En la Clase: Día de los Muertos and Pictorial Input Charts

Today I’m sharing another GLAD (Pictorial Input Chart | Dia de los Muertos | Vamos a LeerGuided Language Acquisition Design) inspired strategy for teaching about Día de los Muertos.  But first, if you missed Alice’s post on Monday, be sure to check out her review of Uncle Monarch and the Day of the Dead.  It’s a really interesting book about Día de los Muertos and the the migration of monarch butterflies in Mexico–quite unique in terms of children’s literature about the celebration.

Last week I wrote about how to use a Cognitive Content Dictionary Chart as part of a unit on Día de los Muertos.  Today we’re going to talk about Pictorial Input Charts.  In this activity the teacher creates a large poster with important content knowledge overlaid on an image relevant to the unit or topic of study.  As you can see from the picture above, the content information is chunked or categorized with sub-headings.  If you’re studying multiple traditions or celebrations throughout the year, these categories could be used for all of them.  This would provide some consistency from unit to unit.  Typically, in preparation for the activity, the teacher would lightly trace the image and information on a large sheet of white butcher paper.  When it’s time to begin, the teacher hangs the butcher paper poster on the board and begins coloring parts of the image and tracing over the content information she/he had already written in, while presenting the information to the class.  When using this strategy, teachers want to follow the concept of 10:2 teaching: for every 10 minutes of direct instruction, students are given 2 minutes to discuss with the class, a partner, their table group, etc. the information that has just been presented.

This activity introduces students to new information, models how to categorize or chunk information, and provides an informational resource for later activities.  Idigital-glad-ofrenda-3t make take a few class periods to color in and trace the entire image and all the relevant information.  The most effective version of this activity is to create a poster of the large hand-drawn image (as pictured above).  If you don’t have time to do that, you can still provide a visual image and model how to chunk information by projecting the digital image pictured to the right.  The digital image can also be used to create a large poster that can be laminated and then filled in with vis-a-vis maker which allows you to reuse the poster in subsequent classes or years. Links to all of these image documents are included at the bottom of the post.

Recommended Grades: Adaptable for all grade levels.  The image here is of an ofrenda, if you want a simpler image, consider using a sugar skull instead.  A first grade teacher I know did this and it worked wonderfully.

Estimated Time: Varies, approximately 1-2 hours

Materials: Large white butcher paper, pencil, markers (optional: digital image and projector)


  1. Preparation: If using the hand drawn version, lightly sketch the image onto the white butcher paper with pencil.  Also prepare the categories or subheadings and the specific information you plan to include on the chart.
  2. Hang the image where everyone in the class can see it.  Using markers, begin to color in the poster while talking about the information you have planned to present to students.  Present all of the information from one category before moving onto the next category and section of the drawing.  Following the 10:2 model (or some adaptation of it), give students time to discuss with their partner or small group the information that they are being presented.  Continue writing in the information and coloring in the image for as long as is appropriate for your age level.
  3. Continue the above in subsequent days until the image is completed.
  4. Keep the pictorial input chart posted somewhere in the room for the rest of the unit.  It can serve as a resource for other activities such as the Cooperative Sentence Strip Paragraph (we’re talking about this next week!), Acrostic Poetry, Expository Writing, 5 Sense Poetry.  If you want to see all of our writing activities, check out the complete Día de los Muertos educator’s guide page that has each activity individually listed and linked to a downloadable pdf.

Links to documents: Hand-drawn Sketch, Digital Image without Content, Digital Image with Content.

Our main Educator’s Guide for teaching about Día de los Muertos is available on the LAII’s website.  We’re still working on getting our complementary ELL guide uploaded to our website.  I’ll post it as Pictorial Input Chart k-12 Teacher Workshop | Vamos a Leersoon as it’s available.

We had a great time at our Saturday workshop collaborating with local Albuquerque teachers on how to teach about Día de los Muertos in our k-12 classrooms.  We’d love to hear how you’re teaching about the celebration in your classroom this year! Leave us a comment.  Don’t forget all comments will get you entered in our monthly book giveaway!

Until next week!



2 thoughts on “En la Clase: Día de los Muertos and Pictorial Input Charts

  1. Love the visual, on butcher paper idea. So many kids need this in addition to lecture to retain the lessons! Little ones could even take home which makes them feel even more involved and participating!

    • Hi Kelly! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog. I couldn’t agree more with you. Students absolutely love the visual. I know some teachers who have used this strategy let the students make their own smaller version as they make the larger version, or once students understand the idea of a pictorial input chart, they make their own for small group projects and use it to teach the class about their group’s topic.

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