Dancing Skeleton Puppets
With this lesson, students are introduced to the Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead, while learning about the human skeleton.
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2
- Unit Plan:
The students will learn about the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead and the human skeletal structure.
- Learn the importance of having bones.
- Identify the different bones that we have in our body.
- Learn about the Mexican tradition Day of the Dead.
- Learn how to make a skeleton and decorate it.
Step 1: Before you read the story Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston, have students do a picture walk of the book (discuss what is going on in each picture). Then read the story to the students.
Step 2: Have students redraw their favorite picture from the book.
Step 3: Seat students in a share circle to show each other what they drew.
Step 4: Display pictures on the Day of the Dead bulletin board.
Step 1: Sing "Dem Bones" by Singlish. Point to each body part as it's mentioned in the song. Read Dem Bones by Bob Barner. Discuss why it is important to have bones.
Step 2: Have the students go back to their seats to create their skeleton puppets:
- Give each student a small white paper plate, a white paper bag, and four pieces of 1 1/2" x 4" white paper.
- Glue the paper plate to the flap of the bag. Make sure the bag opens at the bottom so the students can use it as a puppet.
- Have students use the black crayon to make large dots for the eyes, a triangle for the nose, and a smiley-face for the mouth.
- Ask students to draw circles down the center of the paper bag and horizontal straight lines on each side of the circles for the vertebrae.
- Have students draw the hip bone with two circles near the base at the bottom of the white paper bag draw.
- Ask students to draw straight lines down each of the four pieces of white paper for the arm and leg bones, then add smaller straight lights for the fingers and toes.
- Glue on the pieces two of the pieces to the side of the bag and the other two pieces at the bottom.
Tip: As you complete each step, recite each bone that was drawn.
Step 1: Read The Spirit of Tio Fernando by Janice Levy and discuss the story.
Step 2: Invite students to decorate their Day of the Dead skeleton puppets with any craft item in your classroom, like feathers, glitter, sequins, and markers.
Optional: Ask students to share facts about the Day of the Dead with each other while they decorate their skeleton puppets.
Supporting All Learners
More advanced learners can try labeling the different parts of the skeletal structure. English-language learners can be seated next to English-only students.
- Make skeletons by using toothpicks, Q-tips, white chalk, and tongue depressor on black paper.
- Read the book Rattle Your Bones and have students use white chalk on black paper to draw silly skeletons doing funny things such as swimming or riding a motorcycle.
- Use oil pastels to draw pictures representing the Day of the Dead on black paper.
- Bring in plastic bones and have the students try to put the pieces together. Practice naming each bone.
Practice naming the different bones and how they are connected to one another.
Invite parents to take children to a natural history museum to see real bones.
- Were the students able to follow directions when drawing the bones?
- Did the students get confused on identifying the bones?
- Were the students on task decorating their dancing skeletons?
- Can the students recall one interesting fact about Day of the Dead?
- Can the students identify the bones that have been taught, such as foot bone, ankle bone, leg bone, knee bone, thigh bone, hip bone, back bone, shoulder bone, neck bone, and head bone?