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Reading Spotlight Blog -

Snowflakes in May

When my first Hispanic student arrived in my classroom, I decided to have my first Cinco de Mayo fiesta, Papel Picado included. Mexicans don’t actually celebrate this holiday as much as Americans do, but I did not know that then. There would be many more yearly fiestas, once I realized how much fun they could be.  Using it as a good behavior incentive, I always celebrated in May, but Hispanic Heritage Month in September is a different possibility.

As I mentioned in previous posts, I was inculcated early by my elementary teachers into the virtues of America’s Melting Pot. I simply want all my students to welcome all nationalities, and enjoy their various cultures. You can read my previous post about how an immigrant girl learned to read English here:

How Emma Learned to Read

and my post about  Morning Music  of different cultures.

Teaching in a mostly land-locked mid-western city, we actually had only about 2% Hispanic /Latino population, and Gloria was my first. Within a month, her cousin Loida arrived. Of course, as I have mentioned before, teaching reading is so much fun because almost anything can be related to reading. In this case, it is “Following Written Directions.” Plus, struggling readers need extra motivation!

I started with decorations. Papel Picado means “perforated paper.”  This art is usually intricately designed with paper or fabric in different shapes. There are many different historical references to this art form, but they looked like I could turn them into rectangle-shaped, multi-colored paper “snowflakes.”  I tried tissue paper from a dollar store, but most of my second graders kept tearing the paper. I could have used colored copy paper if I had any, but I did not, so I simply obtained different colors of construction paper from the art teacher. The only supplies needed are: colored paper (tissue, copy, or construction), scissors, heavy string, and tacks (or strong tape).

For a simple exercise in reading about Papel Picado and following directions, see my FREE one-page lesson:

Simple Papel Picado

I allowed the students to make more Papel Picado in different colors if they wanted to, but I insisted that everyone have at least one to hang. They followed directions in folding and cutting and added their names to their creations. When the Papel Picado were finished, I bought a piñata and filled it with small candy. I helped the janitor hang everything the night before our Cinco de Mayo fiesta. Meanwhile, because I knew the steps to the dance, I located music for The Mexican Hat Dance.  I also asked the librarian to search for some children’s books about Hispanic culture.

If you are interested in some great books for Latino/Hispanic interests, see my Pinterest pin:

Encouraging Life-Long Readers

The fiesta was so much fun! Teaching the dance was way more challenging than I thought it would be. Many of my second graders had two left feet. I described the Hispanic-related books and put them in my classroom library until the end of the school year. I saved the piñata for the last part of our fiesta because I was worried the kids would be too wound up. Surprisingly, with rules and warnings beforehand, they were well-behaved and appreciative.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!


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