During the month of October 2014, fourth and fifth grade students at Ravenswood worked on a unit that combined the study of theatrical make up and the cultural celebration of Dia de los Muertos. For those of you not completely in tune with the the holiday, Dia de los Muertos is a traditional celebration that focuses on remembering one's family and friends that have died. Sugar skulls play an important part of the tradition and also offer a wonderful segue into learning more about theatrical make up and application.
All in all, I was really excited to do this unit with the students for a number of reasons. First of all, I love theatre make up. It is actually the first thing I was involved in for a play and introduced me to the magic of the theatrical process! Second, it emphasizes the process of design which has so many connections with skills they use in other subjects that Common Core would bust at the seams with joy if it had seams with which to bust. I was also really excited to introduce the students to a new (to them) form of group work that I felt would push their collaboration skills to the next level.
For this unit, the student worked in groups to learn about the history, origin, and traditions of Dia de los Muertos. They also learned some of the main tools of make up application and design. To do this we used a grouping technique called Jigsawing, which you can learn more about here, which has the students break into two types of groups. The learning group and the subject group. In groups of 4-5, the learning groups all choose a different subject to study (in this case: Origin, Tradition, History, Make Up Technique, and Script Reading). Then the learning groups break up into the subject groups (where everyone in that group is learning the same thing) and they study the material together. They take notes and quiz each other on content. The next step is the most fun for me to watch. The students meet back in their learning groups, but now each member of the group is an "expert" on a different topic, and it is their responsibility to teach the rest of the learning group what they know. It was amazing to see the groups working together so collaboratively and taking such ownership over their own learning!
For the remainder of the unit, the students worked on make up designs based on the candy skull concept. After their designs were complete they were finally able to begin practicing the application portion of the unit, which is probably the most fun for them but I still like the part where they are at the height of the learning and collaborating. What can I say, I'm a nerd like that. Below are some pictures of the classes at work. Enjoy and thanks for reading!