Every March, we celebrate St. Patrick's Day. But do your students know what this day represents? Not all of your students might celebrate St. Patrick's Day, but it could be a fun tradition to incorporate into your curriculum.
St. Patrick's Day celebrates the legacy of—you guessed it—Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland who became known for establishing churches, schools, and monasteries as a Christian missionary. (Many legends surrounding Saint Patrick's life have since arisen—including that he drove all the snakes out of Ireland—though many of them aren't true.) St. Patrick's Day is celebrated across Ireland and is also a festive occasion in some countries around the world, where it is typically a celebration of Irish culture. Wearing green is customary, as are decorating with shamrocks and attending parades.
St. Patrick's Day Ideas for Elementary and Middle School Students
Below are five St. Patrick's Day classroom activities that you can consider for elementary or middle school students. Many of these activities can be adapted to align with your specific grade-level needs.
1. The History of St. Patrick's Day
This can be a good opportunity to practice paragraph or essay writing and to brief your students on how different religions and cultures celebrate certain holidays. You can have your students conduct research online or in your school's library on the history of St. Patrick's Day. Questions that students may answer can include:
- Who was Saint Patrick?
- How did this holiday come about?
- What are some common legends about the holiday and Saint Patrick? Are any of the legends true?
- Why do people wear green on St. Patrick's Day?
- Why and how is this holiday celebrated outside of Ireland?
Once your students finish their assignment in the form of either a paper or presentation, have them compile a bibliography of their sources. You can teach them about different styles for in-text citations and references.
2. Irish Language and Counting Activity
For St. Patrick's Day, one way you can celebrate the Irish is by exposing students to the Irish language (Gaeilge). As a math activity, show students how to count from 1 to 10 in Irish.
- a hoan
- a dó
- a trí
- a ceathair
- a cúig
- a sé
- a seacht
- a hocht
- a deich
You may want to prepare by finding a video that teaches the proper pronunciations. Have students look for similarities between the numbers in Irish and the numbers in English. English has two primary ways of counting: cardinal numbers (one, two, three…) and ordinal numbers (first, second, third…). A unique aspect of the Irish language is they have a third way of counting! They have cardinal numbers for objects and cardinal numbers for people. Encourage students to think of other words in the English language that have specific numerical meanings, such as couple, twin, trio, or decade.
3. Read St. Patrick's Day Books
To celebrate St. Patrick's Day in a simple way, consider reading books centered around the holiday. Two HMH books that your students may enjoy include Happy St. Patrick's Day, Curious George by H. A. Rey and St. Patrick's Day in the Morning by Eve Bunting. In the former, Curious George celebrates the holiday with music, Irish dancing, and a feast—but can he make it to the parade without stirring up trouble? In Bunting's book, the character Jamie wants to prove that he isn't too young to march in the St. Patrick's Day parade.
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