I'm sure that all teachers can relate to the craziness of Halloween...the costumes, the classroom parties, and the candy! I've finally learned that it is best to embrace the excitement that comes with this day. Pick activities that will match your student's excitement! Below are some ideas for activities that I do with my students to celebrate Día de los muertos.
We read Rosita y Conchita by Erich Haeger aloud as a class. The book is in Spanish and English but I rewrote the text using simple Spanish that I know my students can understand. Some details of the story are lost when you simplify the text, but the basic plot line stays the same and the language becomes comprehensible for your students. One of the best advantages to rewriting a text is that you can target specific language that each grade level is working on. On a side note, the Kindle version of Rosita y Conchita includes a game where students click and drag items to make their own ofrenda. After reading the book we make ofrendas together on the SmartBoard--so fun!
I also love the book Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston. This book is in English so I rewrote a simplified version of the text in Spanish to make it comprehensible for my students. This book hits on a lot of traditional foods and symbols for Día de los muertos and it is easy to rewrite in simple Spanish for lower level students.
After introducing my students to Día de los muertos we usually do a simple art project to celebrate this special day. My 1st graders use pictures from Día de los muertos celebrations as inspiration to decorate their own skull masks. After decorating the face they cut out the faces (I usually help them cut out the eyes) and tape a popsicle stick at the bottom to make a mask. Below are the templates I use for the masks.
My 2nd graders make skull faces out of paper plates. A co-worker cut out the idea from a magazine and they look awesome! Again, we look at images from Día de los muertos celebrations for inspiration on how to decorate the faces.
The 3rd graders make papel picado. Here are some simple instructions--it is basically the same process as making cutout snowflakes. I usually have my students make 3 or 4 panels and then send the panels home with a string to hang them (I fold a piece of construction paper in half and put the papel picados inside to keep them from getting torn on their journey home). Insider tip: having the students glue at home is key--when they glue in class the tissue paper always manages to get stuck to another student's project, creating a sticky mess.
My 4th graders make calaveras de azúcar. Here is my tried and true recipe. The students decorate with the pre-made cake icing that comes in tubes (I limit each student to only 3 colors of icing in the hopes that it will still resemble a skull when they are finished). We usually spend one day making the skulls and one day decorating them. While my students are waiting to be called up to make/decorate their skulls they complete reading activities on Textivate!
Check out the finished products!
The majority of you have probably already heard about the animated short Día de los muertos. If you haven't then you should watch it right now because it is fabulous for a MovieTalk! In her Día de los muertos packet on Teachers Pay Teachers Martina Bex uses another animated short entitled Día de muertos by Sofía Aviles. Both are great videos, although the second video is probably better suited to older students (I'll let you watch them both to figure out why). After watching the video there are a lot of different activities you could do to reinforce the key vocabulary structures...
What are some of your favorite ways to celebrate Día de los muertos with your students?