Dia De Los Muertos: Day Of The Dead Celebration

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 9.54.54 AMEl Dia de los Muertos or The Day of the Dead Celebration is a day dedicated to remembering loved ones who have passed by celebrating their lives with festivals, parades, food, and ofrendas (offerings). This celebration, that originated in Mexico, is celebrated November 1 and combines the beliefs about death of the Indigenous people, who believed that death is the passage to new life, is meshed with the Catholic traditions of All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2).

Dia de los Muertos is celebrated all over Latin America and even in some parts of the United States. Some celebrations take place in cemeteries where families create ofrendas with photos, marigolds, favorite items and foods of the deceased culminating with a picnic. Some ofrendas are created in homes often decorated with paper flowers, papel picado (paper banners cut into elaborate designs), sugar skulls or paper mache skulls, and food.

Some traditional food associated with the Day of the Dead Celebration are mole (chicken or pork cooked in a red chile sauce made with peanuts and chocolate) pan de muerto (bread made in the shape of bones or people), and sugar or chocolate made into the shape of skulls.

A calaca (Spanish word for skeleton) is made of wood, paper mache, candy and sugar. They are depicted as happy and dancing in honor of deceased relatives. Calacas have become very popular in art today and can be seen in modern art, movies, on t-shirts, and even painted on faces for Halloween.

This Mexican tradition teaches us that death is not a sad occasion, but rather a time to remember, celebrate, and honor our loved ones who have passed on.

Click here to make some of these Day of the Dead crafts for kids

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Jackie Guzman, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Culturally Responsive Teaching And Environments

Teacher with culturally diverse children

Every day is an opportunity make your classroom environment more culturally responsive! Culturally responsive teaching starts with having an affirming relationship with students and their families. This teaching respects the languages, cultures, and life experiences of your culturally and linguistically diverse children and incorporates them into your teaching. Having a positive attitude toward the cultural experiences that each child brings to the classroom can enrich a child’s learning experience and that of other students.

Personal Inventory

So how can you take your classroom to the next level to instill a greater value and understanding for various ethnic groups every day? It starts with an inventory of your attitudes and beliefs towards students that differ from you and recognizing how that can impact teaching. Some questions to consider might be:

  • What is my definition of diversity?
  • What are my perceptions of students from different racial or ethnic groups? With language or dialects different from mine? With special needs?
  • What are the sources of these perceptions (e.g., friends, relatives, television, movies)?
  • How do I respond to my students, based on these perceptions?

Engage Students and Families

Another way to start culturally responsive teaching is to get parents involved. Getting to know your culturally diverse children’s family can help you incorporate their cultural/ethnic heritage. This can be done through a parent inventory/interview to gain greater insight into the cultural heritage of your students. You might ask parents to describe the following:

  • Customs that are important to your family
  • Special foods your family eats
  • Eating and cooking utensils you use that are unique to your culture
  • Special or traditional clothing you wear
  • Which language(s) is spoken in your home?
  • Which holidays specific to your cultural heritage do you celebrate?

After taking a closer look at each child’s unique cultural experiences, you can begin to incorporate these into your classroom! This can add to your classroom and impact learning for all students.

Creating a Culturally Responsive Classroom

How can you create a culturallyshutterstock_161741426.jpg responsive environment? Start with the way you see your classroom. Here are some tips:

  • Take a look at the bulletin boards, centers, and other materials where you teach. Are they reflective of the diversity that exists in your classroom?
  • Check out the photos you use. Do they reflect diversity? Make sure they include a balance of various cultures, males and females, and people with special needs. Be certain to include people in non-traditional roles for example, you might have a photo of a female fire fighter.
  • Do your play centers reflect different cultures? In a kitchen play center you want to incorporate eating utensils and foods that reflect the cultures you have in your classroom. For example: chopsticks, tortillas, nan, etc. In your dress-up area, include clothing from other cultures for children to try on.
  • Music from different cultures is also a nice addition to the classroom. Have children be exposed to music they may not hear at home from different countries around the world. In a music center, adding musical instruments like rain sticks, chimes, and bongo drums let children express themselves.
  • Try labeling everything in two languages or make your classroom reflect the languages of all the children you teach. Labeling things in English and Spanish for Hispanic Heritage Month is a great place to start. You might want to get parent volunteers to assist you in this task which is a great way to engage parents in your classroom.

Do you have any great tips to make your classroom more culturally responsive? If so, we would love to know in the comments below!

Author:  Jackie Guzman, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Children’s Books For Hispanic Heritage Month

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National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated September 15th to October 15th! This month celebrates the cultures and contributions of Latino Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. September 15th is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. While Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18.

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month try reading these great children’s books:

The Barking Mouse book

The Barking Mouse by Antonio Sacre. This is a Cuban folktale retold by Antonio Sacre is about the value of being bilingual.

I Love Saturdays Y Domingos

I Love Saturdays y Domingos by Alma Flor Ada. Sat­ur­days and Sun­days are very spe­cial days for the child in this story. On Sat­ur­days, she vis­its Grandma and Grandpa, who come from a European-American back­ground, and on Sundays (los domingos) she visits Abuelito y Abuelita, who are Mexican-American. While the two sets of grand­par­ents are dif­fer­ent in many ways, they also have a great deal in common–in par­tic­u­lar, their love for their granddaughter.

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Round is a Tortilla by Roseanne Greenfield Thong.  A little girl discovers that shapes are all around her. They are part of her culture and the food she eats, games she plays, and objects in her room and around her town. Everywhere she looks, she sees shapes!

Green Is a Chile Pepper book

Green is a Chile Pepper by Roseanne Greenfield Thong.  A little girl discovers all the bright colors in her Hispanic American neighborhood.

AUTHOR:  JACKIE GUZMAN, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

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