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Day of the Dead Art Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

How does art factor into the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday? This lesson plan uses a text lesson to explain the significance of Mexican folk art in regard to the holiday. An activity gives students a chance to create sugar art in the Day of the Dead style.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • summarize the history and significance of the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday
  • explain how ancestors are honored through art in Mexico
  • describe alfeñique sugar art and its role in the Day of the Dead

Length

60 to 90 minutes

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.2

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.

Materials

  • Assorted images of Day of the Dead sugar skulls
  • Full-color paper copies of the text lesson Alfeñique: Sugar Art Celebrating the Day of the Dead
  • A worksheet created using the quiz from the associated text lesson
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Bowls
  • Spoons
  • Food coloring
  • Candy molds
  • Tubes of decorating frosting in assorted colors
  • Glitter

Instructions

  • Begin by displaying the images of the Day of the Dead sugar skulls for the class.
    • Have any of you seen anything like these before?
    • Do you know what they represent?
  • Pass out the paper copies of the text lesson, one per student.
  • Have the students read the introduction and 'The Return of the Dead' section of the text lesson.
    • What is the Day of the Dead?
    • Where is it celebrated?
  • Tell the class to read the 'A Holiday for the Dead and the Living' section of the text lesson.
    • When is the Day of the Dead celebrated?
    • What are the origins of the Day of the Dead?
    • How do people honor their departed loved ones on this holiday through art?
  • Ask the class to read the 'Sugar Art and the Day of the Dead' section of the text lesson.
    • What is the Spanish word for sugar?
    • How do the shapes of the alfeñique honor lost ancestors?
    • How is the sugar art used in the Day of the Dead celebration?
    • What does sugar art tell us about the Mexican culture?
  • Have the students read the 'Lesson Summary' section of the text lesson.
  • Pass out the worksheet to the class.
  • Have students use the text lesson as a guide in the completion of the worksheet.
  • When all students have finished the worksheet, review each question and answer with the class.

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