Easter is coming.
Which means spring is just around the corner.
Which means your Spanish students are about to get a little more antsy.
Which means it’s going to get a lot harder to keep their attention focused on español.
But as the saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!
There’s no point in ignoring the balmy spring breezes or trying to pretend you’re not just as excited as your students are to kiss wintertime goodbye.
So instead, why not embrace the Easter season in your classroom, and spring right along with it?
Easter is hugely important in the Spanish-speaking world, so there’s a lot of great cultural material to share—not to mention fun vocabulary and crafts to spice things up!
Ready to get started?
Let’s see how you can inject fun into your Spanish classes with some great Easter- and spring-themed activities for your students.
Teaching About the Importance of Easter Celebrations in the Spanish-speaking World
Of course you know that Spanish-speaking countries are largely Catholic, but did you know just how Catholic? In Paraguay, a whopping 88 percent of the population identifies as Roman Catholic, and in Ecuador it’s 81 percent. (By comparison, only about 20 percent of Americans identify themselves as Catholic.)
In these countries, celebrating Easter is more important than Christmas, as belief in Christ’s resurrection is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. Though talking about Easter in school is par for the course in more heavily-Christian countries like Bolivia, teaching about Easter in the U.S. may require a more careful approach.
Instead of focusing too much on the religious themes behind the holiday, it’s probably better for most public school teachers to stick to explaining the interesting cultural highlights of how Easter is celebrated in Spain and Latin America. Here are two major cultural events you can highlight for students.
Easter Celebrations in Spain
Across Spain, the faithful (along with everyone else) celebrate Semana Santa (Holy Week) with a two-week school vacation and street festivals that include pasos—processions in which robed, hooded men carry heavy floats through the streets. The floats are very heavy and represent a Lenten burden; they support intricately carved statues and idols of saints, and they are often decorated with gold from the New World. The processions are a somber break in the action that is otherwise quite festive, involving street food, performers and families with happy children.
Most American students will be interested in the capirotes—the tall, conical hoods worn during the processions that look a whole lot like the robes worn by members of the Ku Klux Klan. These images can feel downright disturbing to American students, but in Spain the caps symbolize rising to the heavens. This is the perfect opportunity for a discussion about cultural relativity, and how our culture shapes our interpretation of the world around us.
Easter Celebrations in Mexico
Students in Mexico also get two weeks of school vacation during Easter, and many families use the time to head to the beach (go ahead, make your students jealous!). Holy Week in Mexico tends to be a much more joyful time than in Spain. Instead of somber music and drumming during the religious processions, Easter in Mexico includes a fair amount of pyrotechnics!
The day before Easter is el Sábado de Gloria (Holy Saturday), and Mexicans use the day to burn the traitor Judas in effigy. This isn’t as dark as it sounds. The making of papier-mâché Judases has become a form of folk art, and the colorful figures are often at the center of raucous parades and street festivals—right up until they’re blown apart with fireworks or set ablaze with torches. This is always fun for students to enjoy on YouTube, and you can use it as an intro to a whole bunch of unique Mexican phrases.
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3 Spanish Class Easter Activities to Power Through Spring Fever
In addition to exploring cultural traditions, the Easter season is a great time to reinvigorate your students’ love of Spanish class with some engaging activities that reinforce common vocabulary and skills. These fun activities are the perfect “seventh inning stretch” to re-energize your students and make it through the last few months of school.
To meet the needs of diverse public school student populations, you can modify these activities to be more or less secular, depending on your school. You know your community best, so feel free to take these ideas and run with them in a way that works for your classroom.
1. Easter Egg Art
Decorating Easter eggs is fun for all ages, and you can use them to review Spanish colors and shapes in a cool, hands-on way. You can give oral instructions about how to decorate the eggs in Spanish for a listening comprehension workout, or you can have students write their own directions in Spanish, shuffle the papers and hand them out so classmates each have a different set of artistic rules to follow.
There are loads of ways to change up this activity, but here are a few options to get you started:
- Go all-out by having each student bring a carton of hard-boiled eggs to class. You can have them practice numbers and colors by asking them (in Spanish, or course!) to dip-dye a certain number of each color and return the boxes to you for inspection.
- Use blackline masters and colored pencils for a no-mess solution. Download a sheet with lots of small eggs or just one big one and have students color it according to your Spanish directions. You can incorporate directional prepositions along with colors and numbers for a bigger challenge.
- Turn students into art critics. If you have time to display your finished Easter egg artwork, send students on a gallery walk and have them “review” their favorites by writing a short paragraph in Spanish about the ones they liked best. This is great practice for adjective-noun agreement, opinion phrases and language around preferences for more advanced learners.
If you’re worried that Easter eggs aren’t secular enough, try substituting flowers for the artwork.
2. Barnyard Babies Bingo
Easter and springtime are all about new life, so it’s no wonder we see so many images of cute baby animals this time of year. Your students will love reviewing some common animal vocab with a fun game of bingo.
You can make your own boards to customize the vocabulary, or you can use a ready-made set instead.
If you focus on animal babies, you have the opportunity to teach some more specialized terms like cachorro (puppy), osezno (cub), gazapo (bunny) and chivo (kid), in addition to the very useful diminutive –ito/a suffix.
Got lots of time? Make it even more fun by throwing in some cultural onomatopoeia.
3. Sowing Seeds
For some hands-on science that takes advantage of all that sun streaming into your classroom, have your students plant some seeds and watch them sprout.
For the most interesting results, have students plant a nice big bean (lima beans or lava beans work well) along the edge of a clear, plastic cup with a hole poked in the bottom for drainage. Any potting soil or seed starting mix will do as long as you keep it moist by watering it every other day or so. (If you don’t have a green thumb, try this tutorial to get started.) When the bean sprouts, your students will be able to watch it unfurl and spread its roots—normally invisible underground, but totally easy to see thanks to the clear plastic.
You can use this as a great introduction to some plant vocabulary in Spanish. Have your students name the hojas (leaves) and raíces (roots); then introduce the life cycle of the plant in relation to seasons and weather. For example, the tallo (stem) gets longer and greener when the sun comes out and the weather warms. You can also point out flores (flowers), pétalos (petals), fruta (fruit) and semillas (seeds) to complete the life cycle.
This all makes for a natural introduction to a food unit—have students match which part of the plant common foods come from for a fun farm-to-table connection that’s all in Spanish.
Whether you choose to celebrate Easter with a cultural exploration, a science project or an artistic display, there are lots of ways to keep your students engaged in Spanish class.
Get creative, and enjoy the coming warmth and sunshine!
Elizabeth Trach teaches Spanish in a public elementary school in Brookline, Massachusetts, where she co-authored the district’s original K-5 Spanish curriculum. In her spare time, she sings in a band and grows her own food. You can read about all her adventures at Port Potager.
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