Today is Cinco de Mayo, a holiday commemorating the Battle of Puebla, which resulted in a victory for the Mexicans fighting against the French on May 5, 1862. This was a decisive victory for Mexico, and celebrations inclue feasting, games, and parades where some dress in soldier attire appropriate for the period. This year it’s been 155 years since the battle took place, and it lends itself to be a great opportunity to celebrate Mexican American culture in the your classroom, as Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in Mexico and the United States. Check out our titles and lesson activity ideas below!
For the youngest of elementary school children, check out We Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Spring by Jenna Lee Gleisner. It tells about Cinco de Mayo through the eyes of a child, highlighting what kids may learn, where they celebrate, what foods they eat, the clothes worn, and more. It also has questions that can be used for discussion as well, either as a whole class discssion or in groups. A lesson idea to use with your students could be to have students each draw a picture of an aspect of Cinco de Mayo that they learned. You can assign groups to each topic covered or allow the students to choose on their own. Then they need to write a couple of sentences explaining what tis meant to them. Post it outside the classroom and share the information with others!
For upper elementary students, Cinco de Mayo by Kate Torpie, is a wonderful resource. In addition to including more information on Cinco de Mayo, it also has activities students and families can do. Students can learn how to make tacos or create their own piñata. In addition to incorporating the great ideas listed in this book, another lesson idea for older elementary students is to attend or prepare a Cinco de Mayo festival. They can learn how to plan and budget for the materials, make their own Mexican food (or determine how much it’ll cost to get it catered by a local restaurant), and find authentic music to celebrate. Invite families to come and learn more about the holiday outside its known traditions here in the United States.
For older students, we have Fiesta, the Festivals of Mexico by Colleen Madonna Flood Williams. This book serves as a resource for learning about all of the different celebrations that people of Mexican descent hold dear, including historical information about Cinco de Mayo. For a lesson activity, have students compare and contrast the different elements of holidays celebrated by Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, such as Mexican Independence Day (which some mistakenly think Cinco de Mayo is) on September 16th. in what ways are they similar and different? Another idea would be to have students research the batle themselves and divide the tasks into two major groups. The first group would determine the importance of this particular battle and its impact on the future of Mexico. The other would imagine life in Mexico and America if they lost the battle, and how that could have impacted other events going on at the same time (i.e. American Civil War).
Hope these ideas and books help make planning for and celebrating Cinco de Mayo a whole lot easier. Enjoy!