This week in my classes we took a moment… moment to relax a bit, a moment to catch our breath, a moment to build community, a moment to move outside our normal classroom activity.
Day of the dead is a Mexican holiday devoted to honoring those that have come before us and left this world. It is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd, very close to Halloween. We took this week to learn about the holiday (and how it is different than Halloween), work on cultural projects, and do a little bit of celebrating.
The project my students completed is based on the work of Mexican print maker José Guadalupe Posada. He depicted skeletons going about their daily lives as if they were living. Death is not something to be feared in Mexican culture, and this is one way to show the inevitable link between life and death. My students were charged to make a skeleton themselves, depicting it as a living person, or a character we see as alive. They chose who they wanted and let their creativity shine. They captured the idea that Day of the dead teaches us all…life and death are hand in hand…each a part of the other.
Here are a few examples of their work:
The other side to this week was the fact that we did something different than the norm. My students loved the opportunity to relax a bit, think creatively, and produce. Many times we get so busy with the day to day work of Spanish class that creative thinking can get pushed to the back burner. The quality of their work abounded when given the time and space to work autonomously.
At the end of the week as we were finishing up projects and final products were arriving to class, there was an overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment in my students. They were excited about their own work and the work of their peers. They asked to see other projects and celebrated a job well done.
Building a sense of community is of paramount importance in the classroom, and last week played an enormous role in the continuous construction that goes on in my environment. We can never stop building culture. Everyone benefits from a moment to breathe. I have a feeling that the intrinsic motivation levels for my students got recharged this past week, and I can’t wait to see what they produce in the coming days.