Mention Cinco de Mayo around a group of Spanish teachers and you’ll probably get a few nasty glares. But why?

There is much confusion about this popular celebration–beginning with the fact that it is really only popular in the United States–NOT in Mexico. Most US citizens (including your students) think that it is Mexican Independence Day (which of course it is not).

Teach about el Cinco de Mayo – IN the target language!

I have a passion for teaching culture in the target language, and that passion doesn’t disappear on May 5. I can teach my students about the real history of the holiday and we can learn about where and how it is most celebrated–and you can, too! I want you to become confident in your knowledge about this celebration and in your ability to present the information to your students in the target language–and I have created just the tool that you need to rock Cinco de Mayo this year in all the right ways!

Teach your Novice + Intermediate Spanish students about Cinco de Mayo in Spanish class, all in the target language. Teach them the REAL history of Cinco de Mayo and the reality of the celebrations!

First: make connections

Before you even bring up Cinco de Mayo, begin by awakening connections, both in knowledge and emotion. Talk about your students’ heritage–what is it? How do they live it? How do they celebrate it? How do they celebrate their heritage differently than people that still live in the countries of your students’ ancestors; how are their celebrations the same? Only after asking these big picture questions should you dive into Cinco de Mayo, finding out what students know–and what they think they know. A KWL Chart is a great tool to organize what students share, or you can just talk!

All of this connecting can and should happen in Spanish! When your curriculum hinges on high frequency structures, your students will be well equipped with acquired, useful vocabulary by the time Cinco de Mayo rolls around. (Don’t believe me? Click here to see how.)

Next: share the facts

Now that you’ve made some connections and helped students to see how their new learning will relate to their own lives, you can get into the nitty gritty of the holiday.

Here are some strategies that I used to make learning history easy and interesting, even with the rigor that comes from lessons conducted entirely in the target language:

  • Embedded reading: sequential, scaffolded texts help students to read with confidence as they are introduced to only a small amount of new information and language at a time.
  • Glyphs: this strategic coloring relaxes students even as they read in Spanish
  • Grudgeball: tap into students’ desire to compete with this Spanish-language review game
  • #authres: Authentic resources are valuable when they improve students’ proficiency and give them new perspectives–and I have chosen some super fantastic infographics, videos, and songs to do just that! You can find all of the ones that I included in my plans–and more!–on my Cinco de Mayo Pinterest board (see below).

Materials are ready for you

With my help, I know that you are going to feel confident packing up your bag on May 5 this year, excited about the new perspectives that your students have gained and proud that you were able to guide them without breaking into English. Here are three different kinds of resources– pick the one that will best meet your needs! 


School’s in session, and you want to fill a few class periods acquiring language and learning history.


You need a few simple, self-paced assignments for students to complete on their own, on devices: maybe for a sub plan, or maybe so that you can catch up on your grading!


You want to maximize the learning that comes through a study of historical facts and modern-day perspectives, but you’re not in the classroom with your students. No problem! New for 2020, our entire set of classroom materials is fully adapted for Remote Teaching.

Teaching in target? You’ve totally got this!!

Teach your Spanish students about Cinco de Mayo -- the real history behind the holiday and how and where it is most celebrated. Feel confident teaching the history of this celebration all in Spanish!

Find authentic resources & more

Looking for more great resources? Follow my Cinco de Mayo Pinterest board!:

And finally…to celebrate not having to write plans…go have a margarita! Mine will be non-alcoholic, thanks to the little boy I’m busy growing. And on that note…YAWN! It’s way too late for me to be awake. Pregnancy requires a lot of sleep! Nighty night!

8 replies on “Cinco de Mayo ideas for Spanish class

  1. Martina,

    I’ve been meaning to ask you about how you use your novels in your curriculum. It seems that I can spend one semester on one novel and another semester on another with little else in between. How do/did you incorporate them? Did you read the entire chapter in class with them or did they read some at home? This is the first year that I’ve used novels entirely for my curriculum. I just want to see what kind of direction I was heading.

    Any advice would be great. Thanks.

    Sent from my iPad


    1. Ryan,
      I taught novels as units in class that lasted anywhere from 6-10 weeks. In between novels, I would teach structures that would be needed to read the next novel that we’d tackle. I never did free-reading with the novels (Bryce Hedstrom has had some great posts about that within the last few months), although I did have some native speakers and oddball students (ex: a girl that had taken 6 years of immersion but was in a 1st year class) do independent novel reading. To see some sample daily lesson plans, just click on “El nuevo houdini” or “esperanza” in the tag cloud in the left margin of this website. I posted all daily lesson plans for those two novels. Email me if you have any follow-up questions!!

  2. Just used the packet today in class and went great! Thank you so much! After reading and discussing the article my students to sidewalk chalk to share important facts about cinco de mayo around the outside of our school today. I’ll try to upload a picture if I can!

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