• Teaching Strategies for Hispanics


    According to statistics from the United States Census Bureau, Hispanics comprise 11.2 percent of the U.S. population, it is the largest and fastest growing minority. Students who speak English as a second language represent a growing proportion of the student-age population in the United States. Spanish has become the unofficial second language of this country. Due to the rapid growth rate of this group, it is pertinent that education issues affecting these people be addressed. Hispanic students are less likely than African American and Caucasian students to have had early childhood education, including pre-school or Head Start. They are more likely to be enrolled below grade level and be retained one or more times, be enrolled in remedial classes that do not prepare them for college, and have the highest drop out rate. "Hispanic children enter school already behind"(United-Unidos Mathematics and Science for Hispanics by Estrella M. Triana and Manuel Gomez Rodriquez). A key factor in improving education for Hispanic students is to understand that they are from different groups of people (primarily Mexican American, Central and South American, Cuban, and Puerto Rican) with different needs. This section will present methods to help keep teachers from displaying racial or cultural "superiority." Such actions lead to the development of an "us versus them" mentality. If such an attitude exists it can destroy a student's self worth subsequently displaying itself as student apathy towards education.

    Language Barriers
    1. Invite students to talk about topics they are familiar with connecting your lesson plans to their prior knowledge.
    2. Communicate realistic expectations for the students at the beginning and throughout the year.
    3. Use interactive technology to help students learn.
    4. Teachers should use cognitive coaching to help promote critical thinking skills by asking students who have correctly answered a problem "How did you get that? Why?"
    5. Incorporate advising programs in students' curriculum which will allow for contacts with the home. (Use translators when necessary).
    6. Be aware of the minority students in class, and create an accepting climate for them.
    7. Have students in class introduce themselves and share their experiences in order to educate others.

    Avoiding Bias

    Teachers must take an introspective look at their own cultural background, understanding the effects their biases have when interacting with students. Only then can teachers examine the backgrounds and needs of their student population and understand their students' cultural biases as well.

    • Recognize and understand the cultural differences among students from diverse backgrounds, and treat such differences with respect.
    • Intervene immediately, should a fellow student disparage a Hispanic student's culture or language
    • Value the broad and varied experiences Hispanic students bring to the classroom, and promote their acceptance.
    • Avoid segregating students by cultural groups, and do not allow the students to segregate themselves.
    • Expand students' capacity to appreciate and deal with the differences in others, and help students to perceive self in a multi-cultural perspective.
    • Demand the same level of excellence from all students.
    • Have high science expectations for all students; positive expectations increase student achievement.
    • Do not base a student's capability by their proficiency with the cultural mainstream.
    • Due to cultural differences, cultural conflict and behavioral problems are more likely to emerge when minorities are unaware of expected cultural or communicative norms.
    • Realize that every American is a product of his or her culture, and a tolerance and understanding of language differences must exist in such a diverse society.
    • Do not criticize the language of a student's culture.
    • Students should be judged based on current situations and circumstances, not on previous mistakes.
    • There exist congruencies between a student's learning style and the teacher's teaching style.

    Classroom Strategies

    Student success is ensured when encouraging teachers display the right attitude and appreciate the individuality, uniqueness and ability of each student.

    1.   Start classes on time.

    2.   Classroom instruction should be designed to connect the content of a course with students' backgrounds.

    3.   Build a supportive classroom atmosphere where differences are not neglected, but are explored, discussed and celebrated.

    4.   Help students set realistic and manageable goals based on the students' abilities.

    5.   Furnish necessary resources to accomplish the above.

    6.   Allow enough time for students to complete a task.

    7.   Help students with difficult problem-solving situations.

    8.   Interact with all the students - not just a select few.

    9.   Use visual aids.

    10. Offer "hands-on" experience.

    11. Incorporate Hispanic-American culture and history wherever suitable in correlation to topics being taught.

    12. Provide opportunities for Hispanic students to interact.

    13. Integrate appreciation for cultural diversity into all of your classroom activities.


    Discussion and Interaction

    1.   Equally call on minority students.

    2.   Have patience with students when waiting for them to respond.

    3.   Give direct eye contact which is sincere, loving and encouraging.

    4.   Do not interrupt a student when they are talking.

    5.   Do not criticize students.

    6.   Have a culturally diverse seating chart for your class; do not segregate students, but culturally intermix them and keep those students who are not native speakers of the English language closer to the teacher.

    7.   Be sure to give equal praise, encouragement, attention, and interest in minority students.

    8.   Pay equal amount of attention to all students.

    9.   Expect the same amount of effort from each student based on their abilities.

    Extracirricular Activities
    1. Consider using upper grade level minority students as teachers as tutors in computer related and science technique assignments.
    2. Establish in-service science training programs especially including teachers with minority students.
    3. Recommend subscriptions to science magazines.
    4. Urge faculty sponsors of computer science, and (say) chess clubs to recruit minority students.
    5. Encourage participation and make minority students aware of out of school activities in science, such as junior science academy, or summer science programs.

    Experimental Activities
    1. Construct and use heterogeneous groups as examples/subjects in experiments etc.
    2. Guide students into thinking like scientists by forming hypotheses and doing experiments.
    3. Encourage students to investigate problems that pique their curiosity, and not only engages their interest.
    4. Hands-on inquiry-based science instruction, exploration, dialogue, and discourse promotes scientific understanding in students.
    5. Do not discourage scientific thought leading to scientific conceptions. Children attempt to make sense of the natural world long before entering the classroom, and many times much of their "naive" scientific understanding is culturally formed, arising from the interaction between parents and family members.

    1. A teaching institution, whether it be at the primary or college level, must develop a more positive attitude about the potential of diverse students.
    2. Bring to the attention of school officials any policies or procedures that inadvertently penalize certain races, cultures, sexes or disabilities.
    3. Eliminate culturally insensitive reading materials and tests.
    4. Allow students to engage in activities that will enhance their appreciation of the cultural strengths of all diverse groups.

    1. Carefully balance academic content with instructional processes.
    2. Use a variety of methods to insure that all students' learning styles are being met:
      • use visuals and provide students with a list of materials they could use individually to supplement their course work.
      • group work
      • build on what students already know
      • use lecture outlines, blackboards and overheads
      • connect lessons with examples from the "real world"
    3. Screen textbooks and materials for representativeness and accuracy, e.g. Are the textbooks only representative of blonde-haired, blue-eyed Anglo-Saxons?
    4. Develop glossaries for chapters students are having trouble with and provide tasks that will allow them to incorporate the new vocabulary.

    Home and Family

    There exists great strength in Hispanic culture due to the predominance of extended families. This family resource is essential in promoting a student's success, which is why parental and family involvement is critical to a student's academic achievement.

    The role a parent should play in their children's education encompasses more than just helping their child at home. Teachers must believe that parent involvement is needed for a school to succeed, and then include parents in the following activities as:

    1. classroom tutors, helpers and field trip volunteers.
    2. members of school decision making boards that execute decisions that influence students.
    3. Do not use negative words to describe family structures such as "dysfunctional families." Such labels are degrading and demeaning, suggesting that Hispanic families are inferior.
    4. Respect Hispanic parents by viewing them as capable individuals, and this in turn will enhance the home-school partnership.
    5. It is the teacher's responsibility to make the first contact with a student's parents, and this contact should be a positive one.
    6. Teachers should call student's parents early in the year and introduce themselves to the parent, sharing positive aspects of the student and favorable expectations.
    7. When talking to the parents, build on the student's strengths and special qualities, also this is a time to find out more about your student.
    8. Don't be hypocritical, by saying positive things to a parent about their child, but then acting in a negative manner towards the student in class.
    9. Share information with parents; this builds trust and strengthens the home-school bond.


    The factors that relate to Hispanic's success living in low socio-economic environments are called "resiliency factors." Resiliency is the ability to thrive, mature, and increase competence in the face of adverse circumstances or obstacles. This includes Hispanics living in low socio-economic environments.

    Students who are resilient must draw upon all resources: biological, psychological, and environmental. Schools are a valuable environmental resource which can also affect the psychological resource. Schools can promote resiliency through these four methods:

    • Increase the student's self-esteem
    • Stop the negative chain of events
    • Provide an alternate route to success
    • Remove the stressor


    Labels and stereotyping are damaging because they produce false expectations that are both damaging and suppressive. Examples of stereotypical labels are: economically disadvantaged, culturally deprived, under-privileged dysfunctional family. Each individual and situation is unique and can't be generically grouped.

    • Do not use stereotypical and negative labels.
    • Do not be affected by first impressions; do not be influenced by the initial performance of a student.
    • Discover a student's ability by looking past their physical attraction, gender and race.
    • "See beauty in every child; do not base it solely on physical attributes which are mainly dictated by White standards. Many teachers deem good looking children as intelligent." (Kuykendall)
    • Do not hold class or family status/income as a determining factor of a students potential, and don't hold it against them.
    • Do not measure a student's academic success by their mastery of the English language.
    • Teachers must learn about each student's background, but also work to get beyond the stereotyping which affects expectations for student performance.