 3rd grade and Profe Raquel told us that if it weren’t for Cristopher Columbus we would not have been sitting in that classroom listening to the stories of how brave he was to travel across the Atlantic to new lands. Although teachers made an attempt to recognize the diversity in Colombia, it continued supporting the main narrative that Columbus was great and brave. I never remember hearing of all the bad he did to the people who were in the territories where he landed until later when I was in bachillerato (high school).
In the last decades, countries like Venezuela and Nicaragua have opted to change the name of this holiday to “El día de la Resistencia Indígena” to honor the struggles the Indigenous people went through during the colonization period and to acknowledge that these struggles are not over. Other countries have joined this movement too!
As language educators, we can’t continue supporting the sugar-coated stories about Cristobal Colón. This is an invitation to make space and time in our curriculums to have these conversations and show the true story. It doesn’t matter if it takes some class time to have these conversations in our students’ first language. Children might also be having these conversations within their homerooms, so this can be reinforced in Spanish class.
A teacher friend that I admire and has been working hard on bringing this work to the classroom is Fran, also know as The Woke Spanish Teacher. Her curriculum is deep in Anti-Bias and Anti-Racist (ABAR) education and she works on this all year round. When doing this type of work in the classroom, it is important to know your students and also their developmental stage so that the material can be tailored to their age group. This is something that I am currently working hard on and something Fran knows how to do really well.
Here is an example of what Fran does with her students:
It’s important as language teachers to make space in our curriculum for other important and relevant topics. In the past, I have shared resources to incorporate teaching about Martin Luther King Jr. in Spanish class:
In the search of books to read to my own children at home, I came across the book “What Was Your Dream, Dr. King?“*** It was written for children, yet I find it very informative and descriptive about that moment in the history of the United States and still at the level of a second grader. While reading the book, the idea occurred to me to write something that I know my 4th and 5th grade students can read and understand.
I feel fortunate that all the schools I’ve taught in here in the U.S. make a special point to mention Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. around this time of year to commemorate his birthday and legacy. Sadly, I don’t understand why some of us (yes, including me!) have to wait for a special month to talk or incorporate important events like this one in our curriculums. We have to be intentional about including this in our curriculums. And yes, it’s possible to teach them in the target language. It’s possible to make it comprehensible. ¡Sí se puede! You can always reserve that 10% for the L1 if necessary (note this is actually recommended by ACTFL).
It’s certainly possible that you might feel that this topic is not directly related to your curriculum, but I believe it is! I feel that as a language teacher I have to honor the diverse cultures and backgrounds of my students as well as to help them understand the wider world, teaching about the cultures of Spanish speaking countries. And Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s messages for equity, equality, and inclusion was and is universal, leading to rich discussions in any language that can help deepen connections with your students. The fact that his message of peace and social change spread all over the world makes him relevant for students and cultures worldwide, and his words (e.g. “Free at last”) and actions (e.g. the March on Washington or the Montgomery Bus Boycott) inspire me and fuel me as a teacher, too. After all, students who apply their knowledge to do what’s right are the kind of young people I want to help bring up in the ever-changing world.
Click here to download this resource to use with your students. It’s recommended for grades 4 and up!
¡Hola! I am Carolina, a Colombian elementary Spanish teacher based in Austin, Texas. Fun for Spanish Teachers is the result of my passion for teaching Spanish to children and my desire to inspire collaboration and creativity in a vibrant teaching and learning community. It’s the perfect stop if you are looking for songs, games, teaching tips, stories, and fun for your classes.