4 Engaging Cinco de Mayo Activities for Students
The Classroom

4 Engaging Cinco de Mayo Activities for Students

Newsela Editorial
Apr 26, 2024

On May 5, 1862, the Mexican army surprised the French army at the Battle of Puebla. Although this was the original reason to commemorate the Cinco de Mayo holiday, people in the United States also use May 5 to remember the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, celebrate Mexican heritage, and reflect on the work done to fight discrimination. In your classroom, teach about all the reasons to mark the holiday with some of these curated Cinco de Mayo activities for students:

Discover the history of Cinco de Mayo with social studies student activities

Make sure all your students have the background knowledge they need to understand the significance of this holiday from the start of the lesson. With Newsela Social Studies, you can provide the context students need for reading comprehension and synthesizing their own ideas about the topic with text sets like:

Cinco de Mayo in the U.S. and Mexico

How do people in the United States and Mexico celebrate Cinco de Mayo differently? Use the holiday as a chance to teach students how to compare and contrast celebrations with resources like:

  • A list of things your students may not know about the holiday’s history, like how France was one of the strongest armies in the world when Mexico conquered them at the Battle of Puebla.

  • Articles about traditional foods served at Cinco de Mayo celebrations in each country, and which meals are missing from U.S. tables.

  • Maps and articles that show how the current borders of the U.S. and Mexico are different than they were over 150 years ago—and why territory changes may influence who celebrates Cinco de Mayo in the U.S.

Cornerstone activity: Mexico

Dig deeper with your Cinco de Mayo activities by exploring more than just the holiday itself. Use this time to share a lesson about the past and present history of the country of Mexico. Use resources on Newsela Social Studies to introduce students to concepts like:

  • Quick facts about Mexico’s geography, government, economy, and wildlife.

  • How Mexico is working to protect its marine population by creating one of the largest marine protected reserves in North America.

  • The Mexican government is proposing to teach both English and Spanish in its schools so that students grow up bilingual.

El país de México

Speaking of teaching bilingual students, you can also infuse more language studies into your social studies lessons, or more social studies lessons into your language classes. This type of activity can help students better understand and appreciate the variety of cultures that influence American society. Use Newsela’s El país de México text set that contains all content and activities in Spanish to teach topics like:

  • The relationship between the Mexican city of Juárez and the U.S. city of El Paso, Texas, and how their proximity affects the lives of citizens in both places.

  • How urban art is resurging and thriving in Oaxaca, Mexico, and how artists' political viewpoints are driving their creativity.

  • The recovery of the monarch butterfly population in Mexico and what it means for the country’s wildlife and ecosystems.

Teach literacy skills with Cinco de Mayo content and activities

Turn your Cinco de Mayo lesson into a skills practice activity and teach students how to analyze multimedia sources. With this curated set of resources for the ELA classroom, you can:

  • Show students an interactive video about the history and significance of Cinco de Mayo.

  • Share two texts in English or Spanish that explore little-known facts about the holiday.

  • Use a three-column chart worksheet to organize what information students learned from each source and explore how the presentation of the information influenced what they learned.

Teach and assess bilingual lessons all year long

Cinco de Mayo is a great seasonal moment to engage your students in Mexican culture and the world of bilingual education. But it doesn’t have to be the only moment for these activities. With Newsela products, you can support Spanish-speaking English Learners (ELs), or supplement teaching Spanish to English speakers with thousands of translated articles on a variety of topics. Highlight articles that showcase Latin American countries like Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, and more. With Formative by Newsela, you can create warm-ups, lessons, exit tickets, and more types of formative assessments to help them show what they know in any language.

If you’re not a Newsela customer yet, you can register for Newsela Lite to explore a taste of our premium differentiated content and engaging formative assessments with four rolling high-interest articles per month. Plus, after you’ve signed up for Newsela Lite, you can claim your free trial of our premium products to start using in your classroom right away!

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