Day of the Dead 5 Mini Activities for High School Spanish
Día de los muertos seems like it is everywhere in pop culture in recent years - skull figurines at Target, in the movies - think James Bond's Spectre scene, and on the fall cookies they sell at Starbucks too. I love teaching a formal cultural lesson on Day of the Dead with my high school Spanish classes, but this holiday is so fun, it also warrants some fun mini activities that would be great for extra credit, homework choice options, etc. Here are 5 of my favorite short Day of the Dead activities for high schoolers:
1. Day of the Dead Me App
Students download the fun, FREE Day of the Dead Me app on their iPhones or iPads and can decorate their own selfies to look like a Día de Muertos calavera. If you use a class Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook account, you might ask students to share their photos and tag your teacher account, or use an original class hashtag, like #CraneCalaveras to see them all together. Here's mine:
2. Explore the Controversy Regarding Disney’s Effort to Trademark “Day of the Dead”
I love pushing students to explore the 2013 controversy, when Disney set forth to trademark the term “Day of the Dead”. With beginning level students, I use authentic English texts like those from CNN, The Flama, LA Times, etc. (lots more via Google search!). I am ok with using English texts because it is a cultural activity and students can get through the material more quickly in English, this is a "mini" activity after all. I've had students work in small groups to read the articles collectively, or each individually, and then summarize together with a jigsaw structure. This activity is especially fun, as the Disney movie Coco is slated to come out next year.
3. Watch “The Book of Life”
This 2014 animated feature is so beautifully done and a great way to informally learn about the holiday in a fun way. Consider offering an extra credit opportunity outside of class for students to watch the movie and submit a 1 paragraph written review of the film. Or offer an after school movie showing in your classroom - make pop corn, move the desks out and lay down blankets, so students can watch the film together. Or if you have time to show the film in class, or even to show the trailer, it could prompt a meaningful discussion about the nature of this holiday, important practices, symbols, and the history.
4. Make a Day of the Dead Glyph
Glyphs are a fun way for students to read in the target language, while creating their own unique “glyph” or symbol that conveys unique information about a given student in a purely visual form. I have students create their own glyph using a simple Day of the Dead image that one of my (artistically gifted!) old students drew for me (see my pic below). They read through the Spanish-language prompts to select the colors that best describe them and then color in their glyph accordingly. These make for a really lovely bulletin board! I’ve also extended the activity on a second and even third day with another "mini" activity - having students work in pairs to interpret their peers’ glyphs. What does your glyph say about you? They then describe their peer in the target language verbally or in writing. I sell these in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, but you can easily make your own versions using simple language prompts!
5. Day of the Dead Word of the Day
For the 10 days leading up to November 1st and 2nd, I highlight a “word of the day” relating to Día de Muertos. For example:
Pan de muerto
Calaveritas de azúcar
Students are responsible for writing their own definition and/or creating a visual to accompany each term. They can submit these at the end of the 10 days for extra credit or as a graded assignment. This is an easy bell work prompt, fast finisher activity, or way to fill in if you find you have extra time in a given class period. I’ve had students get quite creative with these, taking funny photos to depict the words, using creative handwriting to draw out the term, etc. Consider offering even more points or an extra incentive like an award for the most creative submissions, in order to inspire unique work. Have students submit work in a notebook, digitally, through your class' social media page or by using your hashtag, or even have them make larger visuals and use them to create a bulletin board. Lots of possibilities!