Students will learn about the art, culture, traditions, and people of Mexico with these lessons and classroom craft ideas, like skeleton puppets and Frida Kahlo-styled self portraits.
- 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
- Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston
- Drawing paper, one sheet per student
- Colored pencils or crayons
- Dem Bones by Bob Barner
- 6-inch white paper plates, one per student
- White lunch-size paper bags, one per student
- White paper
- Paper cutter or scissors
- Black crayons
- The Spirit of Tío Fernando by Janice Levy
- Feathers, markers, sequins, and glitter
- Optional: Recording of "Dem Bones" by Singlish
- Cut the white paper into 1 1/2- by 4-inch strips. You will need four strips per student.
- Decorate a designated Day of the Dead bulletin board to display students' work.
- Optional: If you will be playing "Dem Bones" by Singlish, set up the CD player or computer and speakers before class on Day 2.
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 aloud to students.
Step 2: Have students draw their favorite picture from the book.
Step 3: Seat students in a share circle to show each other what they drew.
Step 4: Display students' 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 students go back to their seats and explain that they will be creating skeleton puppets.
Step 3: Give each student a small white paper plate and a white paper bag.
Step 4: Instruct students to glue the paper plate to the bottom flap of the bag. Make sure the bag opens at the bottom so the students can use it as a puppet.
Step 5: Have students use a black crayon to make large dots for the eyes, a triangle for the nose, and a smiley-face for the mouth.
Step 6: Ask students to draw circles down the center of the paper bag. Explain that this represents the backbone or vertebrae.
Step 7: Have students add horizontal straight lines on each side of the circles for the rib cage.
Step 8: Have students draw the hip bone as two small circles near the base of the white paper bag. Then they should draw an oval encasing the two circles to represent the pelvic bone.
Step 9: Hand each student four pieces of 1 1/2" x 4" white paper. Ask students to draw straight lines down each of the four pieces of white paper. Explain that these will be the arm and leg bones.
Step 10: Have students add smaller straight lines at one end of each white paper strips to represent the fingers and toes.
Step 11: Help students glue the white paper strips to the white paper bag, placing two of the pieces to the side of the bag for arms and the other two pieces at the open bottom of the bag for legs.
Teaching Tip: As you complete each step, recite each bone that was drawn.
Step 12: Collect students' puppets to use later.
Step 1: Read aloud The Spirit of Tío 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
- English-language learners can be seated next to English-only students.
- More advanced learners can try labeling the different parts of the skeletal structure.
- Make the craft more complex by doubling or tripling the number of white paper strips to account for knee, elbow, wrist, and ankle joints. Attach the bones with brass fasteners so the joints are moveable. This will allow for more dancing mobility.
- Make skeletons by using toothpicks, Q-tips, white chalk, and tongue depressors on black paper.
- Read the book Rattle Your Bones by Andrea Griffing Zimmerman 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 students try to put the pieces together. Practice naming each bone.
Invite parents to take children to a natural history museum to see real bones.
- Practice naming the different bones and how they are connected to one another.
- Construct a paper skeleton puppet.
- Were students able to follow directions when drawing the bones?
- Did students get confused when identifying the bones?
- Were students on task decorating their dancing skeletons?
- Can students recall one interesting fact about Day of the Dead?
- Can 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?