DAY OF THE DEAD SUGAR SKULL – Symmetry, Repetition, Colour

Students use mathematical thinking to draw a skull on black paper. They paint the skull white and use markers to decorate it with repeated lines and shapes typical of the designs on the calaveras de azúcar – sugar skulls given as gifts during The Day of the Dead.

Required Time

120 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 3 to Grade 9

Subject

Language Arts
Mathematics
Social Studies
Visual Arts

Vocabulary

colour contrast pattern repetition symmetry

Materials

Paint Brushes Markers Construction Paper - Black Pencils Rulers Erasers Paper Towels Acrylic Paint - White Glitter Glue

Steps

DAY OF THE DEAD SUGAR SKULL – Symmetry, Repetition, Colour - Step One

Step One

  1. Paint a swatch of 2 coats of white acrylic paint on a piece of black construction paper.
  2. Place the paper aside to dry.
  3. Save it for later in this project.
DAY OF THE DEAD SUGAR SKULL – Symmetry, Repetition, Colour - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Use the How to Draw a Sugar Skull worksheet to draw a skull. (Downloads – SugarSkulls.pdf)
DAY OF THE DEAD SUGAR SKULL – Symmetry, Repetition, Colour - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Erase the guidelines.
  2. Fold your drawing in half along the vertical line of symmetry.
  3. Cut it out.
DAY OF THE DEAD SUGAR SKULL – Symmetry, Repetition, Colour - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Use a white pencil to trace the skull onto a piece of black construction paper.
  2. Save the cut-out skull for later.
DAY OF THE DEAD SUGAR SKULL – Symmetry, Repetition, Colour - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Paint the skull with 2 coats of white acrylic paint.
  2. Set the painting aside to dry. 
DAY OF THE DEAD SUGAR SKULL – Symmetry, Repetition, Colour - Step Six

Step Six

  1. Experiment with colours and designs on the paint swatch and cut-out skull. 
DAY OF THE DEAD SUGAR SKULL – Symmetry, Repetition, Colour - Step Seven

Step Seven

  1. Use the colours and patterns you like the best on your painted skull.
  2. Add glitter glue to emphasize parts of the design.
  3. From time to time look at your design from a distance to see it with fresh eyes.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • use mathematical thinking to draw a symmetrical skull;
  • create a sugar skull design using repeated lines, shapes and colours.
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity;
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the artworks.

Extensions

Have students:

  • use the Fantastical Clay Animals lesson plan available on this website to learn more about the Day of the Dead;
  • research The Day of the Dead tradition;
  • create a video of themselves demonstrating how to draw a skull and sharing information about the tradition;
  • share their artwork and video with the class.

Prepare

  1. Place paints and brushes in baskets for easy distribution.
  2. Place students into groups of about 6 so they can share materials.
  3. Download and display the Colour, Line, and Repetition posters available on this website.
    - review or teach the elements of colour and line – contrasting colours, line - direction, width, length, focus and texture
    - review or teach the principle of repetition – motif, pattern
  4. Gather, and make available, books about sugar skulls and Mexico, for example, Day of the Dead Skulls Coloring Book for Kids 1, by Nick Snels; The Day of the Dead / El Dia De Los Muertos: A Bilingual Celebration, by Bob Barner; Day of the Dead, by Tony Johnston; and Day of the Dead Activity Book, by Karl Jones, and Steve Simpson. 
  5. Download images of sugar skulls from the Internet, for example,
    Tree Sculpture
    Giant Skull
  6. Download and print the Sugar Skulls worksheet, enough for each student to have one. (Downloads – SugarSkulls.pdf)

Introduction

  1. View and discuss the images of sugar skulls in books and from the Internet, drawing attention to their origins and characteristics, for example,
    Origins:
    - Day of the Dead is a festival that has been around since at least the time of the Aztecs 
    - it is a Mexican holiday held on November 1 and 2
    - celebrates and honours people who have died
    - sugar skulls are made to represent the loved ones who have died that year
    - real sugar skulls are made of sugar and icing 
    - the sugar skulls and lots of other food are offered to entice the loved ones back to earth 
    - it is a happy celebration of life and death
    Characteristics:

    - skulls have symmetrical designs
    - bright colours
    - repeat patterns of flowers, vines, hearts and simple shapes
    - fantastical
    - grinning teeth
  2. Introduce the challenge.

Activities

The Challenge

  1. Use mathematical thinking to draw a symmetrical skull.
  2. Create a sugar skull design using repeated lines, shapes and colours.
  3. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.
  4. Support your ideas with evidence found in the artworks.

The Process

  1. Make sure everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    - drawn a symmetrical skull accurately
    - painted a white skull on black paper
    - created a symmetrical design using repeated lines, shapes and bright colours
    - kept the paper in good condition
  3. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  4. Observe students as they work. 
  5. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.

Sharing

  1. Place students into groups of about 6.
  2. Ask them to view the skulls and to share thoughts about the works.
  3. During the discussion include references to: 
    Design - How does the design make you feel? Why?
    - Colour - What effect do the colours have on the overall design?
    - Pattern - How has pattern been created?
    - Technical Accomplishment - Where can you see that the artist has paid attention to detail?
  4. Ask volunteers to share some ideas with the whole class. 

Assessment

  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they share and discuss their sugar skulls – active listening, insightful contributions, supporting ideas with evidence found in the artwork and from personal experience.
  3. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads - SugarSkull_tracking.pdf)
  4. Have students use the self-assessment form to reflect on their work. (Downloads - SugarSkull_self-assessment.pdf)