It's Cinco Time!

Give five cheers for Cinco de Mayo, the May 5 holiday that's celebrated each year in Mexico with colorful parades and picnics. Since this historic date is the fifth day of the fifth month, why not celebrate with counting by fives? Try this little routine to reinforce clock skills. Call a student's name and ask, "What time is it?" The student will then answer with the time: for instance, "9:30." Then the class will chant, "No, it's cinco time!" The student must count to the next hour by fives starting with the time on the clock ("9:30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, and 10:00!"). The class can quietly clap along with the count. Make the announcement spontaneously throughout the day, and reward five stickers for perfect five counting. For older students, try counting backwards!

Maracas de Mexico

Maracas are colorful, round instruments shaken to the beat of traditional Mexican Mariachi music. Your class can make their own with materials brought from home. Have each student bring in one cardboard paper-towel roll (which you will cut in half), or two toilet-tissue rolls, to make a pair of maracas. For each maraca, show students how to tape closed one end of a tube, drop in a cup or two of dried beans, and tape the other end. Next, challenge students to use their fractions knowledge to paint each of the maracas like the Mexican flag, with each third a different color: red, white, and green. Students can use their maracas during a classroom Beat Parade.

Talavera Doorway

Hand-painted Talavera tiles adorn doorways all over Mexico. Reinforce symmetry skills with your students by inviting them to make their own "tiles" out of simple craft materials. Give each student a 5- by 5-inch square piece of white cardboard, and provide the class with a selection of multicolored tissue paper. Have students decorate their squares with symmetrical designs by cutting and gluing down pieces of tissue paper into designs. Remind students that their designs must mirror each other on the top, bottom and sides of their "tiles," and that the colors they choose must also be symmetrical. When students' creations are complete, arrange around your classroom doorway.

Numero Nachos

For an authentic snack — and a fun counting and measurement lesson at the same time — invite students to make their own nachos. Provide an ample amount of nacho chips of all shapes and colors, plus lots of other traditional (and not-so-traditional) ingredients. Place the ingredients within reach of the students, and divide the class into small groups. Give each group a plastic bowl, a plastic spoon that will function as a "teaspoon," and a clear plastic cup with permanent marker lines delineating quarter, half, and three-quarter cup measures. Then, write your own nachos "recipe" on the board. For example: 20 blue chips, 10 round chips, 5 red-hot chips, 1/2 cup orange cheese, 1/4 cup white cheese, 2 tsp. tomatoes, 3 tsp. lettuce, 5 tsp. salsa, 2 tsp. sour cream, 1 tsp. guacamole. The children will love measuring it out, then chowing down!

"Square" Dance

Throw down your sombrero (a wide-brimmed straw hat) and do the "Mexican Hat Dance!" Traditionally, a Mexican hat dancer moves in a circle around a hat, but you can try this twist that incorporates simple shape geometry. Invite students to take turns dancing a square, octagon, or any shape they've learned, around a sombrero or other hat. The first classmate to guess the shape gets a turn to dance. To teach your students the "Mexican Hat Dance!", see these detailed steps.

The Beat Parade

Culminate your activities with a classroom beat parade! Divide the class into the traditional Cinco de Mayo parading groups of high-stepping soldiers, strolling "young ladies," clapping and jumping "little children," and Mariachi band members who shake their maracas or play any other instruments you may have. Clear a path, hum a marching tune, and parade around the classroom. You might also locate some traditional Mariachi music for students to march to.

For an easy way to teach your students counting out rhythms (and how musical notes are actually fractions), try these step-by-step instructions from Music Notes Inc. Then, armed with your new knowledge, ask your "soldier" paraders to march in beats of 4, the "young ladies" in beats of 2, the "little children" in beats of 8, and the band members in beats of 16.