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Cinco de Mayo WebQuest
Includes a Fiesta!


Offer students a lesson about another culture and technology with a teacher-designed WebQuest! Music, food, and a piata help make learning about Cinco de Mayo fun! Included: Bernie Dodge offers Seven Steps for Getting Started.

WebQuest: Seven Steps for Getting Started

Bernie Dodge, a professor of educational technology at San Diego University, offers Education World seven tips for teachers who want to design WebQuests. Dodge developed the first WebQuest model, an Internet teaching tool.

Familiarize yourself and your students with the WebQuest format. The best way of doing that is to try someone else's WebQuest with your class. You can find a matrix of ready-made examples at Matrix of Example WebQuests. You can also find a less selective list of WebQuests at WebQuest Collections.

Become familiar with a Web editing tool. Any free or commercial software-editing tool will do. WebQuests have been created with the free Composer software included in Netscape Communicator or with commercial programs. We usually recommend FileMaker Home Page or Adobe PageMill to beginners. Later you can use a more advanced editor, such as Adobe GoLive or Macromedia Dreamweaver. You don't need anything fancy to put a WebQuest together.

Become a facile Web searcher. In a WebQuest, you do the work of finding a focused set of good sites for your students rather than having them forage the Web on their own. Searching the Web takes time, so it's wise to develop your searching skills. Two pages that many people have found useful are Seven Steps Toward Better Searching and the Specialized Search Engines and Directories.

Focus on higher-level thinking. Identify a topic you teach that invites creativity, forces analysis or synthesis, or in some other way requires students to transform information into some new form. Don't use the WebQuest format to pursue questions that have only one right answer, such as finding the official birds of each state or finding the volume of each of the pyramids.

Check the Web for resources to support your topic. A few years ago, the Web was primarily about computing. Now every topic under the sun can be found if you dig deeply enough. You may find an amazing site that will inspire you to teach the topic in a whole new way. If, for whatever reason, you can't find enough appropriate information, jump back to step 4 and think up a different topic.

Identify a task that your students can perform. Be sure it is something that will engage them in the information. Try to go beyond having them simply read Web pages and then report on them with a PowerPoint presentation. Instead, give them a scaled-down version of something that adults do on the job. The A Taxonomy of WebQuest Tasks will give you some ideas.

Download a WebQuest template. Use a WebQuest template for the WebQuest you will develop and start hacking away. There's a whole page of variations on the format atWebQuest Templates.

Following these steps should help teachers create the WebQuests of their dreams! Dodge suggested that teachers who would rather work with some guidance attend workshops or courses offered at nearby colleges of education or district offices. He said there are plenty of choices.

Teachers can learn how to develop WebQuests though an online graduate course offered by the Teacher Education Institute.

ALSO SEE: An Education World e-interview with Bernie Dodge!

"I learned that Cinco de Mayo means the fifth of May," said Elvis.

"I learned that Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day," added Ramon.

Elvis and Ramon, two students in Cheryl J. Cox's second-grade class at Hatch (New Mexico) Elementary School, learned about Cinco de Mayo when Cox created a special WebQuest to help her students learn about and celebrate the Mexican holiday. "I feel that students need to develop an awareness and tolerance of other cultures at an early age," she told Education World. At Hatch Elementary School, the vast majority of students -- 85 percent -- are Hispanic. Anglo students make up 14 percent, and fewer than 1 percent of the students are of other ethnic or racial origins. "With a school population such as this, it seemed important to focus on a WebQuest with a multicultural theme that would promote the Hispanic pride of our school," Cox said.

Now Cox's Cinco de Mayo WebQuest is available online for all teachers to use!

Cox's WebQuest directs students on a two- or three-week journey to ask questions and find answers about Cinco de Mayo -- the Mexican holiday that commemorates the victory over French troops at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 -- and the Mexican culture. Organized in groups of four, students participate in seven activities. Students are evaluated partially on how well they cooperate with one another. Cox's WebQuest includes a student rubric to make that part of the teacher's job easier.

Most important, students have fun while they explore the roots of Mexican culture by learning more about this important day in Mexican history. "My students love the WebQuest!" Cox said. "Even at the second-grade level, they worked well in cooperative groups."



Cox has been using WebQuests as a way of integrating technology with her classroom curriculum for the past two years. She learned to create WebQuests when she attended a workshop conducted by Bernie Dodge, a professor of educational technology at San Diego University. Dodge developed the first WebQuest model and helped create The WebQuest Page,


A WebQuest is an inquiry-based activity in which students use the Internet to find information. See the sidebar that accompanies this story to learn more about WebQuests from Bernie Dodge.

Although the Cinco de Mayo WebQuest is part of a social studies lesson, it includes lessons related to other curriculum areas, such as art, music, and language arts. The quest demonstrates how language, stories, folktales, music, media, food, and other artistic creations and performances serve as expressions of culture and influence the behavior of people, Cox explains.

The WebQuest activities are all hands-on and include the following:

  • Students pretend to be cub reporters. They cover the Cinco de Mayo celebration and write an article it.
  • Students learn about piatas and how to make their own.
  • Students listen to mariachi music and learn why it is part of the Hispanic celebration.
  • Students create a slide show with computer software. Each person in a group takes on the role of someone who was involved in the war, such as a Mexican soldier, a French soldier, a citizen from a small village, or a child whose father is a soldier.
  • Students make tacos on the last day and celebrate!

Does Cox worry about having second graders surf the Internet? That's one of the great things about WebQuests. Most WebQuests provide a complete list of links to online resources that have been hand-picked by the teacher. In Cox's case, those include Web sites related to the history of Cinco de Mayo, fiesta foods, mariachi music, and piatas.

"Teachers need to make students aware of appropriate use of technology in their particular school district," she said. "It is important that students and parents understand and sign an acceptable-use policy outlining rules and regulations for using technology use is in their particular school district. This helps ensure student online safety and encourages students to be responsible netizens, "Internet users."



  • Mexican Holidays: Cinco de Mayo This site explains the history of Cinco de Mayo. It is provided by Mexico OnLine, an Internet information service and consulting business that provides resources for individuals and businesses interested in Mexico. It has links about other Mexican holidays and additional details about Mexico.
  • Cinco de Mayo History This site explains why Americans and Mexicans should celebrate the holiday, offers information about the historical battle and other links related to the holiday.

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Diane Weaver Dunne
Education World®
Copyright © 2007 Education World

Originally published 04/21/2004
Links last updated 01/08/2009