Comparing Halloween and EL Dia de Los Muertos

HalloweenCultural differences are often found to cause misunderstanding between ESOL students and their educators. What’s even more common is for teachers to give lessons based on American holidays, so students better understand our culture. Another activity that literacy practitioners could do with adult literacy and/or ESOL students is provide an comparison of the American holiday Halloween with the Central American holiday El Dia de Los Muertos.

For those of you who don’t know much about the holiday, El Dia de Los Muertos (literally Day of the Dead) is celebrated on November 1 of each year. Although festivities occur in various Central American countries, it is predominantly celebrated in Mexico. It is believed that the spirits of dead loved ones visit their families on this day, but the families choose to celebrate the dead relatives’ lives instead of mourning them.  There’s distinct food, clothing, and traditions similar to our Halloween.

Rather than teaching a lesson on Halloween that many of your adult learners have gone through and are expecting, why not compare cultural traditions? Whether your learners are ESOL students or adult literacy students, this idea can even be fit to incorporate collaborating with a mixed group of students. You could prepare a short overview of both holidays, or use your students’ diverse backgrounds to teach the others about their holiday traditions.

Whatever the level of your learners is, you could use this idea to cater a lesson that benefits them. Whether you use Venn Diagrams or a 5-paragraph essay, students can both provide information to the class on what they know and engage with the material, bringing a foreign holiday to something more familiar.

To get you started, here are a few resources worth checking out.


Teacher Boot Camp’s Halloween Activities Guide

History Channel’s Halloween Videos and History

5 Minute English’s Halloween Lesson

Day of the Dead-

Denver Public School’s Day of the Dead Lessons

National Geographic Day of the Dead Overview

Inside-Mexico’s Day of the Dead Page

ESOL Courses Day of the Dead Lessons