Dia de Los Muertos Altar
history, K-12, Social Studies

Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

I am ashamed to say that I have lived in San Antonio for over 30 years and only became aware of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) a few years ago. The holiday originated in Mexico, but is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd by people all over the world who have Mexican heritage. With its proximity to the American holiday of Halloween on October 31st, as well as the proliferation of skulls and skeletons, Día de los Muertos may be confused by some as another excuse to wear costumes and ask for candy, but those are not the purposes of Día de los Muertos. Instead, it is a time to remember those who have died — not in a mournful way, but one of joyous respect. Private altars dedicated to dead relatives and friends are built in some homes, while a number of families visit graveyards to clean and decorate the resting places of those no longer living.

Special traditions are observed during this holiday, including one of the most famous: sugar skulls. Unfortunately, coloring or decorating sugar skulls may be all that non-Mexicans learn about Día de los Muertos in school, and those activities in and of themselves are not the most meaningful way for students to understand another culture. (Tomorrow’s Anti-Racist post will be about how to examine whether or not an action or activity is an example of cultural appropriation.) I have collected some resources that include short videos, websites, and lesson plans you can use in this Wakelet.

If you have any other suggestions for resources or if I made any mistakes in my explanation of Día de los Muertos, please let me know.

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Altar
Día de los Muertos Altar Display at Pearl Brewery in 2018

K-12, Teaching Tools

Winter Holiday Wakelet

I have been going through some of my old December posts, as well as curating new resources from others, to put together into a Winter Holiday Wakelet. I apologize, since I know that one hemisphere is currently experiencing summer, but I could not think of a good way to describe all of the included activities that wasn’t super long! Please comment below if you have a more inclusive (but not more than 5 word) title!

This Wakelet includes a link to Advent My Friend ( an editable countdown calendar that some teachers are customizing for their classes), a Lego Ornament Challenge from Aaron Maurer, Holiday Choice Boards shared by Shannon McClintock Miller, and much more. I will be adding to the Wakelet throughout December, so please click on the “Follow” button if you want to stay up to date. I am virtually attending ISTE20 this weeks, so I hope to have many more things to share in the upcoming days!

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com


Poke the Cheese Platter!

I thought it would be nice to reflect on a few smiles I’ve had in the last week for today’s post.  We have one more day of school before the Winter Break so, like many educators this time of year, I’ve been clinging to these moments of joy while trying to maintain some semblance of order amongst the students who are revving up with anticipation for vacation.

Joy Moment #1 – One of my callbacks is , “Hey, Rockstars!” to which the students respond, “Hey, what?” and look at me for directions.  This week, with an administrator doing a weekly walkthrough, I called out, “Hey, Rockstars!”, and received the usual response.  However, many of the students continued whatever they were doing.  “Uh oh, ” I said.  “I think you guys forgot something.  What are supposed to do when I say, ‘Hey, Rockstars?”

“Look at your beautiful face!” one of the students responded immediately.

I’m sure that face turned bright red as I realized that my administrator now thinks I demand gazes of adoration every time I give instructions…

Joy Moment #2 – Tuesday was a gloomy, rainy day so I implemented the Indoor Recess Plan with my 5th graders.  As a group gleefully played and talked smack at my foosball coffee table, another group grabbed the iPads to play SpaceTeam.  In between cheers of, “Goal!!!!” I got to hear students shouting, “Poke the Cheese Platter!  I said, Poke the Cheese Platter!  Oh no, now the translator is defective!”  I felt like a member of the Star Trek crew who had been accidentally transported to a cooking show being broadcast live from a football tournament.

Joy Moment #3 – As a Christmas gift one of our wonderful parents brought jumbo packs of soft toilet paper to stock every faculty bathroom in the school.

Joy Moment #4 – When I ran across this page of really bad analogies written by high school students. My personal favorite is, “like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM.”

Joy Moment #5 – Discovering this teacher version of Cards Against Humanity on We are Teachers.

Joy Moment #6 – Watching a confused teacher pull out a Squatty Potty during our White Elephant gift exchange, and then listening to everyone try to explain to her its purpose.  Finally, someone suggested, “Maybe you can just use it in your classroom as a stool?”

Joy Moment #7 – This


Joy Moment Infinity – The hugs and good wishes from students, colleagues, and parents.

Merry Christmas to all and don’t forget to Poke the Cheese Platter!

cheese platter.jpeg
image from Pixabay

Creative Thinking, K-5, Teaching Tools, Videos

The Bear and the Hare are Quite a Pair

One of my suggestions listed in “Telegenic Ways to Survive the Weeks Before Winter Break” is a lovely short video called, “The Bear and the Hare.”  It is actually a John Lewis advertisement, but these annual holiday commercials have become traditional favorites due to their outstanding artwork and storytelling.  I have a link in my original post to an activity that Joelle Trayers did with her students, asking them to use empathy to imagine what the bear might give the hare in return for its thoughtful gift.  I thought I would try it with my 2nd graders this year, and here are some of their responses:


(a GPS collar)


3-12, Critical Thinking, Education, Games, Problem Solving, Websites

Breakout Edu Seasonal Games (Update)

This is actually a repost from last year, but Breakout Edu has changed its format a bit.  In order to access the holiday games, you will need to be logged in (registration is free), and then you can use this link: https://platform.breakoutedu.com/category/christmas-hanukkah-and-winter-holidays There are digital games and physical games included in the collection.

I should probably add Breakout Edu’s Seasonal Games to my “Teachers’ December Survival Kit.”  What better way is there to keep your students engaged, learning, and problem-solving than sending them on a holiday quest?  You can find Breakout Edu games related to December holidays at the above link.

In case you haven’t hear about Breakout Edu yet, here is my first post about the site. Digital Breakout Edu games don’t require the physical equipment (boxes, locks, etc…) that are suggested for the regular games.  Don’t despair if you want to try a Breakout Edu game and don’t have the supplies.  I’ve seen teachers use many creative ways to simulate the boxes and locks with found materials. The students will enjoy working out the puzzles no matter what you use!

image from Pixabay

3-12, Critical Thinking, Education, Games, Problem Solving, Websites

A Blocky Christmas

UPDATE 8/27/2021: Unfortunately, this game is no longer working because it is a Flash game.  According to Cool Math, they are working on a “fix” for it.  I hope they find a way to make it available again! You can download it as an iOS app here. You can also play it here as an HTML 5 game, but you will have ads (and it may be blocked by school districts).

I’ll be adding the “Blocky Christmas Puzzle” to my list of “Logical Ways to Survive the Weeks Before Winter Break.”  It’s a fun site that challenges you to move some blocks around the screen.  I know that doesn’t sound very fun or challenging, but trust me, my description doesn’t really do it justice.  As you move through the levels, new obstacles are added and your own block becomes magnetic – which can be helpful and irritating at the same time.  I love using puzzles like these on the Interactive White Board to talk about Growth Mindset with my students.  They cheer each other on and everyone celebrates when someone solves a particularly difficult level.

I learned about the “Blocky Christmas Puzzle” from Technology Rocks. Seriously.  You can find more holiday interactive by visiting this post by Shannon.  She also has a billion other awesome resources, so you should definitely visit her blog if you haven’t yet.

Blocky Christmas Puzzle
Blocky Christmas Puzzle