Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
LeBron to Lizzo, Selena to Sotomayor -Building Units to engage GenAlpha to GenZ

As language educators, we are always seeking ways to connect our teaching with our students’ interests and passions and make learning not only educational, but also relevant and exciting.  Afterall, the twenty-first century learner thrives on connections, real-world applications, and cultural experiences that bring lessons to life. How can we link our lessons to students’ lives while also ensuring that they’re rich with content and culture? One effective way to achieve this is by crafting thematic units that revolve around cultural icons and figures who have made a significant impact on the world, capturing our students’ attention and enthusiasm. In this article, I will preview some ideas for thematic units centered around four influential individuals: LeBron James, Lizzo, Sonia Sotomayor, and Selena. These units will not only engage your students, but also enrich their understanding of the Spanish language and culture.


  1. LeBron James: Basketball Prodigy Turned Philanthropist
    • Begin your thematic unit with LeBron James, a basketball superstar who has transcended the court to become a philanthropist, advocate, and role model for our students. LeBron’s journey from humble beginnings to NBA stardom is an inspiring story of perseverance and dedication.
      1. Biography and Achievements: Explore LeBron’s life, from his childhood in Akron, Ohio, to his rise to basketball greatness. Highlight his impressive career, including NBA championships, MVP awards, and All-Star selections.
      2. Philanthropy and Activism: Dive into LeBron’s off-court contributions, including his educational initiatives and social justice advocacy. Discuss the impact of his foundation and his “I Promise” school. There are many great resources in Spanish to delve into this topic, from articles to videos.
      3. Language and Sports Vocabulary: Incorporate basketball-related vocabulary into your lessons, allowing students to discuss the sport and LeBron’s career in the target language.
  1. Lizzo: Embracing Body Positivity and Self-Love
    • Shift your next thematic unit to the world of music and self-empowerment with Lizzo, a dynamic artist who encourages self-love and body positivity.
      1. Biography and Musical Journey: Explore Lizzo’s background, her path to musical stardom, and her notable hits. Ask students why they like her, how she’s influential, and why she’s important. Keep it student-centered!
      2. Lyric Analysis: Analyze one of Lizzo’s songs, emphasizing themes of self-confidence, self-acceptance, and empowerment. Discuss the impact of her music on body positivity.
      3. Create Empowering Lyrics: Allow students to write their own empowering song (or short chorus or verse) in Spanish that express their feelings and experiences.
  1. Sonia Sotomayor: The First Latina Supreme Court Justice
    • Focus a unit on the remarkable Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, whose journey from a Bronx housing project to the highest court in the land is both inspiring and educational.
      1. Biography and Legal Career: Delve into Sotomayor’s early life, her legal career, and her historic appointment to the Supreme Court. Again, there are lots of great articles and videos in Spanish!
      2. Key Supreme Court Cases: Examine significant Supreme Court cases in which Justice Sotomayor has played a pivotal role, discussing their impact on the law and society.
      3. Legal Terminology: Introduce legal vocabulary in Spanish. We can have students play the role of a translator in a courtroom during a mock trial (which can be a really fun role-play activity) or, for more advanced students, they can discuss Sotomayor’s work or engage together in a class debate.
  1. Selena: The Queen of Tejano Music
    • Celebrate the life and legacy of Selena, whose music and style continue to captivate audiences around the world.
      1. Biography and Musical Influence: Explore Selena’s rise to fame, her impact on Tejano music, and her tragic but enduring legacy.
      2. Music Appreciation: Listen to some of Selena’s iconic songs, have students identify their themes and cultural significance, and learn to dance to Tejano music (this is a great activity for group projects!).
      3. Fashion and Style: Discuss Selena’s unique style and her influence on fashion. Have students design their own fashion creations inspired by Selena’s iconic outfits.


By crafting thematic units around remarkable individuals (either from the examples here or others that you know your students look up to), you can infuse excitement and relevance into your Spanish classes.  Thematic units not only provide opportunities for language practice, but also inspire students to explore their interests, engage with diverse cultural figures, and celebrate their achievements.


By Justin Seifts


Also read:

4 Fun Ways Teachers Can Use BookTok in the Classroom

10 Tips for Teachers Getting Ready for the New School Year

Comments are closed.