Teaching Ideas- Elementary

Also see: Middle/High, Teaching Stories, Central America Quiz

In this section, we offer teaching ideas for elementary classrooms, including many ideas to complement picture books that can be read aloud. In addition, see poetry for elementary school and books for elementary school.
Please alert us to full lessons we can consider adding to this section.


Wilfredo: Un Nino de El Salvador


Wilfredo: Un niño de El Salvador / A Boy from El Salvador is a 45-page free, downloadable bilingual book for children about the experiences of a 12-year-old boy in San Francisco who immigrated to the United States when he was 10. Read how third grade teacher Andy Grayson introduced this book to his students.


Leaving Home: Socratic Dialogue with Art

Elementary and Middle School

Students are introduced to noted Guatemalan artist Paula Nicho Cumez and explore the emotions of leaving home through a Socratic dialogue about a painting. This short teaching activity by Lynda Tredway can be adapted to various ages. 


Geography is History: Locate the Countries of Central America

ELEMENTARY (GRADE 4+), Middle and high school

This interactive map lesson provides students with clues based on the history and geography of Central America so that they can find and remember the location of each country.


Rediscovering America

Elementary, Middle and High School

Rediscovering America/Redescubriendo América is a bilingual collection of short stories, essays, poetry, folktales, and songs for K-12 on conquest and resistance from Latin America and the Caribbean. 


Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale

Elementary And Middle School

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale by Duncan Tonatiuh is one of the best books we’ve seen for children on the experiences of families forced to migrate to the U.S. to survive. In a child-friendly format, the story addresses the push factors, the hardships caused by family separation, the dangerous journey through Mexico, and crossing the border. The Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP), on behalf of the Américas Award, produced an extensive teaching guide to accompany the book. Written by Katrina Dillon in 2015.


Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del arcoíris


In a rural village in the Guatemalan Highlands, young Ixchel is anxious to learn the ancient art of weaving from her mother. She decides to make her own loom and threads from natural materials around her village, but nothing she weaves comes out right. Losing hope of creating a textile beautiful enough to sell in the market, Ixchel has a stroke of genius–to collect the colorful plastic bags that litter the corn fields and turn them into thread for her loom. Lee & Low Books has published a teaching guide and coloring pages to accompany this book. You can find additional teaching ideas at SocialJusticeBooks.org.


Mama and Papa Have a Store


Author-illustrator Amelia Lau Carling draws on memories of her own childhood as the daughter of Chinese immigrants who run a general store in Guatemala City. Through her eyes, we observe her family’s daily life, and get glimpses of the lives of other Guatemalans, including an indigenous family who takes the bus from their mountain town to buy thread at the general store and sell their wares in the market. Lee & Low Books has published a teaching guide to accompany the book.


Sopa de frijoles / Bean Soup: A Cooking Poem


In this book, a young boy helps his mother prepare a soup the whole family will enjoy using ingredients from Mother Earth. Onions are “yellow as the dawn,” beans are like stars spread out on the “sky of the table” and the water in the pot is “as deep as a little lake.” Groundwood Books has published an activity guide to accompany this book. See also Teaching for Change’s Tellin’ Stories project guide to read aloud.


A Movie in My Pillow/Una película en mi almohada


In this lovely bilingual collection of autobiographical poems, young Jorge tells the story of how he and his father, fleeing from the war, arrive in San Francisco. Eventually, the rest of the family will join them, but for now, father and son, leaving in the middle of the night—and without saying goodbye to anyone—must travel alone. The Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP), on behalf of the Américas Award, produced a teaching guide to accompany the book.


Margarito’s Forest / El Bosque de Don Margarito


Margarito’s Forest/El Bosque de don Margarito is a nonfiction account of a Guatemalan man’s extraordinary devotion to the forest he loved. In addition to offering a heroic and memorable story, this picture book also enriches the range of Latinx representation in U.S. children’s literature. The story takes place in the central highlands of Guatemala, among the K’iche’ people and includes phrases in the K’iche’ language. The Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP), on behalf of the Américas Award, produced a curriculum guide to accompany the book.


Abuela’s Weave


Esperanza's Abuela, her grandmother, is unmatched in her skill in weaving traditional Mayan tapestries. She has shared her gift with her granddaughter, and now they plan to sell their goods at the market. However, the birthmark on Abuela's face may scare customers away. So Esperanza must cope with the city streets and find buyers alone. Lee & Low Books has published a teaching guide to accompany this story.


Xochitl and the Flowers/ Xóchitl, la Niña de las Flores


A young Salvadoran immigrant girl and her family are determined to become an integral part of their new community. The story of how they do so, overcoming many obstacles in the process, illustrates both the challenges and the triumphs of many new immigrants to the United States. Along the way, Xochitl (pronounced ZO-cheel) and other members of the Flores family learn that making a home involves making friends, working together, and nurturing beauty wherever you find it. Lee & Low Books has published a teaching guide to accompany this story.