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Feliz Navidad: A Mexican Christmas Unit

Subjects

-Language Arts
-Fine Arts
-Social Studies

Grade

K-5

Brief Description

Students participate in interdisciplinary activities related to a Mexican Christmas celebration.

Objectives

Students learn about Christmas in Mexico through story, Spanish language, song, art, and dance.

Keywords

Feliz Navidad, Christmas, Mexico, Spanish, posada, piata, Las Posadas

Materials Needed

See materials noted in lesson.

Lesson Plan

This unit covers several subject areas. Below are highlights of the activities.

LANGUAGE ARTS -- Books
Motivation for the unit:
Begin by reading the book Nine Days to Christmas by Marie Hall Ets. In this story, a little girl excitedly prepares for her first posada. The book clearly explains the meaning of the celebration. The word posada means "shelter" in Spanish. During the posada procession, the participants symbolize the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.

Additional book sources:
Other books that fit into the unit are The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola; Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto; Agua, Agua, Agua by Esopo; and Hats, Hats, Hats by Ann Morris.

LANGUAGE ARTS -- Spanish Words
The children love learning some Spanish words! We learn how to count and how to say the days of the week, color words, family words, and parts of the body in Spanish. After we learn the parts of the body, we use the Spanish words to play "Simon Says" or "Hokey Pokey."

Suggested resources:
There is a cute Spanish counting song called "Counting Cha-cha-cha" on the Jackie Wisemann cassette Joining Hands With Other Lands.

I also use a tape called Spanish (Rock `N Learn Series) that has many songs.

MUSIC AND DANCE
The children listen to and learn the song "Feliz Navidad," which you can find on many Christmas recordings.

Find a recording of the "Mexican Hat Dance" and teach your students this simplified version of the dance.

  • Put a hat or, if possible, a Mexican sombrero on the floor and stand in a circle around it. As the music starts, put hands on hips. The step pattern is right heel, left heel, right heel, (clap, clap), left heel, right heel, left heel, (clap, clap).
  • When the music changes, hold hands and skip in a counterclockwise circle. When the music changes again, skip in a clockwise circle.
  • As the music goes back to the original pattern, do the "right, left, right" action again.
  • When the music changes, hold hands and take two steps forward. Next, raise hands up, take two steps backward, and swing hands down.
    Teacher's note: The music slows during this part. I tell the children it is "siesta time" and they need to be relaxed because the music goes really fast in the next part.
  • Let students do some fancy footwork, make quick circles, and end the dance with an "ole"!

ART PROJECTS
Art projects include making papier-mache sombreros, maracas, and brown paper bag serapes. To make papier-mache, blend three parts water into one part flour and put strips of newspaper into the mixture.

Papier-Mache Sombreros
To make a sombrero, each student needs two circles of paper about 36 inches in diameter. Mix flour and water to make paste. Tell students to spread paste on top of one circle and place the other circle on top. Have them help each other mold a circle around the head of the wearer and tie a string around it to hold it in place. When the forms are set, students can remove the molds. Have them curl the edges of their sombreros to make brims. Let the hats dry overnight. Students can paint their hats with tempera paint in colorful designs. Let the paint dry. Then have each student punch a hole in each side of the brim and run a string over the back of the brim and through the holes to tie the hat on.

Maracas
Tell students to put some dry rice, small beans, or popcorn inside two egg carton pieces and tape them shut. Have each student fasten an ice-cream stick to the egg carton pieces and secure with more tape. Students should cover their maracas with papier-mache strips, let dry, and paint decoratively.

Serapes
Tell students to cut sides from paper grocery sacks so they have one long rectangle. Each student should cut a diamond shape so the paper serape will fit over the top of his or her head. Invite students to color patterns on the sack with crayons, cut fringe at the bottom, and wear.

It is good to have examples of completed items so children can see what they are making.

Teacher's note: Parent volunteers are good for these activities. You might also organize students into small groups and provide an alternate activity for the rest while you work with each group.

SOCIAL SCIENCES

Maps
Make a replica of the Mexican flag and discuss the legend behind the symbol.

Suggested source: World Flag Database

Provide a simple outline map that shows the United States and Mexico. Let students color the map. Show students where Mexico is in relation to the United States.

Teacher's tip: I always read information about present-day Mexico to the children so that the holiday celebration isn't all they learn about Mexico.

Las Posadas Party

Teacher's tip prior to the party:
Prepare the other classes ahead of time for best results.

Our Christmas party has a Mexican theme. We begin by going from class to class in our kindergarten and first grade wing, asking for shelter. (Yo les pido posada.) We are turned away in class after class. (No posada.) Finally, we return to our classroom for a party celebration, complete with a piata provided by the teacher or parents and Mexican food.

Teacher's comment:
This year, the children will be dividing into groups to make the Mexican food at different stations. At one station, they will make tacos; at another station, they will make quesadillas; and at a final station, they will make fried tortillas with cinnamon and sugar. One other station will be in the hallway. It will be a game of some sort. Following the food prep, we will go on our posada procession and have our piata!

In previous years, students' parents provided the piata and the food. Taco meat was prepared ahead of time by one of the parents. We used an electric skillet to make quesadillas and crock pots for other foods that needed warming.

Suggestion:
If cooking utensils or facilities are not easily available, check with a local supermarket or restaurant for prepared Mexican foods to share at the party.

Feliz Navidad! (Merry Christmas)

Assessment

N/A

Lesson Plan Source

Addie Gaines (againes@netins.net), Seneca R-7 School District, Seneca, Missouri


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