Chad Kroll, Lisa Banton
Languages, World Cultures, Reading Informational Text, World History, Cultural Geography, Ethnic Studies
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
Middle School
6, 7, 8
  • Culture
  • Day of the Dead
  • Dia De Los Muertos
  • Spanish
  • Spanish American
  • License:
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
    Media Formats:

    Dia de Los Muertos - Day of the Dead

    Dia de Los Muertos - Day of the Dead


    El Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican celebration, it is a day to celebrate, remember and prepare special foods in honor of those who have died. There is one day dedicated to the children who have died and one day dedicated to adults. This lesson is designed for Spanish classes in Middle School to learn about the customs and traditions of Meso-American people.

    Each student does research at stations to find answers to questions that give the students an overview of Day of the Dead traditions. After the research is completed each sttudent has the opportunity to complete crafts that are centered around the two-day celebration. Customarily, the Spanish teacher will then display the craft products in the classroom since the lesson is usualy conducted around Dia de los Muertos.

    Dia de los Muertos Stations

    STATION #1: "Dia De Los Muertos" from Whoo Kazoo

    CGI Student Academy Award Gold Medal Winner Short Film HD


    ●     Use this website to watch the video:

    Answer these questions

    1. What pulls the little girl into the “other world” from the grave?
    2. At first, the little girl is afraid.  What causes her to go from a state of fear to one of happiness?
    3. Who is the lady skeleton?
    4. Why is the little girl happy at the end of the video?
    5. What do you think this video is saying about what happens after someone dies?

    Answer these questions

    1. What prehispanic ancient people first celebrated Dia de los Muertos? (Fact 1)
    2. Originally, this celebration took place on the 9th month of the ancient calendar.  What month would this be in today’s calendar? (Fact 1)
    3. The Day of the Dead takes place on 2 days.  Name these 2 days. (Fact 2)
    4. Many indigenous people in Mexico believe that the soul is eternal.  What else do they think the soul can do? (Fact 4)
    5. One of the most important traditions is the set up of an altar in memory of the deceased. What 4 elements of nature are on these altars? (Fact 6)
    6. The yellow marigold (cempasuchitl) is the official flower used to honor the dead.  It is yellow like the sun.  What does the yellow color represent?  (Fact 7)
    7. The night before the Day of the Dead families gather at the family graveyard for a vigil.  What do the families do to the graves of loved ones and what else do  the families do at the graveyard until dawn? (Fact 8)
    8. In the pre-Hispanic era, skulls were kept as trophies and displayed at rituals.  These skulls symbolized _____________ and _____________.  (Fact 10)
    9. ______________ these are the  little candy skulls made from sugar that are part of the Day of the Dead tradition.  In urban areas, these skulls are placed on the altars as an offering for deceased loved ones.  (Fact 12)
    10. Who is La Catrina? (Fact 13)

    Station # 3:  Encyclopedia Britannica


    ●     Go to CLEVER 


    ●     Click on the icon for  ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA

    ●     In the SEARCH BOX for MIDDLE, type in Day of the Dead

    ●     Read the article

    Answer these questions:

    1. Aside from Mexico, what 2 areas of the world celebrate Dia de los Muertos? In other areas of _______________________ & in the ___________________. (Paragraph 1)
    2. The Day of the Dead honors ___________________________. (Paragraph 1)
    3. Who was the goddess, also known as the Lady of the Dead, who led the holiday in Mexico many years ago? (Paragraph 2)
    4. When the Spanish arrived, the month long celebration was moved to coincide with with what 2 Roman Catholic holidays? ______________ Day and ______________ Day.  (Paragraph 2)
    5. In rural areas, families adorn grave sites with candles, marigolds, and the favorite foods of deceased relatives.  Why? (Paragraph 3)

    Station # 4:  Gale Research In Context - Foods of the Day of the Dead  

    Directions:  Go to CLEVER 


    ●     Click on Gale Research in Context (make sure you pick the correct Gale Database, there are 2- pick the ORANGE ONE!)

    ●     In the Search box, type “Dia de los Muertos”

    ●     From your choices, select the REFERENCE article for Dia De Los Muertos as pictured below:


    Read the article and answer the following questions:

    Food is a very important part of Day of the Dead festivities, and each food eaten or offered to the spirits has a special meaning.

    1. Foods and other items are offered to the spirits to keep them _________________________.
    2. In return for the food, the spirits provide ____________________, good ___________________, and more to their friends and family members.

    3. Sugar skulls are one of the most recognized Day of the Dead foods.   The colorful and elaborate skulls represent the ___________________________. They depict smiling faces and are decorated with the name of the deceased individual across the forehead of the skull.

    4. Sugar skulls are placed on the altars and at the grave sites of the deceased.  What is the Spanish word for these altars? _________________________________

    5. Another offering is a sweet bread known as ______________________________, which is sometimes baked in the shape of bones and covered in sugar. The bread is made from an egg-rich dough and sweetened with anise and oranges. Sometimes it is adorned with bones arranged in a circular manner to represent ________________________________.

    Station # 5: Influence of Day of the Dead in the US Culture Video-Book of Life. 

    Animated 'Book Of Life' Celebrates Día De Los Muertos (Mandalit Del Barco.  October 14, 2014. NPR’s Morning Edition)


    Answer these questions:

    1. Who is the director, animator, and the creator of The Book of Life? ________________________________.
    2. What is the setting (TIME AND PLACE) for this movie? ____________________ and ____________________
    3. Who are the 3 protagonists (main characters) in this movie?  _____________________, _________________, and,  ____________________.
    4. What is Papel Picado
    5. Who rules the Land of the Remembered? _________________________________
    6. Contrast the Land of the Remembered to the Land of the Forgotten. 
    7. After watching the movie trailer for The Book of the Dead, describe how this movie celebrates the main concept of Dia de Los Muertos. 

    Station 8:  Making Cempaxúchitl! 

    These flowers are used for decorations at the altars and the graves are Yellow Marigold, known in Mexico as cempaxúchitl.  The marigold symbolizes death and the brevity of life even though the flower was also believed to have medicinal properties (it was called the flower of 400 lives).



    1.    Take four to five sheets of the tissue paper and layer them (if you want multicolored flowers, use different colors).

    2.    Keeping the sheets layered, fold it like an accordion so it looks like a thin rectangle.

    3.     At the center of the rectangle, cut a small v-shaped notch on both sides.

    4.    Take the end of a pipe cleaner and twist it around the notch.

    5.    With the stem pointing straight down, gently pull up one layer of tissue into the center.

    6.    Pull up the remaining layers, one by one. Repeat for the other side of the flower.

    7.    Once all the layers are pulled up, fluff them in place to look natural

    Station 8:  Papel Picado

    Follow the instructions to creeate a beautiful Papel Picado.

    Cut festive Papel Picado:

    Station #9:  Make a paper plate Calaveras Mask!

    Follow these instructions to make a Calaveras mask!


    1.   Get a plate and a pencil. Estimate the center of the plate and mark it with your pencil.

     2.   Using the center dot as your guide, draw two lines intersecting at the center. One line should be vertical, while the other is horizontal, like a cross.

     3.     Next, draw two more line using all previous drawn lines as your guide. These two lines will mark an X on your plate and divide up the spaces between the first two lines.

    4.   This part sounds trickier than it is so stick with me. You are going to make your skellie cheeks. The first thing you will need to do is position the plate in front of you with the X lines looking like an X. Find the center points on other side of each diagonal line on the bottom half of the plate. Mark with your pencil and then draw an arc from point to point, these are your skellie cheeks!

    5.     From the top point of each skellie cheek, follow the curve of the paper plate to draw the rest of your skull and cut out.

    6.      Next up are the eyes and nose of your calavera. You can use a black marker. The nose of your mask should be an upside down heart and the eyes should be large orbs. Use the marker to mark the mouth of your calavera along the vertical ridges of the paper plate. Now it is time to decorate. most are evenly decorated aka symmetrical. The more color the better. Whatever you choose to do, have fun!