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Dia de los Muertos

Instructional Strategies Plan (ISP)

Duran, Gloria D.

EDCI 402: winter, 2004


Unit Overview

This month-long unit on the Mexican celebration of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is designed for second grade students in mind. Día de los Muertos is one of the oldest traditions celebrated in Mexico, dating back since the rule of the Aztec Empire, before the Spanish arrival and conquest of Mexico in the early sixteenth century. This celebration is very significant to the people of Mexico, particularly to people who are devoted Catholics and annually take part in this celebration on November 2nd, and to those of Mexican origin who live outside of the country. It is a unique celebration like no other, where the memory of departed loved ones is honored, where people remember, rejoice and even mock death. This holiday celebrates death as a normal and natural part of life. In fact, on this day many Mexicans believe the spirits of their departed ancestors and friends are beckoned to return with the use of candles. These spirits are believed to visit their living relatives and feast on their favorite foods, displayed as offerings on altars that the family creates inside their home. This unit is intended to be started early in the month of October, in order for students to develop the background knowledge necessary to understand the purpose of this holiday that is celebrated annually on November 2nd.

Día de los Muertos is a very interesting holiday for students to learn about, since it addresses multiculturalism and helps students develop a sense of diversity and respect for other cultures. This unit fits precisely in the social studies component of elementary school standards, where students are exposed to different experiences, traditions, and lifestyles of other people around the world. This Mexican holiday is particularly important for students to learn about since there is a common misconception that this celebration is the Mexican version of Halloween, since both holidays are celebrated at around the same time. In order for students to develop cultural awareness, acceptance and appreciation, and at the same time reduce common misconceptions, myths, and prejudices, they need to learn about diverse peoples in a healthy and non-judgmental manner. By exploring other cultures in stimulating and insightful ways, students will gain a deeper understanding of the diversity of ideas that surround them, in addition to expanding their points of view and becoming more open-minded and observant individuals.

Unit Learning Goals

  1. TLW develop an overall understanding of the Mexican holiday, Día de los Muertos, including the history, origins, and significance of this celebration to people of Mexican origin;
  2. TLW recognize common traditions and activities associated with Día de los Muertos;
  3. Students will learn about cultural diversity and multiculturalism in a positive way; 
  4. TLW develop an open-mind and respectful attitude towards diverse ethnic groups;
  5. TLW be able to distinguish, compare and contrast between Día de los Muertos and Halloween.

Instructional Overview

            This unit is designed with individual lesson plans that come together in a holistic way to integrate an overall understanding of the Mexican celebration of Día de los Muertos. The unit components are organized in a deductive teaching sequence, beginning with a general conceptual understanding of Mexico, followed by an exploration of the specific details, traditions and activities that take place in the holiday that will be analyzed in depth. This unit will include various lessons ranging from language arts, geography, history, literature reading, and visual arts. It will also incorporate the use of writing journals, where the students will be required to describe what they learn about throughout the course of this month-long unit and where they have the opportunity to reflect on the background literature read in class. Near the end of the unit, the students will also be required to work together cooperatively in order to create and decorate an altar they will be displayed in class, and at the same time, recreate the events that occur on Día de los Muertos, which should coincide with the actual date this holiday is celebrated (November 2nd).  This cooperative activity will help bring this unit to its culmination, and allow students to develop a sense of direction and working toward a common end goal. The reason for choosing these forms of instruction is that in order to explore the totality of this celebration, students first need to observe an actual celebration carried out (from viewing a video in class) in order to develop a general understanding of how this tradition is celebrated, and later explore the specific details related to it. For these reasons, this unit is to be taught in the deductive and direct instructional model, incorporating cooperative learning.

There will be a variety of ways to facilitate learning in this unit. For example, most of the lessons will be teacher-centered in the beginning, where the teacher will be required to explain, model, and demonstrate to students how to complete certain tasks and how to create a number of art projects and materials. However, this is also a student-centered unit in that students will be required to write their journal entries, provide input and feedback, ask questions, contribute to class discussions and complete other work from each of the five individual lesson plans. In some cases, they will be encouraged to work individually, in partners, or in small groups, depending on the actual lesson activities. By using various methods to facilitate learning, this will expose children to the different forms of learning styles and techniques.  

The activity sequence of this unit follows the direct instructional model, beginning with an introduction to and general overview of the Día de los Muertos celebration, and gradually exploring the specific components of the holiday, including its history, origins, traditions, vocabulary, folk art, and food. In Lesson Plan 1, for example, the teacher will introduce the topic and purpose of the unit, followed by an overview of the celebration that includes viewing an educational video on how Día de los Muertos is celebrated in Mexico. The video works as the anticipatory set, helping to stimulate student interest and desire to want to learn more about this holiday. Following the video, the teacher can provide a healthy venue for class discussion, where students participate and share their insights of how this holiday is celebrated, and record their observations in journals. Lesson Plan 2 will cover the geography of Mexico, where students will gain a better understanding of the country by locating a few key states on the map, learning about its people, population, diverse climatic environments, and other general and significant facts. This is also a good opportunity for students to compare and contrast between the physical geographies of Mexico and the United States. In this way, students can connect this new knowledge to their prior knowledge and experience of living in the U.S.

Lesson Plan 3 of the unit will cover the history and origins of the celebration of Día de los Muertos. The historical overview of the holiday will be presented to the students in the form of a children’s book that the teacher will read to them. This lesson will also include historical facts on the beginnings of this holiday, followed by a class discussion, and journal entries where students will be required to reflect on a few questions provided by the teacher, including a comparison and contrast between Día de los Muertos and Halloween. The children will also be required to sketch and draw pictures in their journals following their reflections of the celebration. Lesson Plan 4 of the unit will be a Spanish and Nahuatl language lesson, where the students will learn common vocabulary terms related to Dia de los Muertos. This lesson will begin with the teacher reading a bilingual book, both in English and Spanish side by side, that explains more about the specific events that take place during this celebration. The literature reading will be followed by a class discussion of specific vocabulary words, and finally students will be instructed to complete flashcards on a list of Spanish and Nahuatl terms, and use these cards as study aids for a final assessment test to be administered at the end of the unit. Again, the use of their journals for reflections will be encouraged. Lesson Plan 5, the visual arts lesson, students will create a variety of art materials (masks, skulls, flowers, decorations, etc.) that they will display in the altar and use during the recreation of events of the celebration at the culmination of the unit.

These individual lesson plans are all designed as teacher-centered at first, but gradually become more student-centered activities, especially in terms of the class discussions and journal entries that explore students’ interests, reflections, observations, and insights, in addition to the different art projects they will create individually to display on the class altar at the end of the unit. Furthermore, by using the direct and deductive form of instruction, students will experience the unit from general to specific, and see how all the lessons and the knowledge acquired combine together to form a thorough in-depth exploration of the holiday. If all goes well in terms of the timing of the lessons, this month-long unit should be completed at the end of October, just in time for the annual celebration of Día de los Muertos on November 2nd.

This unit will culminate with an in-class recreation and celebration of the holiday, complete with traditions, food, activities, and events that occur on Día de los Muertos. In addition, the lesson plans directly relate to accomplishing the unit goals mentioned above, which include aiding students in developing an overall understanding of the Día de los Muertos celebration, to be able to recognize common traditions and activities associated with the holiday, in learning about cultural diversity and multiculturalism in a positive way, by encouraging the students to develop and open-mind and respectful attitude towards diverse ethnic and cultural groups, and finally, to distinguish between Día de los Muertos and Halloween as two distinct, unique, and unrelated holidays.      

Assessment Overview

In order to acquire evidence of student learning, a number of assessment techniques will be employed throughout the unit, including a combination of formal and informal assessment methods, which will vary depending on the individual lesson plans. For example, throughout the five different lessons the most widely used methods of informal assessment will be personal communication and kid watching, especially during lessons, class discussions, in student interactions, and by walking around the classroom and observing students at work. The teacher can also assess for learning simply by asking students questions, and in this way acquire evidence of understanding and comprehension taking place. In addition, throughout the lessons the teacher will incorporate the use of journals as a form of student self-assessment, another informal technique, where students will be required to write their observations, reflections, notes, questions, and insights and include illustrations about different aspects of the celebration.

Throughout the unit, students will also be assigned homework covering different aspects of the celebration, and the revision of homework will count as another form of informal assessment to check for evidence of student learning. Another assessment technique to be used in this unit is a form of performance assessment, where students will be required to create arts and crafts to be used as decorations for the altar and materials needed to recreate the events of Día de los Muertos at the culmination of the unit. At the end of the unit, students will be required to put together and display an altar in the classroom, as well as to carry out a simulated and recreated Día de los Muertos celebration. This is another example of an informal performance assessment technique that the teacher will observe in order to acquire evidence of student learning. Other modes of assessment that will be administered in this unit include a teacher-created selected response quiz (true/false and matching) that will also include short answer essay responses, which will be a formal assessment technique directed at the end of the month-long unit. Each of these assessment methods described will be appropriate according to the goals and objectives of the unit and lesson plans, and at the same time provide evidence of student learning taking place.

Personal Communication and Kid Watching: In using these two informal techniques of assessment, the teacher will seek evidence of learning by asking students questions regarding who, what, when, where, why, and how this holiday is celebrated. By providing opportunities for healthy class discussions and student interactions throughout the unit, children will be encouraged to share their insights and observations on the Día de los Muertos celebration. This informal method of assessment is great for discovering students’ feelings and dispositions, in addition to demonstrating to the teacher how well the students are internalizing and making sense of the information in accordance with the unit goals: to develop an open-mind and respectful attitude toward cultural differences, gaining an overall understanding of the Mexican holiday, and learning about diversity and multiculturalism in a positive way. Through student interaction and in-class discussions, these methods allow for greater retention and application of the knowledge and learning material taking place. It is important to point out that students will not be graded in this portion of informal assessment, although these techniques will serve the teacher in gaining an idea of the learning that is taking place. 

Student Self- Assessments: By incorporating the use of journals throughout the unit, students are keeping a material record of their reflections and observations; a good source of information that the teacher can have access to in order to view evidence of students’ internalizing and processing of information about the events and activities characteristic of a Día de los Muertos celebration. The journals provide a safe venue for student expression of thoughts and feelings, both in written and picture form, where the focus is not on spelling or grammar, but on the thought process and depth of learning going on throughout the unit. These journals will also serve as a point of reference for the teacher to assess performance skills, mastery of understanding of the concepts related to the celebration, in addition to checking if the unit goals are being met (Stiggins, p.93).

Performance Assessments: The use of this method of assessment is useful for teachers to detect whether students are correctly following directions and carrying out steps when creating a specific art project or craft (i.e. a mask, flower, decoration, skull, etc.), so that the end result looks similar to the examples modeled and provided by the teacher. This technique can also be used to assess a student’s ability to create products as well as the attributes of the product itself, in addition to assessing performance skills, especially when the students participate in a recreation of a Día de los Muertos celebration in class (Ibid). The teacher can also infer dispositions from student behavior by the manner in which the student participates in the role play and recreation of the holiday celebration, in addition to how well they work together to cooperatively display and create the altar at the end of the unit.  

Grading (Formal) Assessment: To culminate the unit, the formal assessment exam combining selected response (true/false and matching-type questions) with short essay portions will be administered at the end of the month-long unit. This test is an assessment technique designed to sample for student mastery of knowledge and understanding, as well as tap into student understanding of the relationships among different elements of knowledge (Ibid). The teacher can also acquire material evidence of student learning of the terminology, vocabulary, history, origins and activities associated with Día de los Muertos by administering a selected response and short essay assessment (Figure 1). This technique provides the teacher with a glimpse of the facts and information the students were required to learn throughout the lessons of the unit. It is necessary to mention that this formal assessment technique will be graded. 

Authentic Assessment Instrument


A significant part of the unit will include a lesson where students will learn about the geography of Mexico. After completing this lesson, students should develop an understanding of the physical geography and surrounding areas around Mexico. The significance of knowing the location of several key areas in Mexico aid in developing the necessary background knowledge in order to integrate other important facts and historical events (to be discussed in other lesson plans) relevant to where the Día de los Muertos celebration originated, and the states where it is currently most widely and traditionally practiced annually. The teacher will begin this lesson with an overview of the map of the Western Hemisphere, using the students’ textbook and world map as guides. Each student will be given a blank map of their own, but will be required to work in partners and correctly label the specific places and regions of the map using their social studies book and other maps provided by the teacher. The following assessment rubric will be given to the students at the beginning of this exercise, in addition to the list of places and regions they must correctly label on their map. These handouts will need to be explained by the teacher.



Key States



Bodies of Water




Level 3

The student correctly labels all 6 key states on the map of Mexico.


The student correctly labels all 5 bodies of water on the map of Mexico.

The student correctly labels all 5 miscellaneous regions on the map.


Level 2

The student correctly labels 4-5 of the key states on the map of Mexico.


The student correctly labels   3-4 of the required bodies of water on the map of Mexico.

The student correctly labels 3-4 of the miscellaneous regions on the map.



Level 1


The student correctly labels 2-3 of the key states on the map of Mexico.


The student correctly labels 2 of the required bodies of water on the map of Mexico.

The student correctly labels 2 of the miscellaneous regions on the map.


Level 0






List of Important Areas to Label on the Map:


6 Key States: Oaxaca, Michoacan, Puebla, Morelos, Jalisco, and Mexico City (Distrito Federal).


5 Bodies of Water: Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of California, Gulf of Tehuantepec,

                                 and Lake Chapala.


Miscellaneous: Port of Veracruz, the U.S.-Mexico border, the United States of America,

                          Guatemala, and the Tropic of Cancer.


The following is the Grading Scale for the map exercise:


9 pts. = A

6 pts. = B-

3 pts. = D

8 pts. = A-

5 pts. = C

2 pts. = D-

7pts. = B

4 pts. = C-

1 pt. = F


The primary trait scale is the most reliable and effective form of assessment in this case, since there are a number of individual traits (or important areas) that students must be able to correctly label and include in their maps. In addition, there are a number of different possible combination outcomes, due to the various component parts, that ultimately determine a total overall score that the students are able to acquire, using the grading criteria outlined in the rubric scale demonstrated above. After the students have completed the map-labeling task, the teacher will assess their work, collect this form of student performance data, and input it in their grade book. This score will be added to other assessment scores the students will be eligible to receive from the other lessons in the unit, and the total score will be computed to determine the final unit grade for each student. The map exercise will be returned to the students, complete with feedback provided by the teacher on what the student was successful in accomplishing and/or what they were lacking in order to improve the quality of their work.




Día de los Muertos Unit: Lesson Plan #1                                                                      Introduction, Purpose, and Overview of the Holiday- 1st week of October (1 class period 90 min.)                                               

Behavioral Objectives:

  1. TLW be able to describe in detail (using their own words) the preparations, events, and activities that take place in the celebration of Día de los Muertos;
  2. TLW develop a better understanding of specific cultural aspects (food, arts and crafts, music, religion, beliefs, etc.) characteristic of this celebration;
  3. TLW will write in their journals the feelings, reflections, observations, experiences, interests and questions that came to mind as they viewed the video.    


“La Ofrenda: The Days of the Dead” (1989) VHS video, visuals, journals, pencils, color pencils.

Anticipatory Set: (15 minutes)

This lesson will begin with a short introductory overview of what Día de los Muertos is, in addition to an explanation of the purpose and significance of this unit (by mentioning the unit learning goals).  In order to successfully administer this introduction, the teacher needs to read beforehand and explore the topic him/herself. It is also a good idea to tap into the students’ background and prior knowledge in order to assess what they already know about the celebration and what they would be interested in learning more about. This can be done as a whole class discussion, where the teacher can use the concept of a cluster and write students answers on the board. There are many visual aids (pictures, posters, etc) that the teacher can bring into the classroom and show to the students in order to set the tone, elicit their curiosity, and create the right environment in which the explore more about this celebration.

Activities: (75 minutes)

The sequence of activities in this lesson will follow the direct instruction lesson model proposed by Gagne and Briggs. For instance, the lesson begins with the attention getter, or anticipatory set described above, and will be followed by informing the learners of the unit goals and specific behavioral objectives of this lesson. The teacher will then stimulate recall in the form of the cluster exercise previous described, and also describe the material associated with the celebration by using the visual aids (posters, pictures, etc.). The viewing of the video will then proceed, where the students will become more perceptive and attentive observers. Following the video, there will be a class discussion, where students will be encouraged to participate and share their observations and insights. These activities will elicit the desired behavior (developing curiosity and interest in learning the material), while at the same time accomplishing the goals and objectives set. The students will then receive their writing journals where they will be instructed to describe and illustrate events and characteristic components of the celebration, in addition to recording reflections, feelings, interests, and questions they might have regarding Día de los Muertos. The teacher will monitor the students’ comments, behavior, and reactions at all times, and consequently provide feedback, support and encouragement as necessary.


Throughout this lesson, the most common methods of assessment will be kid watching and personal communication. The teacher will watch how students react to the video, ask them questions to check for understanding and for learning taking place, listen to what they contribute and respond during class discussions, and observe them while they write their journal entries. In addition, student self-assessment will be another form of assessment technique appropriate for this lesson, demonstrated in the use of writing journals where students internalize and process the information and knowledge they are acquiring, as well as where they express their reactions and feelings regarding what they are learning about.   

Extension Activities:

For homework, the students will be required to finish their journal entries and illustrations. If they chose, they may volunteer to share them the following day in a class discussion. Students will also be required to ask their parent(s), caregiver(s), or guardian(s) what they know about Día de los Muertos, and record this information (if any) in their journals as well. The students will also be asked to jot down in their journals any questions, notes, or interests they might have regarding the celebration, and other aspects of the holiday they would be interested to learn more about.


Andrade, Mary J. (1996). Through the Eyes of the Soul, Day of the Dead in Mexico. Global     Interprint: Hong Kong.



Día de los Muertos Unit: Lesson Plan #2                                                                       Geography of Mexico- 2nd week of October (1 class period, 60 minutes)

Behavioral Objectives:

1.      TLW map and label important regions, states, and places listed on a handout provided in class, and given a specific authentic assessment rubric; 

2.      TLW be able to describe the physical location of Mexico, in terms of the neighboring countries and surrounding bodies of water;

3.      TLW describe in their journals why the regions they mapped are significant to the celebration of Día de los Muertos, and compare and contrast the physical geography of Mexico to that of the United States.


Class social studies books, atlases, maps, Assignment guidelines handout, pencils, color pencils

Anticipatory Set: (15 minutes)

The teacher will begin this lesson with an overview of the world map, and then focus primarily on the Western Hemisphere and North America. The teacher will explain to students the focus of the unit, Día de los Muertos, and point out the country of origin of this celebration (Mexico) and where it is located on the map. Following this, the whole class will brainstorm on their background knowledge of Mexico and the celebration of Día de los Muertos, in addition to a discussion of what they are interested in learning. The teacher will write these comments and student responses on a table the students will be referring to occasionally as the unit progresses.

Activities: (45 minutes)

Following the activities previously mentioned, the next step is for students to find Mexico on the map and name the continent where it is located. As a class, students will be asked to observe two maps: one of Mexico and one of the U.S., and name some similarities and differences between the physical geographies of the two countries. In addition, the teacher will also point out several significant features exclusive of Mexico, such as volcanoes, rainforests, deserts, and pyramids. The students will then divide up into partners and begin mapping and labeling the places and regions listed on the handout. These include 6 key states, 5 bodies of water, and 5 miscellaneous regions. After the mapping task is completed, the students will then proceed to write their journal reflections, with a description of the geography of Mexico and how it compares to the United States, and complete with illustrations that accompany their entries.         



To check for evidence of student learning and comprehension, the teacher can assess the students by using personal communication (asking the students certain questions about the material), kid watching (observing the students working in pairs), and by reading their journal reflections (assessing whether students mentioned specific details on the comparison between Mexico’s geography to that of the United States). In addition, the authentic assessment instrument and grading scale rubric directly apply to the assessment of the mapping and labeling task. The primary trait scale shown above was created specifically to assess and grade this exercise.



Día de los Muertos Unit: Lesson Plan #3                                                                             History and Origins of the Holiday- 3rd week of October (1 class period, 90 minutes)

Behavioral Objectives:

  1. TLW identify at least three differences between Día de los Muertos and Halloween;
  2. TLW describe, in their journals, three important historical events in Mexican history;
  3. TLW write a reflection on the book that will be read in class, summarizing three key events and activities characteristic of the celebration.



The children’s book Days of the Dead, journals, posterboards, markers, pencils, color pencils.

Anticipatory Set: (45 minutes)

This lesson will begin with the teacher gathering the students together on the carpet and reading to them the children’s book, Days of the Dead. This activity works as an attention-getter because children love to have adults read to them interesting books, and this book particularly is a great selection for this lesson since it provides an real life examples of a Mexican families and communities preparing and carrying out the celebration. This book is full of photographs of adults and children both taking part in the important holiday. This book also serves to connect and tie together the information learned in previous lessons, such as the geography and historical events of Mexico, thereby following the direct and deductive instructional model.   

Activities & Procedures: (45 minutes)

Following the reading of this children’s book, the children will participate in a class discussion on the contents of the book related to the historical origins, events and activities associated with Día de los Muertos celebration. The emphasis of this activity will be on comparing and contrasting this holiday to Halloween, in an effort to eliminate misconceptions and prejudices that the children may have had prior to beginning the unit. They will be required to remember and use facts learned from previous lessons in their responses to the literature and in the class discussion. The teacher will posterboards taped to the chalkboard where he/she will be writing students’ comments and draw a table with two columns, one that has the words “Día de los Muertos” and the other column with the word “Halloween”. In this way, children will have a clearer picture of the differences between the two holidays. The students will then be instructed to return to their seats and write in their journals a response to three questions: 1) List three differences between Día de los Muertos and Halloween, 2) Describe three important historical events in Mexico’s history, and 3) List three things you learned about the celebration from the book read in class. The journals can also be completed for homework, and discussed the following day with students volunteering to share their answers to the questions.


Personal communication, kid watching, and student self- assessment are three appropriate assessment techniques for this lesson. The teacher can check for student understanding and comprehension of the material by asking them questions during the discussion and listening to their responses. The students’ contribution to class discussions are reliable signs of informal evidence of student learning, and a great means of assessing student knowledge and processing of information. In addition, the journal reflections and answers to the above questions are also useful in this respect.


Lasky, Kathryn. (1994). Days of the Dead. Hyperion Books for Children: New York.  


Día de los Muertos Unit: Lesson Plan #4                                                                                                   Spanish & Nahuatl Vocabulary Terms- 3rd week of October (1 class period, 60 minutes)

Behavioral Objectives:

1.      TLW identify and define all ten Spanish and Nahuatl vocabulary words associated with Día de los Muertos;

2.      TLW describe three major events and activities on Día de los Muertos that take place in the bilingual children’s book that will be read in class.

Materials: The children’s book “The Vigil of the Little Angels”, 4´6 index cards, rubber bands, pencils, student journals, color pencils.

Anticipatory Set:

This lesson will begin with the reading of the bilingual children’s book “The Vigil of the Little Angels” (La Velación de los Angelitos). The teacher will gather the students together on the carpet and read to them the book, both in English and Spanish. This is a great activity for students to be exposed to new vocabulary and learn words in a different language, although it is expected that most students in the classroom will already possess some knowledge of the Spanish language. This attention-getter activity will stimulate students’ interest and desire to learn a language that, in many ways, is similar to the English language.

Activities & Procedures:

After the teacher reads this book to the students, it will be followed by a class discussion on the major events and vocabulary words they will be required to learn, for the formal assessment to be administered at the end of the unit. The teacher will pass out a handout with a list of words the students will need to make flashcards out of, using the 4´6 index cards. The following are the total ten Spanish and Nahuatl vocabulary words the students will be required to learn: pan de muerto, calacas, calaveritas, ofrendas, frutas, velas, tumbas, antepasados, altar, cempasúchitl. The teacher will demonstrate to students how to complete their flashcards, by putting the Spanish word on one side and the English equivalent on the opposite side accompanied by a drawing/illustration of it. The students will be required to finish the ten flashcards for homework, to keep them together with a rubber band, and to learn them by the end of the unit. The students will also be required to write journal reflections describing three major events and activities they learned from the children’s book that was read to them at the start of the lesson. 


For this lesson, the teacher can use also rely on personal communication, kid watching, and student self-assessment when seeking evidence of student learning. In addition, performance assessment is also relevant here since the students are required to complete a task (creating a total of ten flashcards) they will keep and use as study aids for the final unit assessment.


Andrade, Mary J. (2001). The Vigil of the Little Angels: Day of the Dead in Mexico. La Oferta Review, Inc.: San Jose.  


Día de los Muertos Unit: Lesson Plan #5                                                                                                  Craft-making and Decorating the Altar- 4th week of October (3 class periods, 60 minutes each)

Behavioral Objectives:

  1. TLW make specific art pieces (masks, flowers, and skulls) and tissue paper decorations according to the steps and guidelines provided by the teacher;
  2. TLW incorporate all the knowledge acquired throughout the lessons and cooperatively create an altar as a class, complete with all the necessary components (pictures flowers, decorations, skulls, etc).
  3. TLW correctly use the objects and materials characteristic of the celebration to recreate the events and activities that take place on an actual celebration of Día de los Muertos.

Materials: tissue paper of a variety of colors (orange, yellow, red, and blue), scissors, string, photocopies of a paper skulls, crayons, water colors, plastic cups half-filled with water, pencils, glue, large wooden Popsicle sticks, color construction paper, black pens, brass fasteners, Vaseline, plaster, fabric cut into strips, water-based paints, and feathers.  

Anticipatory Set: (1st class period, 15 minutes)

The teacher will show the students various art pieces and decorations that they will learn to make as part of the visual art portion of this unit. The teacher will also show to students various pictures of actual altars, and explain to them that they will be required to create an altar cooperatively as a class activity, which they will display and invite other schoolmates and their parents to see. This will get students attention and stimulate interest and participation, since they will be allowed to actually make things for others to admire.


Activities & Procedures: (1st and 2nd class periods, 45 minutes each)

The teacher will need to provide the steps and guidelines on how to create these art projects (skulls, skeletons, masks, flowers and tissue paper decorations), in addition to modeling how to make these things. The classroom will be divided into centers, where students will be split into a total of four groups, and each group will work on a specific art project they will create. After each group member finishes creating their art piece, they will switch to the next table/center and begin working on the next art project/decoration. In the meantime, the teacher will be calling students one by one to the back table so that he/can can help each student make their own unique plaster mask, which they will use for the recreation of the Dia de los Muertos celebration in class. The following day, students will be responsible for creating and decorating the altar as a class project, and also for the role play of the celebration. The teacher will also bring fruit, pan de muerto and hot chocolate for students to eat and enjoy during the celebration.


The performance assessment technique will be used to assess the students’ ability to create art pieces and decorations, in addition to assess their participation in the recreation of the Día de los Muertos celebration, and their collaboration as a class in creating and decorating an altar. The final and formal assessment technique will consist of an exam (a combination of selected response and essay unit test) to be administered the day after the role play celebration in class. This test will test students on their knowledge of important historical dates on Mexico, the origins of the celebration, the Spanish and Nahuatl vocabulary words, in addition to events and activities that take place on this holiday. It sounds comprehensive, however after the month-long unit, students will be well- familiar with the topic. This final assessment is designed to incorporate everything learned throughout the month-long unit, allowing students to understand the totality and overall picture of how the individual lessons connect. 


Grupo CUICA. (1988). Dia de los Muertos: Disfrázate y Juega. SITESA: Mexico, D.F.

Hoyt-Goldsmith, Diane. (1994). Day of the Dead: A Mexican-American Celebration. Holiday House: New York.