St Patrick’s Day is now celebrated throughout the world, not just in Ireland, with the largest parade taking place in New York City.

Author: 
Jo Bertrand

There are several elements of this Irish festival that children love to find out about and you can find numerous online resources to help you prepare a very culturally rewarding lesson for both you and your young learners. This festival is full of magical stones, Irish fairies, hidden treasure, lucky charms; everything’s green and there’s even a rainbow with secrets at the end of it. What more could you ask for in a fantasy filled English lesson.

Aims

  • Teaching your learners about an increasingly popular festival - learning a language is not just about vocabulary and grammar, culture is an integral part of language learning that should be encouraged not neglected
  • Introducing St Patrick’s Day related vocabulary: shamrock, leprechaun, pot of gold, rainbow, four-leaf clover, blarney stone…
  • Eliciting imaginative stories – students create fantasy stories (about the magical Blarney Stone)
  • Following instructions / learning by doing – listening and following a recipe
  • For younger learners – creating a book about ‘all things green’

Background
For some background knowledge about who St. Patrick was and what he did, go to this link:
http://www.dltk-holidays.com/patrick

Geography
You can do this as a lead-in or as a follow-up to your St Patrick’s Day material but either way it’s a shame if the children learn about the festival but don’t learn anything about the country it comes from.

Blarney Stone
The real Blarney Stone lies in Blarney Castle in Ireland and it is said to have magical powers. Legend says that an old woman cast a spell on it to thank the King for saving her life. When he kissed the stone he would be able to charm people with his words. Kissing it today will bring you luck.

  • Why not make your own class stone? To save time try and find a large stone outside – ask first before removing it! Clean it up and place it on a table in the middle of the room so that everyone can see it. You could use this as a lead in to your St Patrick’s Day lesson. It will certainly get them interested. Just say; 'This stone is magic. What do you think will happen if I kiss it?' From this starting point they can imagine all sorts of stories. In pairs they could imagine something magical that happens when you kiss the stone.

Leprechauns
Leprechauns don’t have a very good reputation. They’re small, green and greedy. They have a pot of gold which they’ve hidden somewhere… at the end of a rainbow maybe? It’s up to you to find out.

  • Introduce the Irish Leprechaun with a colour picture and a couple of sentences similar to the ones above.
  • Organise a pot of gold treasure hunt with your class. This could be within the classroom itself or find out about the possibility of doing it outside in the playground. Split the class into groups.
  • You could write a series of rhyming clues on an Irish theme. Such as:
    • It’s green, it’s round, it’s on the ground, underneath a tree.
    • He loves his gold, he’s small but bold, find him behind the blackboard.
    • Under the stairs where it’s cold is where you’ll find the pot of gold.
  • Each time a group thinks they’ve found the answer they have one guess and can take one look where they think the next clue might be. If they are right they get a point and must read the clue to the rest of the class. If they are wrong they get a minus point – this will encourage them to really think before shouting out answers.

The shamrock
The difference between a shamrock and a four-leaf clover is that the first is the national emblem of Ireland. St Patrick referred to the three leaves as a symbol of the Holy Trinity. A four-leaf clover is rare and is seen to be a lucky charm.

Colours
The main colour associated with St Patrick’s Day is green. This comes from the clothes a leprechaun wears to the symbolic green shamrock. There is even a custom of pinching people who aren’t wearing green on St Patrick’s Day but this is not something you want to pass on to your young learners! The colours of the rainbow can also be integrated into any lesson on St Patrick’s Day as this is supposedly where the leprechaun hides his pot of gold.

For ideas on making a book on everything green go to this link. You can only see the thumbnail sizes of all their activities if you aren’t a member but this can give you ideas of what to include in your book:
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/books/colors/green/

Recipes
Here’s a simple recipe you could do with your class. If this isn’t possible you could pre-bake the cookies and get your class to decorate them with the Irish flag colours.

Irish flag cookies ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • food colouring for icing

Preparation:
Cream together butter and confectioner's sugar in a large bowl. Beat in vanilla and egg extract. Mix well. In a medium sized bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and cream of tartar. Blend into the butter mixture. Divide dough into thirds and shape them into balls. Taking 1/3 of the dough at a time, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick on a floured surface. With a knife, cut dough into rectangles about 2 inches high by 3 inches long. (6 x 8 cm). Place rectangles on an ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F (175 degrees C) oven until they turn light brown. Cool completely on a wire rack. Frost cookies with Irish Flag Frosting. Make a 1 inch green stripe on the left side of the rectangles and a 1 inch orange strip on the right side, leaving the middle one inch unfrosted.

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