Lesson Plan

Compare and Contrast Day of the Dead and Halloween

Students will learn about the history of Halloween and The Day of the Dead. They will create a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting the holidays and write a paragraph with appropriate transition words.
Brian M.
Classroom teacher
Washington Elementary School
Burlingame, CA
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My Grades 4
My Subjects English Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Arts, English Language Learning

Students will be able to...

write a paragraph using compare and contrast transition words.

create a Venn Diagram on a digital whiteboard.

close read and annotate grade level appropriate texts.

critically watch short informational videos to determine important information.




English Language Arts
reading fluency
reading comprehension
text analysis
using supporting evidence
Social Studies
cultural understanding
Grades 4 - 5
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook/Attention Getter

Activity: Conversing

Teacher shares a personal story about a special person in their life who has passed away. They share why this person was important to them, how they affected their life and why they will never forget them. Maybe, share a picture or a special item that symbolizes the person. To relate with the students, following this discussion, share a story about a lost pet that was an important part of your past. Allow students to share memories of special people and pets that have been a part of their lives. Students should share why this person or animal were important to them and how they made a difference in their lives.

Following the discussion, share the Time for Kids article "Oct. 31 is for family, not fright, in Mexico." This short article briefly introduces the Mexican celebration of The Day of the Dead.

Teachers can point out how different this cultural celebration is to our culture's treatment of death.  It is unique to have a celebration to remember the special people in our lives, and it serves as a springboard to a discussion about the two celebrations - Halloween and The Day of the Dead.

Ask the children, "Why do you think there are two very different holidays center around death and darkness occurring in the fall at the same time?" The children should recognize that plants and natural world are dying and turning dormant for winter and through observations the ancient cultures used this time to honor and respect death and the unknown.

2 Direct Instruction

Activity: Reading

Pass out the article El Dia de los Muertos. Follow the Close Reading Guidelines. For the first read, allow the students to read the article independently (as best they can) without a pencil in their hand. When they have finished they should write one of two sentences explaining the authors main purpose. For the second read, the teacher should model annotating the text. At the conclusion of the second read, lead the class in a discussion about the text addressing any questions or comments. Finally, have the kids work in pairs to answer a few text dependent questions. Such as...

1. What is the origin of The Day of the Dead? Support your answer with text evidence.

2. What are two examples of a Day of the Dead celebration? Support your answer with text evidence.

3. What is the true purpose of a Day of the Dead celebration? Support your answer with text evidence.

Allow time for students to share their answers and the evidence from the text that supports their conclusions.

3 Direct Instruction

Here is a lesson I really like to introduce compare and contrast writing and the use of transition words. The nest vs. house example is wonderful and all kids get it.

4 Guided Practice

Students will work in pairs and watch four short videos about Halloween and the Day of the Dead. The first two are on the history of Halloween. If you do not have access to brainpop.com, click here to download a short article about Halloween. The second two are about The Day of the Dead. As the students watch the videos, they should record the important ideas and the cultural differences between the two holidays. This is an opportunity for the students to view a variety of multimedia presentations about the two holidays and to begin to build their own understanding about their history and relevance. If time permits, allow students to search for their own content about the holidays.

5 Independent Work

Students use classtools.net to create a Venn Diagram that compares and contrasts Halloween and The Day of the Dead on the site's interactive whiteboard.

Students print or save their work and use it as a guide for writing a paragraph comparing and contrasting the holidays.

6 Wrap-Up/Closure

Activity: Creating

Students share their opinions of the two holidays and defend which one they would most like to celebrate.

As fun culminating activities the class can create a Day of the Dead classroom altar to honor and remember the special people and animals in their lives. Follow the link here to get some good ideas and instructions.

Day of the Dead Extension activities and some art projects click here.

More cute and crafty art extension activities can be found here.