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 that the art form of paper cutting is from Mexico
- Identify and make an ABAB pattern
- Make a Mexican paper cutting
- Chart paper and markers
- Look What Came From Mexico by Miles Harvey
- Green, red, and white construction paper or cardstock
- 15.5- x 20-inch red, white, and green tissue paper, at least one sheet per student, plus extras
- 12- x 18-inch sheets of construction paper in various colors, one per student
- Yarn or string
- Colors of Mexico by Lynn Ainsworth Olawsky
- Paper clips, one per student
- Optional: KWL Chart printable
- Gather 15.5- x 20-inch sheets of tissue paper in green, red, and white (the colors of the Mexican flag). Fold each sheet of tissue paper in half, then fold in half again, and finally fold in half a third time. This should result in a rectangular shape. Prepare many extras just in case students need to start over.
- Using construction paper or cardstock, cut out red triangles, green squares, and white circles. These should be large enough for students to stand on during the Pattern Stomp Game.
- For each student, roll up one 12- x 18-inch piece of construction paper horizontally. Tape the edges closed so you 18-inch-long tubes.
- Cut the yarn or string into pieces approximately 50 inches long. Each student will need one piece.
- Write a KWL chart on a sheet of chart paper. The chart should be divided into three columns: K = what you know; W = what you want to learn; and L = what you learned. See the KWL Chart printable for an example.
Step 1: Begin this unit by completing a KWL chart with the class. Ask students "What do you know about Mexico?" Then ask students "What would you like to learn about Mexico?"
Note: Accessing prior knowledge is so important because it is one way to drive your instruction of the unit. When writing down the students' responses, I always write their names next to what they said and I try to include a quick draw. Not only does it improve their self-esteem, but it's also a great resource for the students to look at during journal time.
Step 2: Read the book Look What Came From Mexico by Miles Harvey aloud to the class. Afterward, see if any of the questions from the KWL chart can be answered now. If yes, list the answers under the L part of the chart. ("What did you learn?")
Step 3: Focus on Mexican folk art. Show students an example of a Mexican paper cutting. Discuss what they see in the cutting: color, patterns, and shapes.
Step 4: Play the Pattern Stomp Game with students. Place a red triangle down on the ground, and then a green square, red triangle, green square, etc. Have students stand in a line and say the pattern as they are stomping on the shape. Add a white circle into the pattern. This exposure will be beneficial to the students later, when they are making patterns with their tissue paper.
Step 5: Model cutting the folded tissue paper.
- Draw an ABAB pattern onto the folded tissue paper all around the paper's edges.
- Cut out the pattern with scissors. I usually cut a simple pattern, like triangle, square, triangle, square, etc.
- Fold the tissue paper in half and cut more little triangles and squares along the crease of the fold.
- Open the tissue paper to its original size. Students are amazed to see how beautiful the paper cutting came out!
Step 6: Give each student their favorite color tissue paper and have them cut their sheet the way you modeled. Help students carefully open their tissue paper to reveal their patterns.
Step 7: Hand out the construction paper tubes you prepared ahead of time. Have students tape their paper cutting horizontally to the rolled up construction paper. Put a piece of yarn through the hole of the construction paper roll. Tie the yarn at the top.
Step 1: Read the book Colors of Mexico by Lynn Ainsworth Olawsky aloud to the class. Discuss which color was their favorite color.
Step 2: Throughout the rest of the day, when the students are at centers, call back each student one at a time to tell you something that they learned about Mexico.
Step 3: Type up the students' responses and glue each response to the student's paper cutting.
Step 4: When all is finished, open a paper clip and attach it to the yarn so that you can hang the paper cuttings from your classroom ceiling.
Supporting All Learners
To meet different learning styles, have some students make a more difficult pattern around the edges of the tissue paper.
- Read Hooray, A Piñata! by Elisa Kleven aloud to the class. Make a piñata out of a cereal box and tissue paper.
- Make an interesting fact journal about Mexico. As you read stories about Mexico, have the students choose an interesting fact that they learned and record it in their journals.
- Learn about the meaning of the colors in the Mexican flag.
- Have a guest speaker come in to teach the students how to make traditional Mexican dishes such as tacos, tamales, tortillas, and tostadas.
- Create a Mexican hands-on museum with chia pets, marionette puppets, Day of the Dead sugar skulls, traditional clothing that the students can wear, pictures about Mexico, dancing skeleton toys, tiles, instruments, clay animals, wooden dolls, and fabric.
- Teach the students the Mexican Hat Dance.
- Read Nino's Mask by Jeanette Winter aloud to the class. Make masks and role play the story.
- Show pictures of the pyramids in Mexico. Have the student create a pyramid out of legos or blocks.
- Grow corn or squash.
- Explore the different habitats in Mexico.
- Have a taste test, and then sort and graph different fruits and vegetables from Mexico.
- Learn songs in Spanish by Nati Cano's Mariachi Los Camperos or Jose-Luis Orozco.
- A reoccurring theme in Mexican folklore is that you don't have to be big to be strong. Complete a Venn Diagram with the two stories The Little Red Ant and the Great Big Crumb retold by Shirley Climo and The Goat in the Chile Patch by Lada Josefa Kratky and Sheron Long.
- Explain the process of rug making from sheep to yarn to looms to floor.
Practice using different types of paper when making the Mexican Paper Cuttings.
- Were students able to work independently while cutting their tissue paper?
- Did students have difficulty making a pattern on their paper cuttings?
- Could students respond to the question about what they learned about Mexico?
- Did students follow directions when making their paper cuttings?
- Can students identify a pattern in their paper cuttings?