St. Patrick’s Day is a day that goes by nearly unnoticed for many people. However, this is not true for school-age kids and their teachers. March theming is inevitably drenched in the color green and smiley-faced leprechaun. Kids really enjoy St. Patrick’s Day, but how can we make activities on this day educational and challenging while at the same time, making them appropriate for virtual learning?
This is a question we have asked ourselves about many activities over the last year. It’s an ongoing challenge. However, we are getting better at it and learning new things about virtual learning all the time. Here are some St. Patrick’s Day activities that you can implement with your virtual learning students that will be fun and educationally beneficial.
There is an abundance of excellent Irish literature for all ages of students including books about Ireland, Irish folktales, and books by Irish authors. For K-5 students, a good book to start with is This is Ireland by Miroslav Sasek. (By the way, Sasek has a whole series of “This is…” books that are great for introducing different countries and cities around the world!). Then, delve into the Irish culture by reading versions of folktales and Leprechaun tales. For older students, middle and high school, it would be appropriate to choose some Irish authors or poets to study.
Virtual Field Trip
Take a virtual field trip to Ireland with your virtual learners! A lesson focused on Ireland allows the opportunity to teach geography and multicultural studies together. After spending some time introducing the culture of Ireland, find the country on the world map. Next, find some locations that you can tour virtually with your students. This would be a time to look at the landscape and natural beauty of the country. You could also find some historical sights to tour as well.
A fun activity would be to have a scavenger hunt with your virtual learning students. This could be a bell-ringer type activity, just to get the day started on a light and fun note. Ask your students to find something green. Have them find something with rainbow colors. Tell them to go find a pot like the leprechaun uses for his gold. The possibilities are endless.
You could also have them find answers to St. Patrick’s Day riddles to see who could come up with the answers first. Or have them write down their answers and assign points for each correct answer. Students could then add up their points to determine a winner, incorporating math into the fun!
Culture and History of Ireland
There are many options when it comes to stories about Ireland, both fiction and non-fiction. However, there is one that can be used in most elementary/middle school grade levels. The Magic Treehouse book series by Mary Pope Osborne has a fiction book called Leprechaun in Late Winter. This a fun fictional story that older students can read as part of a book study or it can be read aloud to younger students.
There is also a companion non-fiction “Fact Tracker” book called Leprechauns and Irish Folklore. This book would be excellent to bring the fictional book into reality, helping students distinguish what is real and what is folklore. These books are also an excellent source for elementary students to use for researching topics regarding Ireland. Students could use the information found in this book to write a report and present to the class, virtually.
The STEM activity for creating a leprechaun trap may not have the same effect with virtual learners, K-5. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t have some leprechaun fun. A great activity is directed drawing. I do a content/theme-related directed drawing weekly. I begin with a Leprechaun directed drawing like one found here. You start with the face and add details, moving very slowly, until the leprechaun is complete. Older students’ drawings will generally be better than those of younger students; however, while they may not be perfect, they always turn out very cute, regardless of age.
Afterward, model writing a fun leprechaun story for your virtual students. Then, give them a leprechaun writing prompt such as “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”. Then let students work independently. Completing the art first can inspire students for the writing activity. On your next virtual meeting, let them share their drawings and stories with the class.
Fun with Lucky Charms
This one will take some advance planning and parent cooperation, but if it suits you and your group of virtual learners, have parents buy a box of Lucky Charms cereal to have at home to use on St. Patrick’s Day for math activities. If students/parents are unable to get this, you can deliver a portion in a baggie into mailboxes if the parents are ok with it. If you can make it work, each student should have their own portion of cereal. Students then use a bar graph to show how many marshmallows they have. You can also give each marshmallow type a point value and have students calculate the total point value of their marshmallows. Don’t be afraid to get creative with this!
We know the benefits of physical activity and brain breaks. On St. Patrick’s Day, incorporate some movement. Maybe try some St. Patrick’s Day-themed games or exercises that can be done virtually. Or even better, incorporate some Irish culture and pull up a simple instructional videos for Irish dancing and let students have fun with that while enjoying Irish music and some exercise at the same time.
While our virtual learning environments are very different than our in-person learning environments, we can still put together some St. Patrick’s Day activities that all students can enjoy!