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Teaching Suggestions

The Monarch's Arrival and Mexican Traditions
(Back to Slideshow Overview)


The first monarchs arrive at their winter home in Mexico each fall by the first of November. People connect the arrival of the monarchs with two events that take place in Mexico at the time; the corn harvest is a seasonal event and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a cultural event. Using the facts and photos in this slideshow, explore this essential question:

Essential Question:
How are Mexico's traditions connected to the arrival of monarchs?

Set the Stage for Learning

1. Preview the slideshow cover. Ask questions to assess prior knowledge:

  • When do monarchs arrive in Mexico?
  • If you lived in Mexico, how would you welcome the arrival of monarchs?
  • What important events are taking place when monarchs arrive in Mexico?
2. Preview images in the Photo Gallery. On large chart paper, post the essential question: How are Mexico's traditions connected to the arrival of monarchs? Have students make pre-reading predictions based on details they see in the photos.

3. Preview slideshow using the Headings Handout and Word Cards. Have students predict how the words may be related to the title, paragraph headings, and essential question: How are Mexico's traditions connected to the arrival of monarchs? An optional Journal Page that combines clue words and heading hints is also available for this preview activity.

Viewing the Slideshow

As a class, read through the pages of the slideshow together. Stop occasionally to spotlight key words and ideas or ask questions. Encourage students to share their own questions sparked by the information and images.

As you read the slideshow, discuss:
Cultures have different beliefs about death and different ways of remembering loved ones who have died. How do Mexicans celebrate Day of the Dead, their memorial holiday in November? Encourage students to look closely at each photo and ask questions about how ofrendas are made, why marigold flowers are gathered, how candles are used, what traditional foods and drinks are made for the festivities, and more. Explore the customs and unique ways this annual holiday is celebrated.

Optional printed booklet of slideshow can be copied and assembled for partner or at-home reading.

Revisit for Understanding

1. Reread the selection together. Have students identify sentences that give facts specific to the essential question. Page-by-page, challenge them to summarize main ideas and key details.

2. Compare Day of the Dead with other holidays. Students may mention Halloween, which occurs at the same time of year. The holiday's historic roots, beliefs, and traditions have given way in the U.S. and Canada to a celebration of candy and costumes. Explore the similarities and differences between Halloween and the Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations. Encourage students to compare world customs for other memorial events, such as Thanksgiving. Compare beliefs, activities, foods, clothing, and other items that help people celebrate during these events.

3. Discuss seasonal connections:
Fall holidays are rooted in yearly seasonal changes and final harvests. In the past, people stockpiled food for cold winter months when the sun set early and rose late, and when nature "died" until its rebirth in the spring. How is daylength changing? What's happening to plants at this time of year? Which holiday traditions are connected to seasonal changes?

Mexican Traditions

Monarchs and Corn Harvest
People noticed the arrival of monarchs since pre-Hispanic times. Because they appeared when it was time to harvest the corn. native Purépecha Indians called the monarch butterfly, the harvester butterfly. 

Mexican Traditions

Monarchs and Day of the Dead
The Mexican holiday Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) also occurs when the monarchs appear. According to traditional belief, monarchs are the souls of ancestors who are returning to Earth for their annual visit.


4. Research how other cultures honor the memory of loved ones: Discuss the fact that many cultures have traditions for honoring the dead. In Afghanistan when someone dies, the family prepares and eats their loved one's favorite food once a week for a month. Have students conduct research to learn about other customs.

Wrap Up

1. Ask questions to help students reflect on what they learned:

  • How are Mexico's seasonal and cultural traditions connected to the wondrous arrival of monarch butterflies?
  • What kinds of events are celebrated all around the world?
  • What are your favorite holidays and traditions? Why?
  • Why do you think it's important to pass on traditions from one generation to the next?

2. Plan a classroom celebration to commemorate monarch's arrival in Mexico. Challenge students to think about how food, drink, decorations, and events can be used to symbolize the significance of this wondrous event.

Explore these Related Resources:

Invite students to read more about Day of the Dead, and about corn, tortillas, and the growing season in the monarch overwintering area:

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