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September 24, 2013

Lesson Plans for PBS “Latino Americans” Documentary

LATINO AMERICANS is the first major documentary series for television to chronicle the rich and varied history and experiences of Latinos, who have helped shape North America over the last 500-plus years and have become, with more than 50 million people, the largest minority group in the U.S. The changing and yet repeating context of American history provides a backdrop for the drama of individual lives. It is a story of immigration and redemption, of anguish and celebration, of the gradual construction of a new American identity that connects and empowers millions of people today. Trailer- Click here to watch 


Latino Americans Series Lesson Plans

September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month, and to celebrate, PBS is releasing its Latino Americans documentary. To teach your classroom about the ways in which Latino Americans have contributed to the rich and diverse history of the U.S., use these 12 lesson plans that were designed to accompany the documentary.

Urge your students to watch along at home, or you can use web versions of the episodes after they air. Find all episodes here as they appear.

1. Who are Latinos?

In this lesson plan, students consider their own preconceptions of Latinos, view a trailer for the documentary series Latino Americans and identify new topics questions to investigate further. Who are Latinos? What does the term Latino American reference?

2. Latinos at the Ballot Box

In this lesson plan, students examine the evolution of Latino electoral participation with specific reference to the growth of voter participation in South Texas and New York in the 1950s – 70s, as well as the impact of Latino voters in major elections of the early 2000s. Students will explore early efforts to mobilize disenfranchised voters, examine watershed campaigns and elections and consider major issues – including the politics of immigration. They will reflect on the major paradigm shifts that have occurred within the last 60 years. Teachers can complete the entire sequence of activities or choose just one of the activities as a stand-alone lesson.

3. Stories of Arrival

In this lesson plan, students will trace the varied stories of becoming Latino in the United States—and dispel common generalizations. Latinos have come to be part of the United States through many different avenues: immigrants seeking a better life, refugees driven by war, and those who did not move at all, but who found themselves on the other side of redefined borders as the United States expanded. Students will document details of historical characters from the program and plot their movements on a map. In this activity, students will trace firsthand, the varied stories of becoming Latino in the United States – and dispel common generalizations. In addition, they will compare and contrast these stories with the arrival experiences of their own families.

4. Stereotypes vs. Statistics (grades 4 – 8)

In this lesson plan, students evaluate preconceptions and stereotypes about Latinos and how they have come to the United States. A reflective pre-activity is followed by analysis of statistical graphs from the Pew Research Center.

5. Stereotypes vs. Statistics (grades 9 – 12)

In this lesson plan, students evaluate preconceptions and stereotypes about Latinos and how they have come to the United States. After completing reflective writing on the experience of being stereotyped, students will review current studies and graphs from the Pew Research Center and Latino Decisions to contrast assumptions with realities.

6. Identity, Immigration and Economics: Involuntary Deportations of the 1930s

In this lesson, students examine the involuntary deportations of Mexican immigrants and U.S. citizens of Mexican heritage during the 1930s. This displacement is only one of many legally sanctioned, forced relocations in our nation’s history. It also is an example of how a certain population may be scapegoated during times of economic downturn – and how there is an ongoing tie between immigration policies on the one hand, and economic trends on the other. Students analyze primary accounts and images from the 1930s, develop new vocabulary related to relocation, and demonstrate their understanding through creative writing. (Elements of this lesson were adapted from Learn NC).

7. Students Rising

In this lesson plan, students explore rising consciousness and activism among Latino youth in the 1960s. Students view a clip on the situation of Mexican American students in Los Angeles, examining how self-concepts and expectations began to change during the Chicano Movement. Students can respond individually or in small groups, in writing, or through discussion. The last set of questions connects the historical study to student’s own civic participation. Two extensions offer options for connecting the history to current student activism.

8. Digging at the Roots of Your Family Tree

In this activity, students reflect on their own family’s arrival to the U.S. by filling in a family tree of as many generations as possible. Students research and fill in as much information as possible on the names and birthplaces of themselves, their parents, grandparents and so on. Next, they plot the names and birthplaces on a world map. More important than establishing the exact detail of their family tree is the process of understanding the migration/settlement story of those that came before them. Students complete reflective questions that compare and contrast their family’s story of arrival with the rich arrival stories of characters from the documentary. Two extensions are available.

9. Extranjeros & Expansion

In this lesson plan, students analyze how regions such as Texas, New Mexico and California had established Mexican and Indigenous communities already in place as the United States expanded westward in the mid 1800s. Students review the different ways that Mexican citizens come to terms with the expansion of the United States and the ways in which they became foreigners in their own lands within a very short time.

10. Puerto Rican Perspectives

In this lesson plan, students examine Puerto Rican experiences of the United States throughout the 20th century. How did the Spanish American War shape the connection between the island and the U.S.? How has this shaped the question of identity for Puerto Ricans? What are the issues surrounding Puerto Rican migration and settlement in New York? Four extensions available.

11. Organizing the Farm Worker Movement

In this lesson plan, students explore the conditions faced by farm laborers in the mid-20th century and meet the advocates who led efforts to improve those conditions. Students view a clip on the emergence of the farm worker movement and respond through discussion questions. Students can respond individually or in small groups, in writing, or through discussion. Two extensions offer additional activities and investigation.

12. What’s In a Name?

In this lesson plan, students examine place-names around North America that tell the story of Indigenous, Spanish and Mexican settlements that pre-date the United States’ presence. The investigative questions can be used alone or in conjunction with the map analysis and plotting activities.


For more resources please visit Latino Americans and PBS Learning Media
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