Lesson plan

Learning About Día de los Muertos

Students will learn about the holiday El Día de los Muertos through engaging activities and connecting to their own traditions.
Grade Subject View aligned standards
  • Students will be able to understand how the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) is celebrated in Mexico and other parts of the world.
  • Students will be able to discuss their family's traditions and ways that they honor people who have passed away.
(5 minutes)
  • PLEASE NOTE: Prior to teaching this lesson to your students, check with parents and teachers about kids who may have lost a loved one recently. Or, if a student does not have celebrations in their family. Allow these students to complete another activity instead. INTRODUCTION:
  • Gather the students together in a comfortable space. Write the word celebration on the whiteboard. Ask your students, "What is a celebration? Turn and talk to a partner and talk about some things you celebrate in your family."
  • Give students a few minutes to discuss their ideas. Call on student volunteers and ask them to share their ideas with the class.
  • Clarify that a celebration is a social activity where people get together with others to show their praise or appreciation for something. A celebration is often enjoyable and fun.
  • Write down some celebrations that the students celebrate on the whiteboard. Discuss how everyone, depending on their culture, celebrates different things. Explain that someone's culture is the rules and behaviors we see as normal in our families or communities.
  • Continue by explaining that our traditions, or the customs or beliefs we hold as a family, include the ways that we celebrate or show appreciation for important events in our lives.
(15 minutes)
  • Explain to students that today, they will be learning about el Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead.
  • Tell them that know they will watch a short video, National Geographic: What is Day of the Dead that will show them how some people in Mexico celebrate el Día de los Muertos.
  • Pass out copies of the I Notice, I Wonder, I Learned worksheet to each student.
  • Explain to students that as they watch the video, you'd like them to record some things they notice, they wonder, and they learned.
  • Show students the video and read the words on the bottom of the video aloud, pausing as you point out important information you want them to remember.
  • Vocalize some things you notice, wonder, and learn throughout the video to support students in their thinking.
  • Allow students time to share their ideas with partners and then the whole group after the video finishes.
(20 minutes)
  • Gather the students together in a comfortable space and explain to them that now you will read a book by the author Birte Müller, who is from Germany. Explain to the students that the author experienced the Day of the Dead when she was studying art in Mexico City. Tell the students that the author was very fascinated by the holiday that she returned years later to take part in the celebrations again. Refer to a map to show students where Mexico City is located.
  • Reinforce that this is just one person's experience with el Día de los Muertos and people in Mexico and Latin America celebrate in different ways.
  • Read Felipa and the Day of the Dead aloud to the students, including the "About This Book" section on the last two pages.
  • As you read, pause to involve students in active questioning strategies to dig deep into the meaning of the text.
  • Ask questions like:
    • Where does Felipa live?
    • What does the word abuelita mean?
    • How does Felipa feel about her grandmother dying?
    • Who does Felipa ask to find out where her grandmother's soul is? What does the word soul mean to you? How does Felipa's father explain souls to Felipa?
    • How does Felipa prepare for the celebration?
    • How did the people who live in the village feel during the celebration?
  • Support students in answering the questions accurately, and refer to the text as needed for support. Include opportunities for students to discuss their answers with partners or in small groups.
(20 minutes)
  • Ask students to go back to their seats.
  • Pass out coloring materials and 11 x 18 sheets of white construction paper to each student.
  • On the whiteboard, write the following prompt:
    • What traditions do you and your family or community have for mourning or celebrating loved ones who have died?
  • Define tradition using the student-friendly definition you used in the introduction of the lesson.
  • Explain to the students that they can draw pictures and write sentences that show how their families and communities celebrate loved ones who have passed. Provide students with an example from your own life that you feel comfortable sharing.
  • Allow students sufficient time to create their posters. Provide sentence frames for students who need extra support as they write, such as:
    • When ____ died, we celebrated their life by ____.
    • I felt ____ when ____ died. We celebrated their life by ____.
    • I think it is important to celebrate the lives of people we love because ____.


  • Allow students to work in partnerships during independent work time.
  • Provide a copy of Felipa and The Day of the Dead in Spanish to students who speak Spanish as their home language.
  • If a student struggles to write about ways their family celebrates loved ones who have passed, allow students to write and draw about some of their favorite family traditions and encourage them to explain why they are important.


  • Create a bulletin board all about Día de los Muertos with your students. Include imporant photographs, wonderings, and things that the students learned. Add on to the bulletin board throughout October and November.
  • Explore activities like creating Sugar Skulls with activities that are culturally appropriate and engaging for students.
  • Extend learning by completing the El Día de los Muertos Community Altar activity with your sudents.
(5 minutes)
  • Use student responses throughout the lesson as a formative assessment of whether or not they show an understanding of el Día de los Muertos and can relate this celebration to traditions in their own lives.
  • Assess students on their completion of the posters as they share them with the class.
  • Gather the students together in a circle and offer them the opportunity to share their posters with their classmates.
  • Encourage students to explain why their pictures are special/significant and how they see their traditions connect with the ways people celebrate their loved ones through el Día de los Muertos.
(5 minutes)
  • Gather the students together in a circle.
  • Ask the students to think about the following prompt, "What are some ways we can celebrate those we love while they are alive?"
  • Complete a whip around pass and encourage each student to share out their ideas.
  • Extend the conversation by explaining that we can honor or respect our loved ones after they've passed by sharing the special memories we had with them, making and eating their favorite foods, and looking at pictures that show the beauty they gave us and the world.
  • Conclude the lesson by having students share out their favorite part of el Día de los Muertos celebration and another part of the tradition that they still would like to learn more about.

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