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Mexican-American Heritage: Texas Experiences (Gr 4)
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About the Lesson
Prior Knowledge
Independent Practice
Extended Learning

Mexican-American Heritage: Texas Experiences
Social Studies, Grade 4

Through the use of primary and secondary source audiovisual materials, students will examine and trace the history and experiences of Mexican-Americans in the Southwest and Texas from the sixteenth to twentieth century.  Students will understand how the Mexican-American experience ties to indigenous and Spanish culture by examining the impact of European colonization and settlement on native people in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Other key moments include nineteenth century clashes on the open range with Anglo settlers, Southwest farming and ranching practices, and twentieth century migrant labor.  Mexican-American activism, also referred to as "Chicanoism," in the 1960s and 1970s is highlighted and the lesson includes commentary by famed civil rights activist Cesar Chavez from 1971. 

Students should have prior knowledge of the following areas to successfully take part in this activity:

  • Students should be aware of the geography of the American Southwest and its indigenous people.
  • Students should have prior knowledge of nomadic and settled native groups in the American Southwest.
  • Students should be aware of European exploration in Texas, which began with the Spanish conquistadores and missionaries' arrival in 1519. 
  • Students should have a working knowledge of nineteenth century frontier experience and the clashes that occurred on the open range.
  • Students should have some background knowledge of the basic farming and ranching practices of the Southwest.
  • Students should be aware of diverse cultures and the twentieth century historic movements such as the civil rights and Chicano/Tejano movements of the 1960s – 1970s. 

Texas History Timeline

Have students work in pairs to put key events in chronological order.

Give groups a piece of paper, have them draw a line down the middle of it for a timeline, and post the key events (below) on the board, excluding the dates. Students should work together and put the key events in order on their timelines.

Draw a line on the board and have students volunteer their answers for the class timeline. Put the events in the correct order including dates. Students will see how many they correctly listed and add key dates to their timelines.

Key Events:

Write on the Board:

Reveal Later:

Spanish build the mission of Corpus Christi de la Ysleta (El Paso)


The Civil Rights Act is signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson


Columbus makes first voyage to the Americas


The first people arrive in Texas  

(11,000 BC)

Cabeza de Vaca explores the Gulf Coast of Texas 


Mexico gains independence from Spain


Approximately 100,000 Anglo immigrants arrive in Texas


Texas wins Independence from Mexico 



Have students watch the 1971 educational film:

North From Mexico – Exploration and Heritage

Have students answer the questions on the provided worksheet (see Worksheets). Pause occasionally to clarify and provide time for students’ reflective writing.

Assign students (individual or group) a Texas civil rights film (see Videos) to analyze and highlight its main ideas, then present to the class. Have students first describe the genre of film (consult’s TAMI’s Guide to Moving Image Genres,, the main issues presented in the video, and important historical events occurring during that time.

When presenting, have student select and play 3 short scenes from the video that they feel best highlight the main ideas. Tell the presenter(s) to be prepared to answer questions about the film from the class or you after their presentation. Give students ample time to research, select appropriate scenes, and rehearse together (with everyone speaking) in or outside of class. Remind students to utilizes the educational features such as the “About”, “Texas Locations”, and “Keyword” tabs on the TAMI website. Also, encourage the use of their book and reliable sources like the TSHA’s Handbook of Texas,

Using a variety of primary and secondary sources (in or outside of class), have students thoroughly investigate the African-American and Mexican-American Civil Rights Movements of the 1960s – 1970s. Have them write a 1-2 page report on the goals of the Civil Rights Movement analyzing how they were achieved by minority groups. Ask students to think about their own civil rights and civil liberties by evaluating their rights to a public education, voting rights, freedom of speech, religion, and the press. Ask them to explain why civil liberties and civil rights are essential in a democratic society?

Texas History Timeline

Definition and history of Chicano and the Chicano civil rights movement from the Handbook of Texas


1 A        Explain the possible origins of American Indian groups in Texas and North America

1C       Describe the regions in which American Indians lived and identify American Indian groups remaining in Texas such as the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo, Alabama-Coushatta, and Kickapoo

1D        Compare the ways of life of American Indian groups in Texas and North America before European exploration

2A        Summarize motivations for European exploration and settlement of Texas, including economic opportunity, competition, and the desire for expansion

2B        Identify the accomplishments and explain the impact of significant explorers, including Cabeza de Vaca; Francisco Coronado; and René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, on the settlement of Texas

2C        Explain when, where, and why the Spanish established settlements and Catholic missions in Texas as well as important individuals such as José de Escandón

3D        Describe the successes, problems, and organizations of the Republic of Texas such as the establishment of a constitution, economic struggles, relations with American Indians, and the Texas Rangers

3E        Explain the events that led to the annexation of Texas to the United States, including the impact of the U.S.-Mexican War

4C       Identify the impact of railroads on life in Texas, including changes to cities and major industries

4D       Examine the effects upon American Indian life resulting from changes in Texas, including the Red River War, building of U.S. forts and railroads, and loss of buffalo



7A        Describe a variety of regions in Texas and the United States such as political, population, and economic regions that result from patterns of human activity

8 A       Identify and explain clusters and patterns of settlement in Texas at different time periods such as prior to the Texas Revolution, after the building of the railroads, and following World War II

8B       Describe and explain the location and distribution of various towns and cities in Texas, past and present

8C        Explain the geographic factors such as landforms and climate that influence patterns of settlement and the distribution of population in Texas, past and present

9A       Describe ways people have adapted to and modified their environment in Texas, past and present, such as timber clearing, agricultural production, wetlands drainage, energy production, and construction of dams

9B        Identify reasons why people have adapted to and modified their environment in Texas, past and present, such as the use of natural resources to meet basic needs, facilitate transportation, and enhance recreational activities



10A      Explain the economic activities various early American Indian groups in Texas and North America used to meet their needs and wants such as farming, trading, and hunting

10B      Explain the economic activities early immigrants to Texas used to meet their needs and wants

12A      Explain how people in different regions of Texas earn their living, past and present, through a subsistence economy and providing goods and services

12B      Explain how geographic factors such as climate, transportation, and natural resources have influenced the location of economic activities in Texas

12C      Analyze the effects of exploration, immigration, migration, and limited resources on the economic development and growth of Texas

12D      Describe the impact of mass production, specialization, and division of labor on the economic growth of Texas

12E     Explain how developments in transportation and communication have influenced economic activities in Texas

12 F     Explain the impact of American ideas about progress and equality of opportunity on the economic development and growth of Texas

13B     Identify oil and gas, agricultural, and technological products of Texas that are purchased to meet needs in the United States and around the world



14A      Compare how various American Indian groups such as the Caddo and the Comanches governed themselves

14B      Identify and compare characteristics of the Spanish colonial government and the early Mexican governments and their influences on inhabitants of Texas



17A      Identify important individuals who have participated voluntarily in civic affairs at state and local levels such as Adina de Zavala and Clara Driscoll

17B      Explain how individuals can participate voluntarily in civic affairs at state and local levels through activities such as holding public officials to their word, writing letters, and participating in historic preservation and service projects

17 C     Explain the duty of the individual in state and local elections such as being informed and voting

18A     Identify leaders in state, local, and national governments, including the governor, local members of the Texas Legislature, the local mayor, U.S. senators, local U.S. representatives, and Texans who have been president of the United States

18B      Identify leadership qualities of state and local leaders, past and present



19A     Identify the similarities and differences among various racial, ethnic, and religious groups in Texas

19B      Identify customs, celebrations, and traditions of various cultural, regional, and local groups in Texas such as Cinco de Mayo, Oktoberfest, the Strawberry Festival, and Fiesta San Antonio


Social studies skills

21A     Differentiate between, locate, and use valid primary and secondary sources such as computer software; interviews; biographies; oral, print, and visual material; documents; and artifacts to acquire information about the United States and Texas

21B      Analyze information by sequencing, categorizing, identifying cause-and-effect relationships, comparing, contrasting, finding the main idea, summarizing, making generalizations and predictions, and drawing inferences and conclusions

21D      Identify different points of view about an issue, topic, historical event, or current event

22A      Use social studies terminology correctly

22B     Incorporate main and supporting ideas in verbal and written communication

22C      Express ideas orally based on research and experiences

22D     Create written and visual material such as journal entries, reports, graphic organizers, outlines, and bibliographies

22E     Use standard grammar, spelling, sentence structure, and punctuation

Introspective Cage