- Develop an understanding of how people in Mexico celebrate Las Posadas
- Identify Mexico on a world map and understand its geographic relation to the United States
- Listen to a story about the tradition of Las Posadas
- Create a representation of a poinsettia
- Act out the journey of Las Posadas
- Poinsettia plant
- World map
- Newspapers to cover tables
- Red tempera paint
- Yellow tempera paint
- Paper cups, one per student plus extra
- Paintbrushes, one per student
- 9" x 12" green construction paper, one sheet per student
- Painting smocks
- Black markers, one per small group
- Optional: Picture book about the poinsettia legend (I like to read The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola)
- Optional: Mexican Fiesta music and CD player
- Optional: Piñata for Las Posadas fiesta
Before Day 2
- Prepare a paint cup with red paint and a paintbrush for each student.
- Cover the desks or tables with newspapers in preparation for the painting project.
Before Day 3
- Prepare a paint cup with yellow paint. You will take this cup around the classroom for students to use.
Before Day 4
- Pre-arrange with nine classroom teachers or school offices that you will be acting out Las Posadas. This is a great opportunity to visit people like the principal, nurse, custodian, librarian, and first-grade teachers.
- Invite parents to help celebrate Las Posadas on Day 4. They can set out the poinsettia placemats and treats while you take the class on the Las Posadas journey. Request volunteers to make Mexican sweetbread, flan, or bring in flour tortillas with cinnamon and butter to serve.
- Laminate the painted poinsettia placemats before the last day.
Step 1: Gather students together and show them the poinsettia plant. Pass it around so they can have a good look. Ask them what they notice about the plant, including colors, shapes, textures, etc. Explain that the bright red petals of the flower are not petals at all; they are leaves. In the middle they will see a cluster of yellowish flowers called cyathia.
Step 2: Point out Mexico on the world map. Talk about Mexico's location in relation to the United States.
Step 3: Tell students that there is a legend, or very old story, about the poinsettia plant that comes from Mexico. Read aloud the picture book you chose, or tell the following legend of the poinsettia:
A poor Mexican girl had no gift to present at Christmas Eve Services. As she walked slowly to the chapel with her cousin, her heart was filled with sadness rather than joy. "I am sure that even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable," said her cousin. Not knowing what else to do, the little girl gathered a handful of weeds. Feeling saddened and embarrassed by her humble gift, she approached the church. Then she remembered her cousin's kind words. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds bloomed bright red, and everyone knew it was a Christmas miracle.
Step 1: Show students the poinsettia plant again. Tell them that they are going to make a representation of the bright red flower. Give each student a paint smock and a piece of green construction paper. Send students to their small-group tables. Walk students through the following directions before letting them begin the craft.
Step 2: Have students write their name in the top corner of the construction paper using the black markers.
Step 3: Give each student a paintbrush and a paper cup containing red paint. Ask students to paint one hand with the red paint and then press it on the top half of the paper, straight up at 12:00. Ask: How does the paint feel as you cover your hand?
Step 4: Have students make three more prints with their painted hand, one print at 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00 with the palm prints overlapping. This will create the red leaves of the poinsettia.
Step 5: Place the poinsettia prints aside to dry.
Step 1: Display the poinsettia plant. Divide students into small groups (or table groups) and hand back the poinsettia prints from the day before. Bring a cup of yellow paint to the first group.
Step 2: Ask each group member to recall one part of the story of the poinsettia legend. As they talk, have them dip one finger in the yellow paint and make ten yellow dots in the center of their "poinsettia" to represent the cyathia.
Step 3: Move to the next student and repeat with a different part of the poinsettia legend.
Step 4: When all students in the small group have retold the story, set the poinsettia paintings aside to dry.
Step 5: Repeat steps 2–4 with the remaining groups.
Step 6: After class, laminate the paintings (when dry!) to function as placemats to be used at the culminating fiesta.
Step 1: Show students the world map again and ask a volunteer to identify Mexico. Explain that most Mexicans celebrate Christmas. In Mexico, the people do not just celebrate for one night! The Christmas holiday of Las Posadas starts on December 16 and last nine nights. Each night families act out the journey that Mary and Joseph made to Bethlehem. They knock on doors asking for shelter (a place to keep warm and dry). At the last place, the families are welcomed in and celebrate with a piñata and fiesta (party).
Step 2: Tell students that we are going to have our own Las Posadas by acting out the journey at our school.
Step 3: Act out Las Posadas by visiting the various classrooms and offices you arranged beforehand. At each stop, have two or three children (so they all participate) knock on the door and ask, "Do you have shelter?"
Step 4: While you are traveling with the students, have your parent volunteers and classroom aide set out the poinsettia placemats with a Mexican sweetbread or flour tortilla with cinnamon and butter in your classroom.
Step 5: After the eighth stop of the journey, return to your own classroom and knock on the door. Parents should surprise the students by answering the door and saying, "Yes, we have room. Come in! Come in!"
Step 6: Celebrate with the treats and the piñata. Play traditional music from Mexico.
Supporting All Learners
Some children may need assistance with painting their hand.
Make a piñata beforehand for the fiesta using a large balloon and papier-mâché. This can be a group project at a center with a parent volunteer or instructional aide. Simple glue recipe: mix two parts white glue with one part warm water. Stir well. Dip strips of newspaper in the glue mixture and apply it one piece at a time to the balloon. When it is dry, have students glue tissue paper to it. Cut a small hole at the top to insert candy or healthy snacks.
Las Posadas Snacks
Prepare the treats for Las Posadas in the classroom with students and parent volunteers. Make Mexican sweetbread, flan, and tortillas. Incorporate measuring skills.
Ask families to bring in treats for the fiesta and to help with the last stop of Las Posadas.
- Make a poinsettia placemat
- Participate in a re-enactment of Las Posadas
- Were students able to retell the legend of the poinsettia?
- Were students successful with making their poinsettia placemat?
- Did students participate in Las Posadas?
- Were students engaged and on task the entire time?
- How might I do this lesson differently next time?
- Observe student's fine motor skill coordination during painting.
- Listen to the oral language skills during the small group retelling of the poinsettia legend.