Day of the Dead Activities and Art Projects
The Day of the Dead is a meaningful cultural tradition, and information about the celebration has an important place in elementary Spanish classes. The Day of the Dead activities below help students understand the Day of the Dead and learn the language associated with the tradition.
Day of the Dead activities align with ACTFL's World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages. Cultures Standard 2.1 reads: Relating Cultural Practices to Perspectives: Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the relationship between the practices and perspectives of the cultures studied. As students learn about the Day of the Dead, they understand how the tradition is connected to cultural perspectives on family and death.
Day of the Dead Activities: Vocabulary
The vocabulary associated with Día de los Muertos includes words that students will not use on a regular basis. Therefore, it is important to relate the new vocabulary to the context of the celebration. The song, video and picture dictionary below teach Day of the Dead vocabulary in a meaningful way. This is much more effective and memorable than giving vocabulary lists without the context!
Day of the Dead Video
This Day of the Dead music video shows students how a family honors a loved one who has died. By focusing on one child and her family, the video and song convey the emotions behind the tradition. The significance of the celebration is reinforced in the last line of the song.
• Watch the video all the way through once so students can understand the story and listen to the song.
• The second time, pause the video to ask questions. If students have difficulty answering, offer them choices. For example:
¿En qué fechas se celebra El Día de Muertos? ¿ El uno y dos de noviembre o el uno y dos de diciembre?
¿En qué país se celebra? ¿En México o en España?
¿Qué lleva la gente al cementerio? ¿Lleva flores o lleva piñatas?
¿Con qué decora la gente los altares? ¿Con velas y fotos o con globos?
¿Por qué hacen estas cosas? ¿Para recordar o para olvidar?
Day of the Dead Song
The song, Día de los Muertos, has a lyric sheet with pictures. You can find the song and illustrated lyrics here.
Try Day of the Dead activities like these:
• Sing along with the song.
• Use the lyric sheet to ask the questions listed above.
• Describe illustrations and have students point to the picture you are describing.
• Give instructions for students to follow. For example, En el mapa, coloreen el país de México de color verde, rojo y blanco. Coloreen las flores en el altar de color naranja. Encierren en un círculo las calaveras.
• Have students color the illustrations and describe the picture to a classmate.
Day of the Dead Picture Dictionary
Use this printable 5-page picture dictionary as a reference and to do Day of the Dead activities such as:
• Have students color the drawings and present the colored altar to a classmate. Provide a frame such as: La cesta de fruta es de color __________. El papel picado es de color __________.
• Review body parts using the drawing of Los esqueletos bailando on page 5 of the PDF. You can do this with oral instructions (Miren el esqueleto con el sombrero. Colorea de color verde sus dos pies.) or have students label the parts.
Day of the Dead Interactive Games
Interactive online games give students a chance to practice key vocabulary independently. You can find 3 games that use Día de los Muertos words at different levels, and also expose students to correct pronunciation. The first of the games, a drag and match, algins with 1.2 (Interpretive Communication) of ACTFL's World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages. Playing these interactive games, students can build the competence and confidence they need to do other Day of the Dead activities.
Day of the Dead Activities: Art Projects
Bring the vibrant colors of Día de los Muertos into your classroom with these art projects. All of these have free printable templates.
• MamiTalks has 3 papel picado templates at different levels of difficulty. Students in the early grades can easily do the most simple one. The Spanish version of the article follows the English so you can also share the information, supply list and instructions in Spanish.
• There are 3 easy papel picado templates from Cultural Care. The link to the templates is in the first line of the article.
• The first page of this Día de los Muertos picture dictionary has a cute, easy-to-color calavera.
• Tried and True also two full-page calavera designs for kids to color. Scroll to the bottom of the post for both downloads.
• Learn Create Love has two templates for calaveras. One template has designs and the other is blank for kids to design their own.
Use these Day of the Dead activities in your classroom to give students the language they need to understand and appreciate this beautiful tradition!