Lesson Plan: Día de los Muertos

Alfonso Castillo, Vanity/ La Catrina, 1993, terra-cotta, wire, and acrylic paint, 23 inches X 7.5 inches X 13.25 inches, Tyler Museum of Art, Tyler, Texas, https://tylermuseum.pastperfectonline.com/webobject/EA8E2CD1-B81B-4707-AFAE-812729932456.


Researched by Adrienne Stine and Rachel Anthony, Author: Rachel Anthony.

Tyler Museum of Art, 2021.


This lesson plan contains the Texas TEKS for Elementary, Middle, and High School art teachers. The lesson explains the history and iconography of Día de los Muertos. Students will learns how the cultural context of the holiday and create an ofrenda.

If you use or reference this lesson plan, please leave a comment with your feedback. The lesson plan, and the accompanying skull template, can be downloaded in the link below.



Día de los Muertos: History and Iconography

Día de los Muertos is a traditional holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, Central America, parts of South America, and other Spanish speaking countries. Scholars believe the tradition began with the civilizations of the Toltecs and the Aztecs. Later, the celebration was influenced by the Catholicism brought to Mexico by the Spanish Conquistadores.[1] The ancient cultures of the Aztecs and Toltecs believed that when an individual passed away, their spirit was transported to a spirit realm. The events of Día de los Muertos, which occurs annually on October 31st – November 2nd, centers on a time in which a spiritual bridge between the spiritual realm and the living realm is created. Passed loved ones can enter the living world and be with their families during this time.[2]

The festivities encourage families who lost a loved one to celebrate their lives. This is done by holding parties, making the deceased’s favorite meals and drinks, as well as participate in the activities that were loved by the passed individual. Día de los Muertos avoids a sorrowful look at the death. Instead, the holiday recognizes that death is a natural experience and should not be feared.[3]

To celebrate the love one’s spiritual arrival, families will make decorations and offerings to the visiting spirits. A common decoration is the skull, or calvera. The skull can be made of clay, wood, perforated paper, sugar, or papier-máché.[4] The iconography of the skull became a centerpiece for the holiday with the influence of the Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada’s artwork. He commonly made etchings and prints of skeletons participating in the festivities. The skeletons had hats, clothing, facial hair, jewelry, as well as food and drink. The prints were originally made to examine the European countries who appropriated the holiday and the culture of Mexico.[5] Then, after Posada’s death in 1913, the usage of the skeleton and the skull became an intrinsic image of the holiday. The offerings, or ofrendas, were created from a mixture of objects arranged to help spirits return to the family for the holiday[6]:

  • Candles:
    • Candles are lit with fire and used to help guide the spirits to the ofrenda, the altar, and the family.
  • Perforated Paper:
    • Using either tissue paper or thin colorful paper, families would cut out images of skulls, skeletons, and additional designs. Once finished, they were hung around the ofrenda and altar to symbolize the connection between life and death.
  • Skulls:
    • Skulls are the visual representation of individuals who have died and are represented in the ofrenda.
  • Marigold Flowers:
    • Marigolds, also known as cempasuchii, are a symbol of death commonly used by the Aztecs. Due to the bright orange color of the flowers, the Aztecs believed that the flowers could contain the light and heat of the sun. When adding marigolds to an ofrenda, the family can either use real flowers or create tissue-paper marigolds.
  • A Glass or Water:
    • Water, placed in a glass or dish, is added to the alter for the spirits to drink after traveling to the family.
  • Incense:
    • Incense is a dried herb that is burned to create a pleasant smell. This symbolizes the connection between life and death. Additionally, it wards off evil and encourages the family spirits to travel home.
  • Pan de Muerto:
    • Pan de Muerto, also known as the bread of the dead, is used to symbolize the love and care of the family. To create bread, the family works together to make some for the ofrenda and the rest for themselves to share with each other. The bread is often flavored with an orange glaze.
  • Food (Favorite Meal):
    • During the holiday, the family makes the deceased’s favorite food to eat and remember their loved one. The meals can also be set on the alter as an offering to the spirit.
  • Photographs:
    • Photos of the passed loved ones are placed with the other offerings on the alter. They are used to directly connect the ofrenda to the spiritual individual.

Día de los Muertos is an important cultural holiday. The symbolism and the iconography are key attributes in celebrating the family members who have died. Before creating an ofrenda be sure to read and learn about the history and cultural importance of the celebration.


Resources for Vocabulary:

[1] Nadra Nittle, “Beyond Sugar Skulls: The History and Culture of Día de los Muertos,” PBS Teacher’s Lounge, updated October 31, 2019, accessed October 27, 2021, https://www.pbs.org/education/blog/beyond-sugar-skulls-the-history-and-culture-of-dia-de-los-muertos.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Caryl Sue, “Día de los Muertos,” National Geographic: Resource Library, October 17, 2012, accessed October 27, 2021, https://www.nationalgeographic.org/media/dia-de-los-muertos/.

[4] Blanca Bercial, “Día de los Muertos,” The Mexican Museum: In Association with the Smithsonian Museum, updated 2021, accessed October 27, 2021, https://www.mexicanmuseum.org/dia-de-los-muertos.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Jenifer Nalewicki, “The Meaning Behind Six Objects on Día de los Muertos Altars,” Smithsonian Magazine, updated October 31, 2019, accessed October 27, 2021, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/meaning-behind-six-objects-dia-de-los-muertos-altars-180973442/.


Día de los Muertos: Artwork at the Tyler Museum of Art

The Tyler Museum of Art exhibits artwork from the Boeckman Folk Art Collection in the museum’s Lobby Case. During October and through November, the museum selects folk art that displays the iconography and historical connection to Día de los Muertos. Some of the selects artworks are the following:

Alfonso Castillo, Vanity/ La Catrina, 1993, terra-cotta, wire, and acrylic paint, 23 inches X 7.5 inches X 13.25 inches, Tyler Museum of Art, Tyler, Texas.


Marco Antonia Castillo, Zapatista Couple, 1992, terra-cotta, wire, and acrylic paint, 11.75 inches X 6.5 inches X 10.75 inches, Tyler Museum of Art, Tyler, Texas.


Enrique Linares (Linares Family), Skull, ca. 1993, papier-máché, 9.1 inches X 7.6 inches, 10.5 inches, Tyler Museum of Art, Tyler, Texas.


Jose and Raimundo Miranda, Death Cart, ca. 1985, wire, paper, acrylic and metallic paint, 7.25 inches X 6.13 inches X 13.25 inches, Tyler Museum of Art, Tyler, Texas.


Jamie Santiago Morales, Grim Reaper with Scythe (Red Shirt), 1991, wood, cloth, brads, paint, aniline dye, string, 9.75 inches X 1.5 inches X 4.5 inches, Tyler Museum of Art, Tyler, Texas.


Jamie Santiago Morales, Grim Reaper with Scythe (Crossed Legs), 1991, wood, cloth, brads, paint, aniline dye, string, 5.4 inches X 0.3 inches X 2.5 inches, Tyler Museum of Art, Tyler, Texas.


Jamie Santiago Morales, Grim Reaper with Scythe (Red Dress), 1991, wood, cloth, brads, paint, aniline dye, string, 8.75 inches X 2.38 inches X 2.5 inches, Tyler Museum of Art, Tyler, Texas.


Elementary School Lesson Plans


Goals:

Elementary School Students of all Levels will be able to do the following:

  • Learn about the history of Día de los Muertos;
  • Examine and discuss the iconography found in the Tyler Museum of Art’s Boeckman Collection;
  • Have the students create their own ofrenda.

Texas Elementary School TEKS:

Kindergarten, First Grade, Second Grade, Third Grade, Fourth Grade, and Fifth Grade


Kindergarten:

  • §117.102.b.1.A
    • Foundations: Observation and Perception:
      • gather information from subjects in the environment using the senses;
  • §117.102.b.2. B / C
    • Creative Expression:
      • arrange components intuitively to create artworks;
      • use a variety of materials to develop manipulative skills while engaging in opportunities for exploration through drawing, painting, printmaking, constructing artworks, and sculpting, including modeled forms.
  • §117.102.b.3. B / C
    • Historical and Cultural Relevance:
      • share ideas about personal experiences such as family and friends and develop awareness and sensitivity to differing experiences and opinions through artwork;
      • identify the uses of art in everyday life;
  • §117.102.b.4.A / B
    • Critical Evaluation and Response:
      • express ideas about personal artworks or portfolios;
      • express ideas found in collections such as real or virtual art museums, galleries, portfolios, or exhibitions using original artworks created by artists or peers;

First Grade:

  • §117.105.b.1.A
    • Foundations: Observation and Perception:
      • identify similarities, differences, and variations among subjects in the environment using the senses;
  • §117.105.b.2. A / B / C
    • Creative Expression:
      • invent images that combine a variety of lines, shapes, colors, textures, and forms;
      • place components in orderly arrangements to create designs;
      • increase manipulative skills necessary for using a variety of materials to produce drawings, paintings, prints, constructions, and sculptures, including modeled forms.
  • §117.105.b.3. B / C
    • Historical and Cultural Relevance:
      • demonstrate an understanding that art is created globally by all people throughout time;
      • discuss the use of art in everyday life;
  • §117.105.b.4.A / B
    • Critical Evaluation and Response:
      • explain ideas about personal artworks;
      • identify ideas found in collections such as real or virtual art museums, galleries, portfolios, or exhibitions using original artworks created by artists or peers.

Second Grade:

  • §117.108.b.1.A
    • Foundations: Observation and Perception:
      • compare and contrast variations in objects and subjects from the environment using the senses;
  • §117.108.b.2. A / B / C
    • Creative Expression:
      • express ideas and feelings in personal artworks using a variety of lines, shapes, colors, textures, forms, and space;
      • create compositions using the elements of art and principles of design;
      • identify and practice skills necessary for producing drawings, paintings, prints, constructions, and sculpture, including modeled forms, using a variety of materials.
  • §117.108.b.3. A / B / C
    • Historical and Cultural Relevance:
      • interpret stories, content, and meanings in a variety of artworks;
      • examine historical and contemporary artworks created by men and women, making connections to various cultures;
      • analyze how art affects everyday life and is connected to jobs in art and design;
  • §117.108.b.4. A / B
    • Critical Evaluation and Response:
      • support reasons for preferences in personal artworks;
      • compare and contrast ideas found in collections such as real or virtual art museums, galleries, portfolios, or exhibitions using original artworks created by artists or peers;

Third Grade:

  • §117.111.b.1.A / C
    • Foundations: Observation and Perception:
      • explore ideas from life experiences about self, peers, family, school, or community and from the imagination as sources for original works of art;
      • discuss the elements of art as building blocks and the principles of design as organizers of works of art.
  • §117.111.b.2. A / B / C
    • Creative Expression
      • integrate ideas drawn from life experiences to create original works of art;
      • create compositions using the elements of art and principles of design;
      • produce drawings; paintings; prints; sculpture, including modeled forms; and other art forms such as ceramics, fiber art, constructions, mixed media, installation art, digital art and media, and photographic imagery using a variety of materials.
  • §117.111.b.3. A / B
    • Historical and Cultural Relevance:
      • identify simple main ideas expressed in artworks from various times and places;
      • compare and contrast artworks created by historical and contemporary men and women, making connections to various cultures;
  • §117.111.b.4. B
    • Critical Evaluation and Response
      • use methods such as oral response or artist statements to identify main ideas found in collections of artworks created by self, peers, and major historical or contemporary artists in real or virtual portfolios, galleries, or art museums;

Fourth Grade:

  • §117.114.b.1.A / B / C
    • Foundations: Observation and Perception:
      • explore and communicate ideas drawn from life experiences about self, peers, family, school, or community and from the imagination as sources for original works of art;
      • discuss the elements of art as building blocks and the principles of design as organizers of works of art.
  • §117.114.b.2. A / B / C
    • Creative Expression:
      • integrate ideas drawn from life experiences to create original works of art;
      • create compositions using the elements of art and principles of design; and
      • produce drawings; paintings; prints; sculpture, including modeled forms; and other art forms such as ceramics, fiber art, constructions, mixed media, installation art, digital art and media, and photographic imagery using a variety of art media and materials.
  • §117.114.b.3. A / B
    • Historical and Cultural Relevance:
      • compare content in artworks for various purposes such as the role art plays in reflecting life, expressing emotions, telling stories, or documenting history and traditions;
      •  compare purpose and content in artworks created by historical and contemporary men and women, making connections to various cultures;
  • §117.114.b.4. B
    • Critical Evaluation and Response
      • use methods such as written or oral response or artist statements to identify emotions found in collections of artworks created by self, peers, and major historical or contemporary artists in real or virtual portfolios, galleries, or art museums;

Fifth Grade:

  • §117.117.b.1.A / C
    • Foundations: Observation and Perception:
      • develop and communicate ideas drawn from life experiences about self, peers, family, school, or community and from the imagination as sources for original works of art;
      • discuss the elements of art as building blocks and the principles of design as organizers of works of art.
  • §117.117.b.2. A / B / C
    • Creative Expression:
      • integrate ideas drawn from life experiences to create original works of art;
      • create compositions using the elements of art and principles of design;
      • produce drawings; paintings; prints; sculpture, including modeled forms; and other art forms such as ceramics, fiber art, constructions, digital art and media, and photographic imagery using a variety of materials.
  • §117.117.b.3. A / B
    • Historical and Cultural Relevance:
      • compare the purpose and effectiveness of artworks from various times and places, evaluating the artist’s use of media and techniques, expression of emotions, or use of symbols;
      • compare the purpose and effectiveness of artworks created by historic and contemporary men and women, making connections to various cultures;
  • §117.117.b.4. A / B
    • Critical Evaluation and Response
      • evaluate the elements of art, principles of design, general intent, media and techniques, or expressive qualities in artworks of self, peers, or historical and contemporary artists;
      • use methods such as written or oral response or artist statements to identify themes found in collections of artworks created by self, peers, and major historical or contemporary artists in real or virtual portfolios, galleries, or art museums;

Elementary School Art Activity


Questions for Elementary School Students:

  1. In a class discussion, explain the history and iconography of the Día de los Muertos. Then ask the following question to the class for each artwork included in the lesson plan: What Día de los Muertos symbols or iconography can you find in the folk art sculptures?

Activity: Elementary School Fine Arts

  • Activity Setting: Classroom
  • Materials: Shoebox, Photo of a Family Member/ Pet/ or Celebrity, Construction Paper, Markers, Crayons, Tissue Paper (Orange), Skull Template (provided with this lesson)
  • Subject: Learning about Día de los Muertos
  • Texas TEKS: Kindergarten, First Grade, Second Grade, Third Grade, Fourth Grade, and Fifth Grade
  • Duration: Extended Project

After learning about Día de los Muertos, the students will create their own ofrenda. Each student will bring either a photo of a family member who passed away, a pet who passed away, or a celebrity who passed away. The teacher will provide shoeboxes (or other small boxes) to each student. Likewise, the student could bring shoeboxes from home.

First, students will decorate their boxes with construction paper, maker drawings, and other decorations provided by the teacher.

Then, the students will each be given a skull template, which is provided with this lesson. The students will decorate the skulls with markers and crayons in the style of sugar skulls. Once the skulls are finished, the skull will be glued to the inside or outside of the box.

Next, the students will create their own marigold flowers. They will each receive the orange tissue paper and fold the paper in a zig-zag pattern. Then, they will fold the paper in half and tape the apex of the fold together to create a stem. Afterwards, the students will carefully unfold the zig-zagged paper to create a paper marigold. The students can glue or tape the flowers to their ofrendas.

Once all of the decorations are completed, the student will attach the photograph of their chosen individual to the inside of the decorated box. Now, display the ofrendas in the classroom.


Middle School Lesson Plans


Goals:

Middle School Students of all Levels will be able to do the following:

  • Learn about the history of Día de los Muertos;
  • Examine and discuss the iconography found in the Tyler Museum of Art’s Boeckman Collection;
  • Have the students create their own ofrenda.

Texas Middle School TEKS:

Art 1, Art 2, Art 3


Art 1:

  • §117.202.c.1.A / D
    • Foundations: Observation and Perception:
      • identify and illustrate concepts from direct observation, original sources, personal experiences, and communities such as family, school, cultural, local, regional, national, and international;
      • discuss the expressive properties of artworks such as appropriation, meaning, narrative, message, and symbol using art vocabulary accurately.
  • §117.202.c.1.A / C
    • Creative Expression:
      • create original artworks based on direct observations, original sources, personal experiences, and the community;
      • produce artworks, including drawings, paintings, prints, sculptures/modeled forms, ceramics, fiber art, photographic imagery, and digital art and media, using a variety of materials.
  • §117.202.c.3.A / B
    • Historical and Cultural Relevance:
      • identify the influence of historical and political events in artworks;
      • identify examples of art that convey universal themes such as beliefs, cultural narrative, life cycles, the passage of time, identity, conflict, and cooperation;
  • §117.202.c.4.A / D
    • Critical Evaluation and Response
      • create written or oral responses to artwork using appropriate art vocabulary;
      • investigate and explore original artworks in a variety of venues outside of the classroom such as museums, galleries, or community art;

Art 2:

  • §117.203.b.1.A / D
    • Foundations: Observation and Perception:
      • identify and illustrate ideas from direct observation, original sources, imagination, personal experiences, and communities such as family, school, cultural, local, regional, national, and international;
      • understand and apply the expressive properties of artworks such as appropriation, meaning, narrative, message, and symbol using art vocabulary accurately.
  • §117.203.b.1.A / C
    • Creative Expression:
      • create original artworks that express a variety of ideas based on direct observations, original sources, and personal experiences, including memory, identity, imagination, and the community;
      • apply technical skills effectively using a variety of materials to produce artworks, including drawings, paintings, prints, sculptures/modeled forms, ceramics, fiber art, photographic imagery, and digital art and media;
  • §117.203.b.3.A / B
    • Historical and Cultural Relevance:
      • analyze ways that global, cultural, historical, and political issues influence artworks;
      • analyze selected artworks to determine contemporary relevance in relationship to universal themes such as belief, cultural narrative, life cycles, the passage of time, identity, conflict, and cooperation;
  • §117.203.b.4.A / D
    • Critical Evaluation and Response:
      • create written or oral responses about personal or collaborative artworks addressing purpose, technique, organization, judgment, and personal expression;
      • investigate and explore original artworks in a variety of venues outside of the classroom such as museums, galleries, or community art;

Art 3:

  • §117.203.b.1.A / D
    • Foundations: Observation and Perception:
      • identify and illustrate concepts from direct observation, original sources, imagination, personal experience, and communities such as family, school, cultural, local, regional, national, and international;
      • compare and contrast the expressive properties of artworks, including appropriation, meaning, narrative, message, and symbol, using vocabulary accurately.
  • §117.203.b.1.A / C
    • Creative Expression:
      • create original artworks expressing themes found through direct observation; original sources; personal experiences, including memory, identity, and imagination; and the community;
      • create artworks by selecting appropriate art materials, including drawings, paintings, prints, sculptures/modeled forms, ceramics, fiber art, photographic imagery, and digital art and media;
  • §117.203.b.3.A / B
    • Historical and Cultural Relevance:
      • analyze ways in which global, contemporary, historical, and political issues have influenced art;
      • analyze cultural ideas expressed in artworks relating to social, political, and environmental themes such as environment/nature, conflict and power, relationships to others, and reality/fantasy;
  • §117.203.b.4.A / C
    • Critical Evaluation and Response:
      • create written and oral responses about personal or collaborative artworks addressing purpose, technique, organization, judgment, and personal expression;
      • investigate and explore original artworks in a variety of venues outside of the classroom such as museums, galleries, or community art;

Middle School Art Activities


Questions for Middle School Students:

  1. In a class discussion, explain the history and iconography of the Día de los Muertos. Then ask the following question to the class for each artwork included in the lesson plan: What Día de los Muertos symbols or iconography can you find in the folk art sculptures?

Activity: Middle School Fine Arts

  • Activity Setting: Classroom
  • Materials: Shoebox, Photo of a Family Member/ Pet/ or Celebrity, Construction Paper, Markers, Crayons, Tissue Paper (Orange), Skull Template (provided with this lesson)
  • Subject: Learning about Día de los Muertos
  • Texas TEKS: Art 1, Art 2, Art 3
  • Duration: Extended Project

After learning about Día de los Muertos, the students will create their own ofrenda. Each student will bring either a photo of a family member who passed away, a pet who passed away, or a celebrity who passed away. The teacher will provide shoeboxes (or other small boxes) to each student. Likewise, the student could bring shoeboxes from home.

First, students will decorate their boxes with construction paper, maker drawings, and other decorations provided by the teacher.

Then, the students will each be given a skull template, which is provided with this lesson. The students will decorate the skulls with markers and crayons in the style of sugar skulls. Once the skulls are finished, the skull will be glued to the inside or outside of the box.

Next, the students will create their own marigold flowers. They will each receive the orange tissue paper and fold the paper in a zig-zag pattern. Then, they will fold the paper in half and tape the apex of the fold together to create a stem. Afterwards, the students will carefully unfold the zig-zagged paper to create a paper marigold. The students can glue or tape the flowers to their ofrendas.

Once all of the decorations are completed, the student will attach the photograph of their chosen individual to the inside of the decorated box. Now, display the ofrendas in the classroom.

After the ofrenda is completed, have the student write an artist statement explaining the design choices that were made to create their ofrendas. The students can read their artist statements to the class in a presentation of their ofrenda.


High School Lesson Plans


Goals:

High School Students of all Levels will be able to do the following:

  • Learn about the history of Día de los Muertos;
  • Examine and discuss the iconography found in the Tyler Museum of Art’s Boeckman Collection;
  • Have the students create their own ofrenda.

Texas High School TEKS:

Art Level I, Level II, Level III, and Level IV


Level I:

  • §117.302.c.1.A / D
    • Foundations: Observation and Perception:
      • consider concepts and ideas from direct observation, original sources, experiences, and imagination for original artwork;
      • make judgments about the expressive properties such as content, meaning, message, and metaphor of artwork using art vocabulary accurately.
  • §117.302.c.2.A / D / E / F
    • Creative Expression:
      • use visual solutions to create original artwork by problem solving through direct observation, original sources, experiences, narrations, and imagination;
      • create original artwork to communicate thoughts, feelings, ideas, or impressions;
      • collaborate to create original works of art;
      • demonstrate effective use of art media and tools in drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, fiber art, design, and digital art and media.
  • §117.302.c.3.A / B
    • Historical and Cultural Relevance
      • compare and contrast historical and contemporary styles while identifying general themes and trends;
      • describe general characteristics in artwork from a variety of cultures, which might also include personal identity and heritage;
  • §117.302.c.4.A / B / D
    • Critical Evaluation and Response
      • interpret, evaluate, and justify artistic decisions in artwork by self, peers, and other artists such as that in museums, local galleries, art exhibits, and websites;
      • evaluate and analyze artwork using a verbal or written method of critique such as describing the artwork, analyzing the way it is organized, interpreting the artist’s intention, and evaluating the success of the artwork;
      • select and analyze original artwork, portfolios, and exhibitions to form precise conclusions about formal qualities, historical and cultural contexts, intentions, and meanings.

Level II:

  • §117.303.c.1.A / D
    • Foundations: Observation and Perception:
      • use visual comparisons to illustrate concepts and ideas from direct observation, original sources, experiences, narration, and imagination for original artworks;
      • explore suitability of art media and processes to express specific ideas such as content, meaning, message, appropriation, and metaphor relating to visual themes of artworks using art vocabulary accurately.
  • §117.303.c.2.A / D / F
    • Creative Expression:
      • create original artwork using multiple solutions from direct observation, original sources, experiences, and imagination in order to expand personal themes that demonstrate artistic intent;
      •  create original artwork to communicate thoughts, feelings, ideas, or impressions;
      • select from a variety of art media and tools to communicate specific ideas in drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, fiber art, jewelry, mixed media, photography, and digital art and media.
  • §117.303.c.3.A / B
    • Historical and Cultural Relevance:
      • examine selected historical periods or styles of art to identify general themes and trends;
      • analyze specific characteristics in artwork from a variety of cultures;
  • §117.303.c.4.A / B / D
    • Critical Evaluation and Response:
      • interpret, evaluate, and justify artistic decisions in artwork by self, peers, and other artists such as that in museums, local galleries, art exhibits, and websites;
      • evaluate and analyze artwork using a method of critique such as describing the artwork, analyzing the way it is organized, interpreting the artist’s intention, and evaluating the success of the artwork;
      • construct a physical or electronic portfolio by evaluating and analyzing personal original artworks to provide evidence of learning;

Level III:

  • §117.304.c.1.A / D
    • Foundations: Observation and Perception:
      • analyze visual characteristics of sources to illustrate concepts, demonstrate flexibility in solving problems, create multiple solutions, and think imaginatively;
      • explore the suitability of art media and processes and select those appropriate to express specific ideas such as content, meaning, message, and metaphor relating to visual themes to interpret the expressive qualities of artwork.
  • §117.304.c.2.A / D / F
    • Creative Expression:
      • create original artwork using multiple solutions from direct observation, original sources, experiences, and imagination in order to expand personal themes that demonstrate artistic intent;
      • create original artwork to communicate thoughts, feelings, ideas, or impressions;
      • select from a variety of art media and tools to express intent in drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, fiber art, design, digital art and media, photography, jewelry, and mixed media.
  • §117.304.c.3.A / B
    • Historical and Cultural Relevance:
      • research selected historical periods, artists, general themes, trends, and styles of art;
      • distinguish the correlation between specific characteristics and influences of various cultures and contemporary artwork;
  • §117.304.c.4.A / B / D
    • Critical Evaluation and Response:
      • interpret, evaluate, and justify artistic decisions in artwork such as that in museums, local galleries, art exhibits, and websites based on evaluation of developmental progress, competency in problem solving, and a variety of visual ideas;
      • evaluate and analyze artwork using a method of critique such as describing the artwork, analyzing the way it is organized, interpreting the artist’s intention, and evaluating the success of the artwork;
      • use responses to artwork critiques to make decisions about future directions in personal work;

Level IV:

  • §117.305.c.1.A / D
    • Foundations: Observation and Perception:
      • consider concepts and themes for personal artwork that integrate an extensive range of visual observations, experiences, and imagination;
      • discriminate between art media and processes to express complex visual relationships such as content, meaning, message, and metaphor using extensive art vocabulary.
  • §117.305.c.2.A / D / F
    • Creative Expression:
      • produce an original body of artwork that integrates information from a variety of sources, including original sources, and demonstrates sustained self-directed investigations into specific themes such as a series or concentration of works;
      • create original artwork to communicate thoughts, feelings, ideas, or impressions;
      • create artwork, singularly and in a series, by selecting from a variety of art materials and tools appropriate to course work in drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, fiber art, design, digital art and media, photography, jewelry, and mixed media.
  • §117.305.c.3.A / B
    • Historical and Cultural Relevance:
      • research and report on selected historical periods, artists, general themes, trends, and styles of art;
      • analyze and evaluate the influence of contemporary cultures on artwork;
  • §117.305.c.4.A / B / D
    • Critical Evaluation and Response:
      • develop evaluative criteria to justify artistic decisions in artwork such as that in museums, local galleries, art exhibits, and websites based on a high level of creativity and expertise in one or more art areas;
      • evaluate and analyze artwork using a method of critique such as describing the artwork, analyzing the way it is organized, interpreting the artist’s intention, and evaluating the success of the artwork;
      • use responses to artwork critiques to make decisions about future directions in personal work;

High School Art Activities

Questions for High School Students:

  1. In a class discussion, explain the history and iconography of the Día de los Muertos. Then ask the following question to the class for each artwork included in the lesson plan: What Día de los Muertos symbols or iconography can you find in the folk art sculptures?

Activity: High School Fine Arts

  • Activity Setting: Classroom and/or outdoor location
  • Materials: Shoebox, Photo of a Family Member/ Pet/ Celebrity, Construction Paper, Markers, Crayons, Tissue Paper (Orange), Skull Template (provided with this lesson)
  • Subject: Learning about Día de los Muertos
  • Texas TEKS: Art Level I, Level II, Level III, and Level IV
  • Duration: Extended Project

After learning about Día de los Muertos, the students will create their own ofrenda. Each student will bring either a photo of a family member who passed away, a pet who passed away, or a celebrity who passed away. The teacher will provide shoeboxes (or other small boxes) to each student. Likewise, the student could bring shoeboxes from home.

First, students will decorate their boxes with construction paper, maker drawings, and other decorations provided by the teacher.

Then, the students will each be given a skull template, which is provided with this lesson. The students will decorate the skulls with markers and crayons in the style of sugar skulls. Once the skulls are finished, the skull will be glued to the inside or outside of the box.

Next, the students will create their own marigold flowers. They will each receive the orange tissue paper and fold the paper in a zig-zag pattern. Then, they will fold the paper in half and tape the apex of the fold together to create a stem. Afterwards, the students will carefully unfold the zig-zagged paper to create a paper marigold. The students can glue or tape the flowers to their ofrendas.

Once all of the decorations are completed, the student will attach the photograph of their chosen individual to the inside of the decorated box. Now, display the ofrendas in the classroom.

After the ofrenda is completed, have the student write an artist statement explaining the design choices that were made to create their ofrendas. The students can read their artist statements to the class in a presentation of their ofrenda.


For more educational resources created by the Tyler Museum of Art, visit our YouTube page by clicking on the YouTube button or clicking the link below.

If you use or references this lesson plan, please leave a comment with your feedback.

Thank you for visiting the Tyler Museum of Art’s Education Blog!

4 thoughts on “Lesson Plan: Día de los Muertos

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: