Learn More about Cinco de Mayo!

5 min read

| By Gale Staff |

Modern-day Cinco de Mayo—at least as it’s often celebrated in the United States—is a day to get together with friends, gather in the temperate spring sunshine, and perhaps have a few margaritas. While undoubtedly an enjoyable event, Cinco de Mayo is a critical date in Mexican American history: May 5, 1862 marked the Battle of Puebla, during which the outnumbered Mexican forces defeated the invading French army. The Mexican fighters had few real weapons, but they used farm tools to fight and even placed herds of cattle to form a blockade. The battle’s surprising outcome sparked an alliance between the United States and Mexico, a partnership that ultimately forced the French out of Mexico and transformed U.S. history.

The Battle of Puebla wasn’t necessarily the most strategic victory, but it incited a belief that the Mexican resistance could turn the tide. As such, Cinco de Mayo is a day to celebrate perseverance and the human spirit. It’s a chance to discuss our own history and our country’s relationship with those at our borders.

Consider how you might bring Cinco de Mayo into your classroom, no matter what subject or grade level you teach. Gale In Context has three customized databases for your students: Elementary, Middle School, and High School. You and your classes can find reliable content, specialized tools, and activity ideas for your Cinco de Mayo-themed lessons.

Excite Elementary Learners

Gale In Context: Elementary is structured specifically for young students just developing their reading and research skills. Rather than setting them loose to participate in a traditional web search, elementary teachers can guide students toward Gale’s specialized elementary database, full of images, colors, and age-appropriate content. This resource is organized in a way that gets students excited to learn, with playful graphics and simple workflows. They can even toggle content to switch to more accessible reading levels. This activity lets users build their confidence in learning and discovery.

Encourage your students to start their Cinco de Mayo research with Gale’s dedicated page for the holiday. They will learn about ways that both Mexicans and Mexican Americans celebrate. They’ll gain new cultural vocabulary words like sombrero and mariachi. And students can take their research a step further and dive into Cinco de Mayo news and magazine articles featuring pieces from kid-friendly sources like Youngzine and Highlights.

Activity Idea: Using Gale In Context: Elementary, have students find an image of the Mexican flag. Break out the markers and crayons and ask students to color the flag on a sheet of paper. Have them share what the colors mean, and then decorate your classroom with the many Mexican flags they’ve created.

Engage Middle Schoolers

Middle school pre-teens are ready for more advanced research, but they’re not quite ready to leave the visual graphics and guided research tools behind. Gale In Context: Middle School is designed to help bridge the gap. Content is more diverse and touches on meaningful concepts. They’ll still find articles from Youngzine and Scholastic, but they’ll also discover pieces from CNN and academic journals.

Like the elementary database, middle schoolers can begin their research with a Cinco de Mayo summary page. Content is age-appropriate and broken into manageable paragraphs. Fast facts and targeted questions are sprinkled throughout the page, helping to deepen your students’ critical thinking skills. They’ll learn about more complex cultural terms, customs, and foods. Some concepts are hyperlinked, helping students pursue further insights into certain ideas. For example, one of the articles connected to Mexican music discusses the role that traditional music plays in cultural identity.

Activity Idea: Have your students read former President Obama’s 2013 Cinco de Mayo statement. Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of an event that sparked a critical alliance between the United States and Mexico, yet the countries often have a challenging relationship. Have your students write a short essay about their heritage—what do they know about their own history and family immigration story? Do they celebrate any special cultural holidays with their families?

Challenge High School Students

Gale In Context: High School serves as a database to help prepare students for college-level research and beyond. Resources remain well-organized and accessible, and their search results will deliver timely, curated pages. From there, students will discover a diverse collection of biographies, articles, podcasts, and academic journals. They’ll find full-text pieces from The Economist and The New York Times, as well as narratives from local news sources, providing researchers with different, sometimes conflicting narratives.

The Cinco de Mayo landing page for Gale In Context: High School is structured much like the summary pages for younger students, but the content is more dense and the built-in questions more complex. Rather than highlighting the holiday’s food and customs, the piece instead questions things like why Cinco de Mayo is more popular in the United States than Mexico and how many Americans know little about the holiday’s historical roots.

Activity Idea: Have your students read the article titled “There’s more to Cinco de Mayo than you might think,” from The Washington Post. After reading, encourage your students to discuss ways to honor different cultures rather than stereotype them, such as cooking traditional recipes to try and learn more about Mexican American ways of life.

Start with Our Educator Resources

Whether you’re a new user or simply looking for a ready-made idea, start your journey with Gale In Context: For Educators. This specialized collection has resources designed to guide and support teachers, including professional development webinars and class activity ideas. When students have a question regarding the research tools or accessibility features found within For Educators, you can have one of the printable tip sheets ready for quick reference.

Before the school year ends, why not incorporate a fun lesson about Cinco de Mayo? Use Gale’s resources to help get students engaged. If your school isn’t a subscriber, you can contact your local Gale representative for more information.

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