Mexico’s Day of the Dead

Mexico’s Day of the Dead lesson plan

Join the Mexican celebration for Dia de los Muertos. Families honor the spirits of deceased relatives with food and flowers during this 3-day holiday.

  • 1.

    Invite students to research how Aztec beliefs mixed with Catholic rituals to result in the contemporary celebration of the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). This holiday is widely celebrated in Mexico and in communities where Mexican families live. Challenge students to find pictures of dancing, art, and cemetery decorations—just some of the ways that families celebrate during this 3-day festival. Students display their learing about this holiday with an original scene such as the one illustrated here. Descriptoins of how to re-create a tombstone replica are included in this plan.

  • 2.

    Tombstone: Blend white Crayola® Model Magic® with color from a gray Crayola Washable Gel Marker. Knead just a bit to obtain a marble effect. Shape Model Magic into a tombstone. Write names and dates on the stone if so desired. Set it aside to air-dry overnight.

  • 3.

    Decorations: Use Crayola Erasable Colored Pencils on white construction paper to draw items to decorate one's tombstone. Flowers, garlands of greens and flowers, and candles are all commonly used, as are gifts of food. Color in the items with Gel Markers. Cut out the decorations with Crayola Scissors. With Crayola School Glue, attach items to the tombstone. Air-dry the glue.

  • 4.

    Background. On a large piece of dark construction paper, use your imagination to create a night scene with the Gel Markers—they really stand out on dark colors! Show shadows of people dancing and a sky with a full moon. Add Crayola Glitter Glue for sparkle.

  • 5.

    Glue the decorated headstone to the background. Air-dry flat.

  • 6.

    Provide students with examples of contemporary obituaries as well as death notices from years ago. Invite students to compose a death notice for the person identified on the tombstone. Display tombstones and epitaphs in a prominent place in the classroom for easy viewing.

Standards

  • LA: Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
  • LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.
  • LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.
  • SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.
  • SS: Give examples of and explain group and institutional influences such as religious beliefs, laws, and peer pressure, on people, events, and elements of culture.
  • SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.
  • VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.
  • VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.
  • VA: Use subjects, themes, and symbols that demonstrate knowledge of contexts, values, and aesthetics that communicate intended meaning in artworks.
  • VA: Describe and place a variety of art objects in historical and cultural contexts.

Adaptations

  • Possible classroom resources include: Day of the Dead by Kitty Williams; The Day of the Dead / El Dia de los Muertos by Bob Barner; I Remember Abuelito: A Day of the Dead Story by Janice Levy; Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston
  • Students work in teams to research the origins of similar holidays such as Halloween and All Saints Day. Compare and contrast how each holiday is celebrated in cultures around the world.
  • Research and collect recipes for a Day of the Dead celebration. Students word process recipes and illustrate each with a symbol of the celebration. Organize recipes into booklet form. Make a copy for each member of the class.
  • Students research a variety of pictures depicting Dia de los Muertos traditions. Post these around the classroom. Students select one scene that illustrates a part of the celebration they find particularly fascinating. Students discuss the reasons behind their selections.