Monday, April 16, 2012

Top 5 Cinco de Mayo Activities and Ideas for the Elementary Classroom

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.

3. Activities!
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!

5. Pinata
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!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Top 5 Earth Day Activities to Use in the Classroom

If you are a classroom teacher, you can have an impact on how your students view caring for the earth.
Below are the top 5 ideas and activities that you can use in the classroom for Earth Day or any other day of the year!

Nature Walk and Trash Pick Up
Take your class outside and distribute garbage bags to groups of 3-4 students. Then take a walk around the school or neighborhood picking up trash. At the end of the walk, discuss with the students what items were not thrown away by people, brainstorm ideas of how to make the area trash free, and then carry out the plan. Some examples could be install garbage cans by the school, make signs to put up reminding people to throw away their trash, or send a flier home to parents about keeping the school and neighborhood trash-free.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Action!
As a teacher you will need three paper grocery bags with the labels: reduce, reuse, and recycle on the outside.  You will also need to cut out, print pictures, or bring in the actual items that people can recycle (aluminum cans, plastic water bottles...), reuse (plastic and paper grocery bags, plastic containers...) and reduce (plastic bags,loose leaf paper, construction paper...). The object of the game would be to break your class into teams. The teams would receive a brown grocery bag with an equal amount of items in it. Before the game, put a number on each item in the bag, so at the end when you check their answers you can see if team #1, for example, got the right answers. The goal would be for the team to empty their bag by placing items in the correct bag of the 3Rs one at a time. The first team to finish with the correct answers wins. Some items, such as loose leaf paper, can go into more than one bag such as recycle, and reduce. The students will have fun with this engaging, busy activity!

Water Bottle Use PowerPoint
Who would've thought that someone would think of the idea to bottle water, and then sell it? Well, as we all know, water bottles are everywhere. From gas stations, grocery stores, to vending machines, bottled water is plentiful. However, bottled water has many negative consequences. Download the Powerpoint below by clicking on the picture. It would be great to use with your students to show them the harmful effects of bottled water.
Earth Day Game Board
Students love to play games, and will be excited to play this one focused on Earth Day and the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. Included is the game board (I copy them onto card stock and then laminate), and game cards that need to be cut out. You just have to supply the dice and place markers. It is a great way to either review or teach ways to help our environment. Just click on the picture below to purchase the game board.

Design a Thneed
Help the Lorax design a thneed that protests things that are happening to our environment. This activity would be great to do after reading The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. Click on the below picture to access the fun activity. You could assess this as a writing grade as well.

We hope you enjoy the activities. Please feel free to comment with ideas that you use in your classroom.