Discussion and Activity Board

Below are several suggestions for discussion and activities for your students that would not only teach them cultural knowledge about Día de los Muertos but also help to develop finer points of research, language development, speaking and writing abilities in both complex and simple ways. While being both creative and fun the students will develop in new and interesting ways. The discussion and activities are broken down by school age to facilitate in teaching styles and modes.

For high school students:

  1. Discuss with your students influential Mexican/Mexican American artists (e.g. Orozco, Siqueiros, etc.), the themes and mediums that the artists use and the relation to their Mexican heritage. Then have the students create their own art in the style of one of the artists and have them present how their work relates to the artists.
  2. Set up a discussion among the students about the relation between tourism and local cultures especially in relation to Día de los Muertos. What are the pros and cons of increased tourism? Have them read Mexico’s Día de los muertos celebration: Is it dying? and discuss not only the content of the article but also the language of the article that reveal author biases or neutrality. Also discuss cultural appropriations (article discussing cultural appropriations) and Día de los Muertos in regards to the article.
  3. Discuss the article about Día de los Muertos and the Chican@ Movement during the 1970s: Chicanos en Mictlán: Día de los Muertos. How does Día de los Muertos function in contemporary communities in the United States? Decorate the classroom with what students think how Chican@ artists today would make posters for Día de los muertos (utilize Self-Help Graphics) Encourage any students who wish to do more research on Día de los Muertos and the Chican@ movement.
  4. Watch the documentary Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos). Discuss origins of the celebration and its function to both families and communities.
  5. Do any of the above and have the students draft comments to this post. Have them engage and start discussions with others relating to any of the topics above.

For middle school students:

  1. Have your students research and give presentations on influential Mexican artists (e.g. Kahlo, Siqueiros, etc.) AND/OR research and create artwork influenced by these artists. In what ways are their artwork similar to those by the Mexican/Mexican American artists. Let them discuss what interested them about the artists and why.
  2. Discuss and present the regional variations of Día de los Muertos and have the students choose which place they would like to visit to see Día de los Muertos. Engage the students by having them defend and support their reasons.
  3. Let the students read the Introduction and History section of Lawndale Art Center’s Teacher Resource Page. How is Día de los Muertos different than Halloween? How is it a different celebration? OR Teach your students about Aztec Codices and show them examples. (Link to information on codices). Have a discussion about what history is and how history is made and constructed. Then have your students create their own codices about their own family history and/or one explaining what is Día de los Muertos.
  4. Watch the documentary Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos). How is Día de los Muertos celebrated in the U.S.? Let the students create their own altars and ofrendas based on what they watched in the documentary.
  5. Have your class collaborate to submit a comment to this Discussion and Activity Board. What questions do your students have about Día de los Muertos? What do they like about the celebration? Take a picture of your classes’ Día de los Muertos artwork and post it to this page.

For elementary school students:

  1. Show your students the art of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera (Links to information on Kahlo and Rivera). Then have your students make altars or ofrendas to celebrate the life and works of the two artists.
  2. Create papel picado to celebrate Día de los Muertos! Directions and background information can be found here.
  3. Teach your students about Aztec Codices and show them examples. (Link to information on codices). Then have your students create their own codices about their own family and/or one explaining what is Día de los Muertos.
  4. Choose selections from the documentary Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) to show your classes. Let your students write a short summary about the selections and accompany the summaries with images they draw to demonstrate Día de los Muertos.
  5. Have your class collaborate to submit a comment to this Discussion and Activity Board. What questions do your students have about Día de los Muertos? What do they like about the celebration? Take a picture of your classes’ Día de los Muertos artwork and post it to this page.

For pre-k and younger:

  1. Let your students make papel picado. Directions and background information can be found here. This is a chance not only to talk about an aspect of Mexican culture but also shapes and colors.
  2. Motor skills and learning with pan de los muertos. Bake with your students using the link provided to engage the students’ motor and speaking skills. Information and directions here.
  3. Take a picture of your classes’ Día de los Muertos artwork and post it to this page.
  4. Teach your students several basic Spanish vocabulary based on Día de los Muertos. The following list is a small selection of possible words:
  • el día-day
  • el pan-bread
  • el papel-paper
  • la familia-family
  • el amigo/la amiga-friend
  • la fiesta-party
  • rojo-red, anaranjado-orange, amarillo-yellow, verde-green, azul-blue, morado-purple, negro-black, blanco-white
  • uno-one, dos-two, tres-three, cuatro-four, cinco-five, seis-six, siete-seven, ocho-eight, nueve-nine, diez-ten

There are also a variety of ways teachers and students can participate in our events:

  • Your school group’s artwork can be featured in Lawndale’s Mezzanine and Cavnar galleries during the months of October and November.  Please contact Emily Link for more details by calling 713.528.5858 or through email.
  • Introduce your students to the Día de los Muertos tradition by scheduling a tour with the Lawndale staff.
  • Visit our Day of the Dead Teacher’s Resource Page assembled by Carrie Green Markello and updated in 2010 by Christopher Huynh.  This page serves as an excellent resource for students and teachers interested in learning about the history and traditions of this unique holiday.
  • Bring personal items for Lawndale’s community altar.
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3 Responses to Discussion and Activity Board

  1. Pingback: Challenge 4! | Lawndale Art Center Teachers Resource Page

  2. Pingback: Challenge 3! | Lawndale Art Center Teachers Resource Page

  3. Pingback: Challenge 1! | Lawndale Art Center Teachers Resource Page

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