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 Activities for School
Below are five St. Patrick's Day activities for elementary and middle school. 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 haon
- 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.
4. St. Patrick's Day Scavenger Hunt
There's a lot of room for creativity with this St. Patrick's Day school activity. One option is to create or purchase small paper four-leaf clovers and hide them around your classroom. Write out and distribute a list of clues that students need to solve in order to find all of the four-leaf clovers (consider using rhyming words or funny hints). Integrate curriculum materials into the activity by requiring students to answer a question (such as a math problem or a test of their knowledge of history) to progress to the next clue. A cluster of clovers should each be hidden in various locations. Number the clovers to align with the number of the clues on your list. Divide students into groups, and have them use the list to gather one four-leaf clover from each location. The first group to finish is the winner and can even get a special prize!
If you're teaching remotely, you can also hold a virtual scavenger hunt where students need to conduct online research to answer St. Patrick's Day questions. Again, they can move on to the next clue once they answer the previous question correctly. The first student to complete the scavenger hunt gets a prize!
5. Throw a Celebration!
The details of this St. Patrick's Day classroom activity are totally up to you, but the most obvious component is to have your students wear green on St. Patrick's Day. Even if your students are learning from home, they can still dress up and get festive.
If classes are being held face to face, you can also decorate your classroom with the color green, or give out some sort of green food (think vegetables!) so long as you follow proper safety protocols. You can also use this as an opportunity to dive into the history of the holiday and why it's celebrated every year. And hey, maybe you (or one of your colleagues) will want to teach your students some Irish dancing!
St. Patrick's Day Activities for Elementary and Middle School Students
We wish you luck in teaching your students about this holiday in the classroom! If you have any other St. Patrick's Day activities for elementary and middle school students, share them with us on Twitter (@TheTeacherRoom) or email us at Shaped@hmhco.com.
Find more lesson plans and classroom resources on Shaped.
This blog, originally published in February 2020, has been updated for 2021.
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