St. Patrick’s Day has evolved into a cultural celebration of Irish heritage that presents many engaging literacy activities for students. This year, try extending the wildly popular Elf on the Shelf idea by Carol Aebersold to a naughty leprechaun! Much like the elf, the naughty leprechaun can leave behind clues of his whereabouts in your classroom.
St. Patrick’s Day is usually marked in our school by leprechauns who play tricks on our students, often leaving a trail of gold and green glitter. But I’ve developed a leprechaun-themed instructional plan that will engage young learners in riddle-solving and creative writing, in just three days.
In this K-2 mini-lesson plan, students will create rhymes collaboratively and, by extension, independently. It will tap students’ critical thinking skills as they solve riddles and develop new ideas for their own riddles. Students will identify rhyming pairs in the riddles and create rhyming pairs for their writing. To aid the teacher, the plan includes prepared riddles to use as models.
Here is a sample of Day One:
Book related to St. Patrick’s Day. Here’s a long list, including everything from light-hearted fiction to some serious history: St. Patrick’s Day books.
- Glue sticks and scrap paper.
- Chart paper or white board.
1. Print and cut vocabulary cards.
2. Write riddle on chart paper or white board.
Up above, down below
All around the room you’ll go.
Look for me
And somewhere you’ll see,
I’ve been to visit.
Don’t you miss it!
Read the clue
To know what to do.
I’m in a sticky situation.
What have I gotten into?
3. Using a glue stick, create a small mess in an area of the room where students will not readily notice. Leave the glue uncapped, glue some scraps of paper together haphazardly, etc.
- Set the stage for this short unit by reading aloud a book related to St. Patrick’s Day. Begin by accessing students’ prior knowledge. Show the book cover and ask students what they know about St. Patrick’s Day. Introduce related thematic vocabulary, including leprechaun, pot o’gold, rainbow, shamrock. Use the vocabulary cards with pictures in the free guide below.
- During reading, pause occasionally to ask questions and to help students clarify their understanding.
- After reading the story, introduce the students to the first riddle. Tell them the leprechaun is playing tricks on the class just for fun. Will they be able to catch him in the act of playing a trick? Read the riddle with the students. Explain that the riddle rhymes and offers a clue about what the leprechaun did. Which words rhyme? Can they figure out the riddle and find the place in the classroom where the leprechaun played the trick?
- End the lesson with a teaser such as “I wonder if he’ll play another trick on us tomorrow,” or “I hope he doesn’t make any more messes in our classroom,” or “Maybe tomorrow we’ll catch him before he gets into trouble.”
Day Two introduces the idea of writing a riddle like the leprechaun did, by having students brainstorm and share ideas for the leprechaun’s next trick. By Day Three, students will be writing and re-writing rhyming riddles! Extend this playful writing activity over as many days as you wish, allowing students to create riddles and “help” the leprechaun play tricks. It is a joy to watch the excitement build in your classroom!
For a copy of the complete instructional plan, download this St. Patrick’s Day Mini Lesson for K-2 Students, including printable vocabulary cards, FREE!
Dr. Mary P. Sullivan shares her experience from 22 years in K-12 education as a Mentor for the Marygrove Master in the Art of Teaching Program. She earned her Ed.D in Educational Leadership from Liberty University and currently serves as Guidance, Testing, Evaluation and Placement Coordinator at Baconton Community Charter School in Baconton, GA. She is committed to identifying and disseminating research-based best practices for teaching and learning.