Music and rhythm are at the heart of Hispanic culture. And one of the best ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15) is to explore the music and musical instruments found in Hispanic cultures around the world.
As students discover cultures with Hispanic roots, they’ll also learn about rhythms, patterns, counting, and language as well as develop coordination and motor skills. Use the following three activities to help students explore Hispanic culture through rhythm.
1. Rhythm band
Rhythm activities are a great way to learn about Hispanic culture and have fun at the same time. One of the most famous aspects of Latin music is the rhythm, and musicians use a variety of instruments - like drums, tambourines, and maracas - to beat the rhythm. For this activity, students will form a rhythm band and play their instruments to the beat of traditional Latin music.
- 15-Player Rhythm Band Kit (includes 3 8-inch rhythm sticks, 1 pair of maracas, 1 crow sounder, 1 pair of sand blocks, 1 pair of tap-tap blocks, 1 frame drum, 1 cymbal, 1 triangle, 2 wrist bells, 3 jingle sticks)
- Latin music
- Large Rhythm Scarves (optional)
What to Do:
- Distribute the instruments to the group. Use rhythm scarves if you don’t have enough instruments or if you have students who aren’t able to play the instruments.
- Put on traditional Latin music. Incorporate a range of genres, such as salsa, mariachi, bachata, and rumba.
- Then allow students to learn the rhythm and play their instruments to the beat! They can also imitate rhythmic patterns that you create!
- Rotate instruments in between songs to give every student a chance to play each instrument.
Castanets are a percussion instrument that is a landmark in Flamenco, a Spanish art form. They’re usually held in the hand and struck together, making a distinctive “clack-clack-clack” sound. These DIY castanets are easy to make, and students will have fun jazzing them up with their own designs.
What to Do:
- Cut out a small piece of cardboard that is 6 ½-inches long and 1-inch wide.
- Paint one side of the cardboard in the color of your choice. Let it dry.
- Once it dries, add details like stripes, dots, wiggly lines, etc. Be creative, and make your castanet as unique as possible!
- Fold the cardboard in the middle, and flip it over to the unpainted side.
- Apply glue to the bottom ridges of the bottle tops and stick one on each end of the cardboard. Make sure they align and touch when the cardboard is folded.
- Flip the cardboard back to the painted side and glue the wiggly eyes to one end. Let the glue dry completely.
- Once it dries, put on some traditional Flamenco tunes and click away!
Panpipes, also known as the pan flute, are traditional instruments found in Central and South America. They’re typically made from ceramic, bone, reeds, and cane. But for this activity, students will be making theses DIY panpipes from Connections Academy out of straws.
What to Do:
- Take eight straws and cut them into the following lengths:
- Leave the first straw at one end at its original length.
- Cut each consecutive straw shorter by about one-third to one-half an inch.
- These lengths will make each straw play a different note in the octave. You can use a pen or marker to indicate where each straw should be cut, or you can simply bend the straw at the correct length and cut it at the fold.
- Lay the cut straws side-by-side on the table, from longest to shortest. The straws should line up evenly across the top.
- Cut one or two additional straws into small pieces, all about two inches long.
- Place one between each of the eight straws on the table and line them up near the middle to space the main straws apart. These straws should be placed in the same orientation as the larger straws.
- Tear off a piece of tape and carefully wrap it around the straws where you just placed the smaller straw pieces for support. After the tape is wrapped around both sides, you’re ready to play your straw panpipe!
- Remember to blow across the tops of the straws, not into them.