Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is celebrated throughout May but can (and should) be recognized year-round. You may need clarification about how to get started or where to find resources; you’re in for a treat! Read on below for five easy, no-prep Asian Pacific American Heritage Month activities for elementary students (that you can do in 20 minutes or less!)
#1 – Introduce Students to the History of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
Before you can dive into the celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, students must understand its history. You’ll want to build accurate background knowledge to set a precedent for the rest of the activities.
It’s important to teach history without the fluff. I recommend showing this YouTube video that essentially covers the 5 W’s of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month for students. Refrain from showing videos or lectures that go over elementary students’ heads; we want to inform them properly and meet them where they are.
Of course, you can find many other educational videos of introductions to Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, but do your homework to ensure the information is accurate and culturally appropriate.
#2 – Celebrate the Contributions of Notable Asians
Students must be aware of the varied experiences of people from different backgrounds. Why? Because this facilitates a more inclusive and respectful learning environment. No doubt you recognize the importance of teaching content that allows students to feel valued, seen, and heard.
One of my favorite Asian Pacific American Heritage Month activities to do with my elementary students is to incorporate a ‘Person of the Day.’ Celebrate the contributions that Asians have had to society both present day and in history. It doesn’t have to be long and boring.
I created 100 slides to teach about the contributions and achievements of 20 well-known, lesser-known, and modern Asians. There are five slides per figure.
The slides include ALL the teaching points done for you. Each slide per person provides opportunities to build background knowledge, short biographical snippets, educational YouTube videos, collaboration questions, quote analysis, and formative assessment (with answers).
You can download a free set of these slides that introduces students to the legend Duke Kahanamoku.
#3 – Read Books that Embody Asian Voices with Asian characters
A super quick and painless activity for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is a read-aloud! Read-alouds are my JAM, y’all. The opportunities for additional learning via a read-aloud are truly monumental.
It would be best if you incorporated books during this celebration that spotlight Asian culture and provide an age-appropriate learning experience for students. Equally important, showcase books written by Asian authors and illustrators so that Asian voices are represented.
Look for books that feature Asian characters and decide which would be appropriate for your grade level. This list of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month books for kids is an excellent place to start.
In addition, you can find a curated page of read-aloud videos that Asians read. Showing these videos amplifies Asian voices and allows those who embody the experience to represent their culture.
#4 – Utilize Posters Around the Classroom
One way to build an inclusive environment is to include faces that look like your students in your classroom print and decor. Having diverse cultures represented allows students to feel seen and welcomed.
Add posters that include Asians to help your Asian students see themselves represented. But, all students benefit either directly or indirectly by being exposed to outside cultures different than theirs. Just think: This could be their first time being exposed to a culture or skin tone outside their own.
How can you make it an activity? You can incorporate a gallery walk where students walk around the room and take note of the Asian figures and their accomplishments by reading a short biography snippet.
Allow students to make observations such as each figure’s country of birth, their birthday, how they’ve shaped society, and how citizens in the US have personally benefitted. Make this a morning meeting activity daily or a quick discussion.
#5 – Learn About and Make Asian Art
In addition, your Asian Pacific American Heritage Month activities should include an authentic learning experience for students, where possible.
An important form of art in Japanese culture is origami cranes. The crane is symbolic of peace and good fortune in East Asian cultures.
Teach this to your students in greater depth by reading the story “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” via a YouTube read-aloud or paperback.
Then, let students explore kinesthetically and bring the experience to life by making their own origami via an online tutorial!
Download a Free Activity
Ready to take action? Start with this meaningful activity which includes an in-depth overview of the great Duke Kahanamoku. Download your copy below.