Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 3-8, students explore BrainPOP resources to learn about the Mexican holiday, Día de los Muertos–its origins, the Aztec people, and this holiday is celebrated today.  Then they’ll build and ofrenda decorated with papel picado, or traditional paper cut-outs that are an integral part of this holiday.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Brainstorm the different cultural rituals and traditions for honoring the dead .
  2. Watch a BrainPOP movie about Day of the Dead
  3. Plan and build an ofrenda
  4. Present their ofrendas during a Day of the Dead celebration


  • Internet access for BrainPOP
  • Colored tissue paper
  • Scissors
  • Markers
  • Construction paper
  • Yarn
  • Tape


  • Preview the movie Day of the Dead to plan for any adaptations. 
  • Assign the Day of the Dead Worksheet to the whole class.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Open the lesson by describing how today they will learn all about Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday that celebrates the souls of the dead with decorated shrines called ofrendas, cultural foods, and special festivals and processions. Explain that it is a joyful day when families come together to remember the deceased.
  2. Now ask students to share rituals and traditions for honoring the dead from their culture or others they know of. Jot their ideas in a concept map on the board or on chart paper.
  3. Display the Day of the Dead topic on the whiteboard, and invite a volunteer to read aloud the description. Then play the movie once through for the whole class. If time allows, show the movie again, this time using the Discussion Prompts and Pause Points. 
  4. Have students open the Worksheet assignment. Tell students they will now plan and build an ofrenda for someone who has passed that they’d like to honor--it can be someone famous or someone from their own lives. Remind them that an ofrenda is an altar decorated with items that are meaningful to the deceased. Have them use the use the worksheet to plan their ofrenda. NOTE: If any student in your class has experienced a recent death of a family member or friend, out of sensitivity for that student, you may instead ask the class to honor someone famous who has passed away, like an athlete, musician, actor, etc.
  5. Students may either bring in items over the next few days for their ofrenda, including a photo of the deceased. If someone famous, they can print out from the internet. Alternatively, have them draw the items or create a collage by cutting out pictures from magazines. Students are encouraged to add a variety of visual and audio items to their ofrenda.
  6. Next, distribute tissue paper, scissors, and markers to students to make papel picados. Instruct them to layer a few sheets of the tissue together and fold in half lengthwise and then in half again also lengthwise, ensuring that only one side has folds. Now fold the paper in half horizontally. Have them draw a dot in the corner with all the folds to indicate where not to cut.
  7. Now have students cut shapes along all four sides but not where the dot is. To cut a shape in the middle, they should fold the paper in half again and cut a shape into the fold.
  8. Finally, students unfold the tissue paper, tape it to lengths of yarn and add as decoration to their ofrendas.
  9. Invite students to share their ofrendas with each other, describing who their honoring and what the items on their altar represents.