by Holly McCarty

Reflections on Lessons

Lesson #1 Maria Molina and the Day of the Dead

The first lesson I taught was the lesson reading Maria Molina and the Days of the Dead. I was really surprised at how well this lesson went. The children really got into the discussion, the book, and the whole concept of the Day of the Dead festival. With book and discussion, the whole lesson ended up lasting one whole hour. Even after an hour,the students still wanted to talk and ask questions about the festival. I was pleased to accomplish my goal for the first lesson. It was to make sure students understood what the festival meant and that it was not Halloween. I wanted them to see that it was similar to Memorial Day. I wasn’t sure if they would make the appropriate distinctions and connections.

I was a little concerned that I would have to lead most of the discussion. I wanted to use the book for the students to discover the festival rather than me just tell them what it is about. They used the knowledge they gained in the book and of the other holidays to compare and contrast. The student responses to the book and insights led the discussion. One thing I would of liked to change, was that I wish I would of had a video or laser disc to show on the festival. I don’t think the books have been giving the students the full visual picture of the festival and of the cemeteries. Unfortunately, I could not find one in this area. The time of day I taught this lesson was difficult also. I taught at the last hour of class and really felt I had to struggle to keep their minds focused on the lesson instead of socializing. They usually have this time for study hall. They were great for about the first half hour. If I had more class time to teach throughout the week, I probably would of just read the book one day, and continued with the comparison the next. Overall, I was pleased with the lesson and how well the students reflected and participated in discussion.


Lesson #2 Papel Picado

The next lesson I taught was the papel picado art lesson. I was going to do more work with understanding the concepts and origin of the festival, but decided to break it up with some of the fun projects. I learned a lot from teaching this lesson. I was not sure what their capabilities would be going into the lesson. Looking back, I should of had all the students start with a small piece of paper and experiment with simple shapes as designs. They immediately went into drawing complicated designs, animals, and objects and could not cut them out correctly. Many of the projects fell apart on the first try. Towards the end, however, the students began to figure out for themselves that they need to work on some simpler designs. Next time, I will have the students start with a simple design and then try for more complicated ones. I also should of had more than one exacto knife to go around. There were some complications in too many people needing to use one tool at once. The students really enjoyed the activity and were really enthusiastic about it.

I will be teaching two more lessons next week and my coop is teaching one lesson on a day I will not be there. I will reflect on those after they have been taught.


Lesson #3 Calaveras Puppets

I was very pleased with how well this lesson went. I felt I was more prepared to do this type of art lesson since I had learned so many things from the previous art lesson with papel picado I had done as my second lesson of my mini-unit. I was more organized with my supplies and directions in this lesson than with the last art lesson. I feel art lessons, especially ones such as these that require many supplies, take a great deal of organization and planning. My supplies were pretty organized and easily accessible for the students.

My introduction went even better than I had expected it to go. I had the students compare the skulls and skeletons they are use to seeing around Halloween with the ones that are seen during the El Dia de los Muertos festival. They came up with some good comparisons and characteristics of the calaveras. I next read them a Mexican tale that they seemed to really enjoy. This tale gave the students an idea of how the Mexicans look at death. Afterwards, we discussed what the calaveras images and the tale say about how the people of Mexico view death. I was very pleased and very surprised with how insightful the students were in this discussion. I think the comparison, the tale, and the discussion were a meaningful way for the students to begin the art lesson. They developed an idea of what these images mean in the festival and some characteristics of the calaveras before actually construction them.

Although my coop thought to do it for me, I wish that I would of listed the steps involved in making the calaveras puppets on the board for the students to see. I also agreed with my supervisor in that I should of given them a time limit on how long they would have to complete the project. That way, students would know not to get too involved in drawing the skeletons and not have any time to animate them. Overall, I feel as if the students enjoyed this lesson very much, and that is what makes me most pleased about it.


Lesson #4 Pan de los Muertos and Mexican Hot Chocolate

Of all the lessons I taught in my mini-unit, this one was by far the most difficult. There are a lot of things I would change if I had to teach this lesson again. With a cooking lesson, there are so many details to sort out. At first I was going to have all the students make their own loaves in the classroom working in six groups of four. As I was setting up inside the classroom, I noticed that it seemed inefficient and the materials were going to be hard to pass around. I also recognized that I would not be able to offer very much assistance to each group if they were all working at the same time.

At the last minute, I decided to move all the materials down to the kitchen area and have the six groups rotate one at a time down to the kitchen. While this was happening, my coop was working with the students upstairs on the Mexican hot chocolate. Students were able to work on some of their homework while the one group was making bread. I worked with the groups that had to leave for band first. This set up worked out so much better.

When actually making the bread, I had each group make their own loaf and their own topping. I think the students liked making their own loaf with their group, but if I would do this lesson again, I would assign certain aspects of the recipe to certain people and make only about two loaves for the whole class. There was plenty in two loaves to go around to all people in the class. We ran out of time trying to bake all six loaves. Making two loaves would of got the lesson done much faster.

The students really got into the cooking lesson. It was a bit crowded at times in the kitchen, but the students were very helpful in keeping things organized and clean. I think what made me the most proud about this lesson was that one of the special needs students who is hardly ever in class and hardly ever participates when he is in class, really enjoyed this lesson and participated without any problems or distractions. Usually you can't even get him to concentrate or listen to directions. He really took to this activity and got a lot out of it. It seemed as if the students enjoyed the hands-on aspect of this activity and the process of making something they had been learning so much about.

I think most of the problems that I ran into with this lesson had to deal with finding the most efficient way of getting all the students involved and the bread made. I think it was one of those lessons that I had to experience and learn from in order to figure out what works and what does not work. It was hard to foresee the problems that may occur, especially since I had not ever taught a cooking lesson. I do feel as each group came through, it got a little easier. What I learned from each group I was able to adapt for the next. The students were very proud at the end of the day to eat the bread they had made and drink their hot cocoa.

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