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Special Days & Events in May

Posted May 2006, Updated May 2012

Teaching those new to America or those who have grown up here but aren't sure how various holidays began, can be fun and informative. Take a look at some of these May holidays. There are also some dates that have been set aside by congressional or presidential proclamation as National Days of _______. Hopefully one will spark some interest and generate some topics for conversation. Some are appropriate for ABE, ASE, ESL or Older Adults.

May 5th is Cinco de Mayo

Clip Art of Chips and Salsa
While Cinco de Mayo is not an American holiday, it is often celebrated here by those that have moved here from Mexico and those that enjoy the Mexican culture and heritage. Learn about the history of the Battle of Puebla in 1862 including what led up to the battle and what occurred afterwards.

If you decide to celebrate the day, here is a link to Pandora where you can create an account, then choose a genre of "Latin" to find some Mexican music to add to the atmosphere You will need a computer with a relatively new browser to play the songs as well as some speakers. Just find the link to "Browse Genre Stations" to get set up.

Second Sunday in May - Mother's Day

The Story of Mother's Day
Learn how the tradition of honoring our mothers got started and who made the holiday an official American day of remembrance.

Last Monday in May - Memorial Day

Military Man and Flag

U.S. Memorial Day
Memorial Day is a national holiday in which Americans honor those who have died in our nation's service. This site has the history of the holiday as well as poetry, links to sites where your students could send an e-card to a serviceperson or a veteran. Under "Online Activities" you'll find crossword puzzles, a logic puzzle, picture puzzles, a quiz, and word search puzzles.

More ideas for ESL activities:

  • Have your students draw an outline of the flag including lines for the stripes. Have students write one line of the Pledge of Allegiance on each stripe.
  • Find and circle the words to one of these Memorial Day Word Search puzzles: Puzzle one (easy)P1 Answer Key, Puzzle two (medium) P2 Answer Key, Puzzle three (hard), P3 Answer Key Discuss the meaning of the words in the puzzles or have students write a paragraph about what one of the words means to them.
  • Have students look up the word "freedom" in a dictionary. Have a class discussion on whether the definitions fully explain the meaning of freedom or have students write about what freedom means to them.

May is National Mental Health Month

National Mental Health Association
The National Mental Health Association offers many Factsheets on an array of mental health topics of interest to a broad spectrum of people. They cover topics like children's mental health associated with depression, bullying, fear, learning disabilities etc. Other topics covered include eating disorders, codependency, stress, Alzheimer's, dementia, paranoia and substance abuse, just to name a few.

May is National Military Appreciation Month

Find ways to help your students support the military using these sites:

National Military Appreciation Month - May 2012
On the left side of the home page, you will find a list of 12 things your students can do to help support the military in our country. The sixth item on the list (Send an e-mail or letter of thanks through A Million Thanks) would be a great activity for any class. It would be a great writing exercise for ESL too. There is also a short video to watch. The link to it is in the bottom right corner of the home page labeled "View A Special Tribute to our Military Veterans!"

USO Cares
Your class could sponsor a care package to a service person and include a note from the class offering a word of encouragement.

Ideas for Memorial Day activities adapted from

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OTAN activities are funded by contract CN220124 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.