By Teachers, For Teachers
By March, teachers have endured the chaos of Valentine’s Day. All that is standing between them and a nice, restful spring break is one more little holiday called St. Patrick’s Day. This is the day throughout which teachers have to say, “No, it’s not ok to pinch, even today, no matter what color they are or are not wearing,” over and over again! It’s one of those days when we run to make those copies for the holiday we almost completely forgot about before the morning bell rings.
Well, to prevent the mad dash to the copier, here are some St. Patrick’s Day lessons and activities that you can prepare in advance that your students are sure to enjoy.
Students of all ages enjoy some leprechaun fun on St. Patrick’s Day. One of my favorite St. Patrick’s Day activities for kids to do is a directed drawing. I do a content/theme-related directed drawing once a week. Students in kindergarten love this just as much as those in fifth grade and higher.
For St. Patrick’s Day, I like to start with a leprechaun directed drawing like the one found on First and Kinder Blue Skies. You start with the face and add details, one at a time, moving very slowly, until the leprechaun is complete. Of course, a leprechaun completed by older students will generally be neater and more detailed than those completed by younger students. However, while the drawings may not be perfect, they always turn out very cute regardless of the age of the student.
This directed drawing is a great prompt for a St. Patrick’s Day writing activity. Give students a prompt like: “A sneaky leprechaun came into our classroom last night and caused all kinds of trouble. Write a story about what he did,” or “Write a story about catching a leprechaun.” I find that doing the art first really helps to inspire the students for the writing activity.
Focusing a lesson around Ireland gives you the opportunity to teach geography and multicultural studies. You can begin by discussing the origin of St. Patrick’s Day. Then find Ireland on the world map.
From there, it’s fun to show students a clip of some people speaking with an Irish accent. Students can learn some common Irish phrases. Incorporate art by having students make the nation’s flag. You can also try some classic Irish dishes like Irish stew, bacon and cabbage, colcannon (Irish mashed potatoes), barm brack, or other great dishes.
This type of lesson can be easily adapted to different grade levels. You can go as deep or as shallow as you would like with this study.
A great way to incorporate a STEM activity on St. Patrick’s Day is to have students create a leprechaun trap. While leprechaun traps aren’t exactly a new idea, you can put a slight twist on it and turn it into a very effective STEM lesson. This is another activity that you can use with various grade levels.
For younger students, it’s great to start with the book How to Catch a Leprechaun by Adam Wallace. After reading the intro, put students into groups. Give each group the same supplies. You can choose what materials you want to use. Some ideas to consider are pieces of cardboard, cardstock, paperclips, duct tape, pencils, straws, rubber bands, etc. Give them a time limit, and at the end of that time let each group demonstrate to show the effectiveness of their trap. Make it even more fun by awarding prizes to the groups that are successful!
Since the leprechaun’s pot of gold is always at the end of the rainbow, try some rainbow science activities on St. Patrick’s Day! Try creating light patterns on a CD, exploring light with a prism, color mixing, and light refraction.
What better way to focus on another country’s literary heritage than to focus on books about Ireland, Irish folktales, and books by Irish authors. For younger students in grades K-5, a great book to start with is This is Ireland by Miroslav Sasek. Then, dive right into the culture by reading some Irish versions of folktales and leprechaun tales. For older students in middle and high school, it would be appropriate to choose some Irish authors or poets to study, such as Oscar Wilde or William Butler Yeats.
This is a fantastic St. Patrick’s Day activity for elementary students. Get some Lucky Charms cereal and let the math fun begin! Give each student a portion of cereal. Students can then complete a bar graph, graphing how many of each marshmallow they have.
Another activity is to assign each type of marshmallow with a point value. Then give students their portion of cereal for which they have to calculate their point value. You can get creative with this and come up with at least half a day filled with Lucky Charms math fun!
We know the profound benefits of physical activity and brain breaks for students. On St. Patrick’s Day, take some time to incorporate some movement. Begin by hiding construction paper 4-leaf clovers with point values on the back throughout the halls or outside, if weather permits. Have students hunt the clovers and add up their point value to determine who won. You can also try some St. Patrick’s Day games in gym or outside to make sure students get their required exercise for the day.
Lori is an elementary school teacher and holds an Ed.D. in School Leadership/Administration.