Saint Patrick’s Day on March 17 is a holiday celebrated around the world. It's also a fun way to explore Irish culture through activities and lessons.
When you think of St. Patrick's Day, the first things that probably come to mind are shamrocks, green beer, leprechauns, rainbows with pots-'o-gold, and parades rather than the day's religious origins.
While many still recognize its religious importance, which is to honor the patron saint of Ireland - St. Patrick - nowadays, St. Patrick's Day is primarily a jovial celebration of Irish culture. Some cities get into the festive spirit by having parades, and Chicago even dyes the Chicago River green; meanwhile, people celebrate by drinking Irish beer, eating corned beef, and wearing green clothing. The fact is that where there's a large Irish population, there's going to be special festive events to enjoy.
But you can also bring St. Patrick's Day into your classroom with fun and educational activities that lend themselves to language learning. We've put together a list of lesson ideas you can prepare for March 17 that are appropriate for a range of ages and ability levels. Let's dive in!
Teach St. Patrick’s Day Lesson The ‘Irish’ Way
Starting Your St. Patrick’s Day Lesson with a story
Many students may not know about this holiday, its traditions and the symbols associated with it, so a story is a great starting point. We love How to Catch a Leprechaun by Andy Elkerton because it's a light-hearted way to introduce the mythical and mischievous Leprechaun to your students. Then, as a speaking exercise, ask your students to describe how they would build their own Leprechaun trap and why they think it would work. Other students can provide feedback about whether they believe it would work or not, or how to improve it. This is a great way to elicit material from students to give you an idea of what you should cover in your lesson as you progress.
Remember to try and keep your introduction short while providing students with the information they will need to complete the exercises you have planned. If there is a lot of material, use it as a reading activity to get the students more involved.
Choose Your Activities Carefully
With younger students, consider St. Patrick’s Day flashcards (see our article titled ‘How To Use Printable Flashcards For Teaching ESL’) to introduce related vocabulary. If you have a small class, consider allowing students to color images (see BusyTeacher’s coloring pages collection) and present vocabulary words to the class with resources like this one that sees them matching pictures to words, looking for vocabulary in a wordsearch, and completing text related to the day.
Flashcards such as this free resource or slideshows can help you introduce and practice new words with beginners. If you are not in a class with young learners, be sure to provide students with some reading and writing practice as well. It is important to include a variety of exercises in every lesson. You can practice vocabulary, tell students some information about the holiday, and ask some comprehension questions to start off with. If possible, practice structures that students have been working on to give them further practice while relating everything to the holiday.
You will need to introduce less vocabulary with classes of intermediate and advanced learners. Intermediate students would do well listening to or reading an article or story and answering comprehension questions, while advanced learners would get more out of answering discussion questions. If St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in the country you are in, have students talk about their past experiences celebrating it. Perhaps students have traditions of their own.
With all groups, simple activities such as word searches like this themed one, crosswords, or double puzzles with scrambled words and a scrambled secret message can be lots of fun, especially if you finish your planned activities early or for students who finish tasks faster than others. You could even give out extra credit points for students who complete the sheets in class or as homework.
Find or create a short, simple story for your class. Fairytales are popular with young students and allow them to use their imaginations so include something about a leprechaun (see our Leprechaun Marionette worksheet, for example ) to tie it in with the Saint Paddy’s day theme. Perhaps your students can even create a story of their own (and maybe write one – here’s a great St. Patrick’s writing lesson plan for that).
If you're struggling to find exactly what you need in a wordsearch, try these free wordsearch and word bingo generators from HelpTeaching.com.
Don’t forget to check out BusyTeacher’s collection of free St. Patrick’s Day worksheets, lesson plans, lesson ideas and word searches!
Ending Your St. Patrick’s Day Lesson
At the end of class, it is important to review the new material you have covered. Ask students to give you a summary to see what they have retained and be sure to prompt them for anything that you feel has been left out. Students might not see some of this material again until next year, but making the lesson memorable will ensure that they retain it for much longer.
Saint Patrick’s Day may not be the most important holiday of the year but it makes for a good theme and a fun cultural lesson. As with any holiday, if your schedule does not allow you to devote an entire class period to the topic, you can always just use it as a theme for your lesson instead by using the colors and symbols of St. Patrick's Day in your planned lesson.
Do you have any successful St. Patrick’s Day lesson ideas of your own? Please share them in the comments below! And, of course, BusyTeacher is built by our teacher community, so if you have a lesson that's a hit, why not consider sharing it?
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