Allowing for literature to be incorporated into this lesson , enables the preschool students to see and hear what Mardi Gras is all about. The perfect book for this lesson is "Mardi Gras in New Orleans: An Alphabet Book" by Karen Jensen. The author gives a nice detailed description on each page about the history of Mardi Gras and the wonderful festivities.
This book is preschool appropriate as each page showcases a new letter. For instance the first page states "Accordions, the Anticipation of Ash Wednesday…" The letter A is highlighted, then on the next page B is highlighted, then C, etc. This book allows for the teacher to not only introduce the idea of Mardi Gras but also enables the students to study the alphabet. As you read through each page, point out the letter specific for that page. Ask students to name another word starting with that same letter or perhaps someone’s name starts with that letter?
Important Vocabulary Words Which Are Contained In The Book:
- Ash Wednesday
- French Quarter
- Fat Tuesday
Green, Purple, and Gold
Mardi Gras celebrations show off the traditional colors of green, gold, and purple. These colors were chosen in 1872 by the King of the Carnival, or the "Rex". The colors hold special meaning:
- Green represents Faith
- Gold represents Power
- Purple represents Justice
Beads are a traditional part of Mardi Gras. As Beautiful floats pass by in the streets of New Orleans, audience members are thrown beads. The beads come in the variety of green, gold, and purple colors.
Have your students string their own beads
- Gold beads
- Green beads
- Purple beads
Put a twist into this activity. Make up two distinct patterns:
Boys will string their beads: Green, Gold, Purple
Girls will string their beads: Purple, Gold, Green
The repetitive stringing of the beads will aid children with the fine motor skills. The repetition will also help them recognize patterns. While students are stringing their beads ask them:
- What is another possible pattern with these three colors?
- What is we were to use just two colors?
- What kinds of patterns can we make with green & gold, gold & purple, purple & green?
Masks & Crafts
Children love to dress up and masks are another traditional part of Mardi Gras. Explain to students what a masquerade is- a party where all the guests wear costumes and masks. Masks were originally worn during masquerades in New Orleans by upper class people. The secrecy allowed for the upper class party goers to remain anonymous.
- Purple, Green, & Gold Feather
- Mask Template
- Sequins & Sparkles
- Popsicle sticks
- Thick paper plates or cardboard
- Pencils for tracing
Use the mask template and make several copies for the class to pass around. Have children trace their mask onto a thick paper plate or piece of cardboard. The child will then cut the mask out, with help from the teacher if needed.
Have preschool children decorate their masks according to the ever popular Mardi Gras masks. Using feathers, sequins, and sparkles this activity will enable children to be creative. The tracing and scissors help the children hone in on their fine motor skills.
After finishing this last piece of the lesson plan, allow preschool students to have their own Mardi Gras. Invite other classes or even parents into the classroom to show off your preschool Mardi Gras parade around the classroom. If the children want they can make extra sets of beads beforehand, allowing them to be passed out to "party goers".