Spanish Culture Topics to Teach Your Elementary Students
Spanish culture topics are excellent for the classroom because they are colorful, unique, and engaging for children.
Teaching any subject to elementary students requires a regular injection of fun, excitement, and movement.
In fact, having fun with your students or kids is the best way to entice them to learn. And the Spanish language is tied to a diverse array of vivid cultures.
Let’s explore some lesson ideas and resources for you to teach about Spanish culture topics in a fun way.
Benefits of Teaching Spanish Culture Topics and Spanish Language
How does learning about culture color the child’s vision of the world and of themselves?
Learning about culture is engaging.
It’s a vital, meaningful, real-life topic. When we learn a language, we get to explore the different cultures where that language is spoken. Studying Latin American and Spanish culture topics deepens students’ understanding of the Spanish language.
For the purposes of this article, we’re honing in on the (Spain) Spanish culture.
Culture-based lessons also provide an opportunity to practice the language in a natural way. Sometimes, you’ve just got to break free from the textbooks, grammar guidelines, and endless vocabulary lists.
Getting a sense of the Spanish culture is an ideal way to enliven the Spanish language, which is proven to strengthen your students’ memory!
4 Relevant Spanish Culture Topics
Spain’s culture is incredibly rich and diverse. I’ve gathered information, resources, videos, and ideas for your fun cultural lessons. Check out these four fascinating Spanish culture topics!
1. La Tomatina
This is a massive tomato fight! The annual festival happens in the Valencian town of Buñol in the East of Spain. Participants throw tomatoes purely for entertainment purposes. Since 1945, it has occurred on the last Wednesday of August at 11:00 a.m. The phenomenon is so popular that people from all corners of the world come to participate in the giant food fight. Sadly, the event in 2020 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Use La Tomatina as a framework for students to write about holidays in the past tense. After watching videos, reading about the tradition, and discussing it as a class or with a partner, ask your students to write about La Tomatina in one or more of the following ways:
- A piece of informative, nonfiction text about the event and its origins
- A fictional story, including when they went, with whom, and what they did there
- A list of facts and opinions on La Tomatina
- A persuasive paragraph, recommending that people attend the festival (or not), and giving specific reasons why or why not
- A postcard, where the student writes 2-4 sentences on one side and draws a picture on the other
Key Vocabulary Words
El tomate – tomato
Rojo – red
Sucio/a – dirty
Limpio/a – clean
Mojado/a – wet
Tirar – to throw
Aplastar – to smash
La pelea – fight
La comida – food
La gente – people
- Wikipedia page about La Tomatina – learn about the history of the event
- La Tomatina reading comprehension activity – comes with a handy graphic organizer (note: this resource costs $3)
- La Tomatina in Buñol – 2.5 minutes, animated, in Spanish with English subtitles
- La Tomatina footage – 2 minutes, actual footage from the 2017 festival
- La Tomatina Webquest – a well-organized internet-based research and writing activity; scroll down for the free PDF worksheet and teacher guide
2. Comparing Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí
Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso were the most famous painters of their time. Both greatly influenced the art of the 21st century. Although they were born 23 years apart (Picasso in 1881 and Dalí in 1904), the cultural heritage of their native Spain shaped both artists.
Prep the students by discussing what they know (if anything) about these two Spanish artists. Watch the videos and read the resources linked below. Then, complete this Spanish research activity to compare these two legendary Spanish visual artists. It includes creating a Venn diagram to illustrate the similarities and differences between Picasso and Dalí.
- A short cultural note on Dalí, with side-by-side Spanish and English text and reading comprehension questions
- This Pablo Picasso bio for kids gives a summary of his life, the different periods of his art, and fun facts (read the text and follow along with the audio clip)
- The Salvador Dalí bio for kids from the above site
- A simple blog post comparing Dalí and Picasso with text and visuals
- Salvador Dalí talks about Pablo Picasso is a two-minute YouTube video in Spanish with English subtitles
- Dalí vs Picasso. Raps Històrics de Catalunya is a three-minute YouTube video in the form of a rap; it’s in Spanish with Spanish subtitles
- Picasso for Elementary Students includes a brief biography of Pablo Picasso’s life and artistic style is examined with many images of his colorful painted portraits.
- Encourage students to create their own drawings and paintings in the cubist and/or surrealist styles.
3. Food in Spanish and Spanish Foods
It’s always fun and delicious to study food. ¿Qué te gusta comer? What do you like to eat? Start your engaging lesson on food in Spanish with this question. Later, move on to learning about Spanish typical foods, which are internationally famous for their zesty Mediterranean flavors.
Use this resource with six lessons if you need to plan a Spanish unit about food. You’ll find lesson plan outlines, project ideas, and vocabulary lists about basic Spanish food words and phrases. Once your students have mastered basic food-related vocabulary, you can move on to studying typical foods in Spain using the resources below. Do a role-play where you pretend to order food in Spanish at a restaurant.
- All About Food in Spanish Using Countable and Uncountable Nouns
- 6 Spanish Foods to Learn About (and try!)
- Top 10 Foods to Try in Spain
- Older elementary students can explore the Todo Sobre España (All About Spain) website with information about the foods in different regions of the country.
- Kids Try Spanish Food – a six-minute YouTube video in English with children trying breakfast, lunch, and dinner foods from Spain
- Top 10 Favorite Foods in Spain – a quick, two-minute video with music and images of the most popular dishes in Spanish cuisine
- Host a Spanish Cuisine fair in your classroom or homeschool! Make and share different typical dishes from Spain at a potluck party.
4. Spanish Music and Dances
Spanish music is a unique mix of different rhythms, melodies, customs, and cultures. The ancient Greeks, Romans, Christians, Jews, Moorish Muslims, roaming Gypsies, and others combined their varied interests, backgrounds, and musical abilities.
Check out these three great lessons to introduce your students to the music of Spain. The first covers the flamenco dance and discusses the Romani (Gypsy) people. The second lesson teaches students a fun Spanish children’s song, and the third lesson introduces Christmas traditions in Spain, as well as a villancico (Spanish Christmas carol).
Key Vocabulary Words
La música – music
Bailar – to dance
El baile – dance
Gitano – Gypsy
Experimentar – to experience
Escuchar – to listen
Tocar – to play (an instrument)
Cantar – to sing
La influencia – influence
- Traditional children’s songs from Spain – this lengthy list includes lyrics and audio or video of each song
- Spanish Dances: The Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity – this blog post covers information on music and costume of several Spanish dances; it also features links to videos demonstrating each type of dance
- 7-minute video and lesson on Spanish Flamenco
- 4.5-minute video and lesson on Spanish music, both old and new
- Teacher’s Guide to Spanish Rhythm and Dance from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
It’s Fun to Learn About Cultures
Clearly, teaching Spanish culture topics gives your students plenty of opportunities to learn the Spanish language. The key is to have fun.
You can always adapt the lessons and activities to your students’ unique needs and goals!
Join our Facebook group for elementary students where you’ll get free Spanish resources specific for this age group on a regular basis.
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