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As the end of October rapidly approaches, so too does the Mexican holiday of Dia de Los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. An old Mexican tradition, the Day of the Dead is when people take the time to honor family and friends who have died. The holiday is usually celebrated on the first or second of November and celebrated by more and more people every year since it is a joyful, colorful, and beautiful holiday.
At schools, celebrating holidays from around the world is a great way to familiarize your class with cultures, traditions, and diversity. It is a particularly great way to encourage the application of language skills, if the kids are taking Spanish curriculum lessons or are on a language learning track. Learning a second language has many benefits (for instance, Spanish is the official language of 21 different countries, making it a very helpful language to know).
But, language cannot be divorced from culture, which is why it’s a great idea to encourage the celebration of important holidays in Spanish cultures. La Dia de Los Muertos offers a perfect example for a preschool Spanish curriculum because it is so colorful and unique. Check out some ways your can celebrate the Day of the Dead with your elementary or preschool Spanish class.
Have your students cut out flowers and paper candles to make their own beautiful altars for pets, grandparents, or other family members who have passed. Those who may not have experienced such a loss can make an altar for a famous Spanish figure, like Frida Kahlo or Cesar Chavez.
Have a Feast
Use the holiday as an excuse to feast! Make or bring in traditional Mexican foods, like guacamole, mole sauces, tamales, and more. Don’t forget Calaveras, Mexican sugar skulls, either. Eating together is a great chance to practice social and food vocabulary and familiarize your students with Mexican culture.
Get festive and have your students decorate the whole classroom with bright and colorful flags, posters, and banners for the holiday. Make flowers of paper and tissue paper, or hang up lights.
Reading Spanish story books and singing songs are other great ways to get your students involved with the holiday! Celebrating the Day of the Dead is a perfect and fun way to get your students more involved in a preschool Spanish curriculum!
Hello elementary Spanish bloggers. I have some exciting news. Sonrisas co-founder, Blue Lindner, has published an article in “Learning Languages” the professional journal of the National Network for Early Language Learning (Nnell). For those of you that don’t know Nnell, it is an invaluable resource for educators, parents and policymakers advocating for K-8 programs of excellence in second language education. Nnell’s mission is to provide leadership in support of successful early language learning and teaching.
“Learning Languages”, the journal of the National Network for Early Language Learning (NNELL), serves the profession by providing a medium for the sharing of information, ideas, and concerns among teachers, administrators, researchers, and others interested in the early learning of World languages.
Blue’s article is entitled “Eat, Drink, Play, Discover: Engaging the Imagination Through the Senses to Discover Spanish-speaking Cultures” and is published in the Spring 2010 issue (Volume 15, Issue 2) of “Learning Languages” which came out just this last month. In her article Blue discusses how a teacher can use her students’ senses to engage their imaginations in order to give them a cultural experience rather that just teaching them about culture. She also points out that teaching culture in this way actually addresses the standards more deeply than simply teaching about culture.
I am quite proud of Blue and her article. Not only is she my business partner and wife, but she is also an excellent writer. Some of the articles in “Learning Languages” can be pedagogically overwhelming, but Blue’s article is well-written, easy to read, and interesting. I think that in the world of elementary language teaching we are definitely seeing a shift in focus on the importance of teaching culture and its effectiveness in teaching language.
After reading the article, leave us a comment and let us know what you think. We would love to hear from you!
As we plan Spanish Camp, we are lucky enough to live in a small community that was a part of Mexico at one time. For this reason we have many old timers whose first language was Spanish. We are inviting several of them to come and talk about their experiences growing up here, and how the community has changed or remained the same. It occured to me that a good number of small towns and cities alike in our country have Spanish language heritage with members of each community that can share this local culture with the children learning Spanish.
Yesterday, when I started my Cinco de Mayo lesson, I was reminded of how kids generally like a good battle. Aside from all of the traditional cultural elements of the holiday, kids like hearing about the battle of Puebla and how the Mexicans were outnumbered and outgunned, but they still beat the French. They really get fired up about it. I like to make the point to my students that if the French would have won, then we probably would not be learning Spanish but rather French. I also tell them about the popularity of the holiday in the United States, and how we should be very thankful to the Mexicans for winning the battle of Puebla because if the French would have conquered Mexico, then they probably would have tried to conquer the United States as well. Cinco de Mayo presents so many learning opportunities for elementary Spanish students.
I started the cultural lessons with one of my beginner’s classes this week. I was reminded of how much children’s imaginations are engaged by simply talking about another place, another country and showing them a globe or a map and talking about what that country is like or how you might travel there. It is so fun to see their curiosity and watch their imaginations open up.