Cinco de mayo is a chance to introduce many of your students to a celebration that honors brave Mexican soldiers during a fierce battle with the French on May 5, 1862. It also allows you to teach about Mexican heritage in a fun and hands on way. We hope you enjoy our Top 5 ideas for Cinco de Mayo!
1. The History Behind Cinco de Mayo
Many people do not know why cinco de mayo is a holiday for the Mexican people. This should be first explained when doing any sort of activity or celebration related with the day. Click on the link that will help you explain the meaning of the celebration for cinco de mayo. After discussing the history, you may want to also share a map of Mexico and talk about its features as well. Many students are clueless as to the various mountain ranges and differences in landscape of the country of Mexico.
2. The Spanish-Mexican Connection
Many students do not know that the Spanish language was non-existent until conquistadors such as Francisco Pizarro and Hernando Cortes came to the Americas in the late 1400s and early 1500s. We spend some time on discussing how Mexico has a blending of many ethnic-speaking tribes, along with a majority of people who now speak Spanish as a result of the conquest by the Spanish rulers during the late 15th and early 16th centuries.
I studied Spanish in college and was able to graduate with a minor in the language so I created many activities that I use with my students on cinco de mayo to help teach them some basics of the Spanish language. I usually ask the students what words they know and then progress into reviewing basic concepts such as numbers and colors. See the many activities below!
Cinco de Mayo Game Board
Since we discussed the history behind cinco de mayo already, this game board is a fun way for the students to review it. Just click on the picture below to access the game board.
Spanish Numbers Game Board
Another fun activity that I have the students do after teaching them the numbers up to 10 is to play a Spanish Numbers: Los Numeros game board. It follows the same directions as the above game board and the students have fun playing and reviewing the numbers.
Spanish Colors game board
Before we play this game, we have colored construction paper that we hold up in front of the class and say the spanish word for each color. Then we go faster and faster. Finally, we have them play this fun game board to review the colors! Click on the picture below to access the game board.
Spanish Family, Weather, Numbers, Clothing, Colors Matching Activity
If your students are enjoying learning about the Spanish language you can expand their vocabulary into greetings, weather, family, and clothing words as well. We have developed a matching game activity that students can play in partners. Click on the picture below to access the game!
4. Food and Music
This is probably the favorite part of the celebration for the students. We are fortunate to have many authentic Mexican restaurants in our area. Over the past 10 years I have contacted various restaurants to ask for donations of traditional food for our classroom on cinco de mayo. I have never been turned down! Another option is to see if any of your students(coming from a Hispanic background) would be willing to bring in some food as well. Those students take pride in their heritage and often even make a powerpoint or bring in other artifacts about their heritage.
The music is also great to listen to. I have many samples of mariachi music on hand, as well as traditional Mexican favorites as well. If you look on Wikipedia, you will find more examples as well. Youtube is a great resource to use if you want to play the music for the class too. I would make sure you stick to mariachi music because if you do not know the Spanish language it could be embarrassing playing a song that had inappropriate lyrics! However, La Bamba would be a safe song as well, and the kids would probably be familiar with it too!
I like to conclude our celebration with the breaking of the pinata. Once again, we are fortunate enough in our city to have many supermarcados where we can go and buy a pinata. Then we also buy some candy and gum from the store to fill the contents. I take the class outside and usually tie the pinata to a tree branch, or a soccer goal post (I know not too traditional, but you have to use the resources around you if there aren’t any trees!). Before allowing students to try and break it, we discuss a brief history of the pinata. Then, one at a time, we blindfold the students and allow them to swing away. Once it is broken, we make sure that the students each get at least one piece of candy. Then we also pick up all the scraps and throw them away.
This one day that the Mexican heritage gets to be celebrated in our classroom. But we feel it is important to acknowledge cultural events throughout the school year for the many different backgrounds of our students. Our classroom is a community of learners and is like a family. So it is important to celebrate our differences!
Please let us know what you do for cinco de mayo!