1. Have students identify major languages spoken in the Americas.
Distribute the worksheet Major Languages of the Americas and have students work together to create appropriate symbols for each language; for example, E for English, D for Dutch, Da for Danish, and CH for Caribbean Hindustani.

2. Have students map major languages spoken in the Americas.

Have students use construction paper or paper, crayons, and markers to make the symbols, cut them out, and place them on the appropriate countries on one of the large maps of the Americas from the Americas MapMaker Kit.

3. Have a whole-class discussion about the relationship between the distribution of modern languages and the colonial history of the Americas.
Have students look for relationships and patterns on the large map of the Americas. As a class, discuss the relationship between the distribution of modern languages and the colonial history of different countries in the Americas. Ask: What influences, other than language, did colonial powers have on the culture of each country?  What characteristics can you identify in a country’s culture that shows its history was shaped by more than one colonial power?

Extending the Learning

Have students research the many languages spoken within their own communities and discuss the reasons why there are so many. Create a display showing how to say “hello!” in each language.

Subjects & Disciplines

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • identify major languages spoken in the Americas
  • illustrate where different languages are spoken by placing symbols on a large map of the Americas
  • discuss the relationship between the distribution of languages in the Americas and the colonial history of those countries

Teaching Approach

  • Learning-for-use

Teaching Methods

  • Discussions
  • Hands-on learning

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

National Council for Social Studies Curriculum Standards

National Geography Standards

  • Standard 1:  How to use maps and other geographic representations, geospatial technologies, and spatial thinking to understand and communicate information
  • Standard 9:  The characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on Earth's surface

What You’ll Need

Materials You Provide

  • Construction paper
  • Crayons
  • Drawing paper
  • Markers
  • Scissors
  • Transparent tape

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Optional
  • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom

Physical Space

  • Classroom


  • Large-group instruction

Other Notes

Before starting this activity, assemble the Americas Mega Map.

Background Information

Geographers use maps to convey information to others. You can display physical, political or cultural information, or use maps to illustrate specific themes and topics. Maps are useful in helping to see patterns or relationships between layers of information.

Prior Knowledge

  • None

Recommended Prior Activities

  • None


colonial power

country, nation, or territory that controls large or important colonies.


learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.

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