Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sugar skulls? Success (so far).

That's one happy skull!
He'll be even happier when he gets his nose back next week.

The first grader who drew and painted this sugar skull asked me, "Can we do this every year?" To which I so eloquently said, "Uh... yeah!" I mean, I plan on switching it up from year to year, but it's kinda hard to resist a direct request. And conveniently, I have variations on Dia de los Muertos sugar skull units lined up for my first, second, and third grades. So she just might be doing it again-- but differently-- in second and third grade. We'll see how it goes.

I've only taught the first grade version to one class and so far so good. Most of them didn't know about the holiday, and they rightfully confused it with Halloween at first. One student asked, "So we're supposed to be happy when people die?" as I was trying to explain that it's not a sad holiday, even though it's honoring those who have passed. I told him no, we're not usually happy when people die, but we can celebrate the good life that they led and we can recognize our happy memories. That brought him around. I got surprisingly little resistance from the students. I was prepared for at least one student to balk at the idea of drawing a skull, maybe too creeped out by it. I should have paid more attention to the possibility that (male) students wouldn't want to draw flowers, which is what happened. Marigolds go along with Dia de los Muertos, but most of the boys selectively left them out. There were eyepatches and horns and crazy cobweb crowns instead... and maybe that's not in keeping with the Mexican holiday, but it's in line with artistic awesomeness, so it's all good.

We'll add color with tempera (mixed with white) next week. I thought it would be a one lesson unit, but it turned into two once I realized it took over half of class (45 minutes with first grade) just to intro the unit and draw the skulls with white oil pastel. More to come as we actually approach the holiday!


Special thanks to Deep Space Sparkle for lesson inspiration.


  1. Ohh I love your pic/posts :) I just realized you had a blog! Keep posting!!! <3

  2. I do this with oil pastels on black construction paper. :)