With Saint Patrick’s Day just around the corner, I wanted to share this little timely post on what has consistently been a classroom favorite March activity... making a leprechaun trap. Trapping Leprechauns appeals to imagination of all children, but especially the wee ones in the primary grades. My grown children still remember the delight in finding their classrooms turned upside down by the mischievous leprechauns.
This March, I am tweaking this tried and true favorite a bit to add some Common Core Writing Standards and Speaking and Listening Standards. It occurred to me that you might want to do this as well. So I’ve decided to share my Common Core Standard inspired tweaks, and welcome you to share yours. I’ll start by sharing the how-to make a leprechaun trap activity.
First, early in March, I pique the imagination of my students by reading to them stories about Irish folklore and traditions, pesky leprechauns and St. Patrick. Here are five of my favs.
1. The Night Before St. Patrick’s Day by Natasha Wing.
The Night Before St. Patrick's Day puts an Irish twist on a Christmas classic. It's the night before St. Patrick's Day, and Tim and Maureen are wide awake setting traps to catch a leprechaun! When they wake the next morning to the sound of their dad playing the bagpipes and the smell of their mom cooking green eggs, they're shocked to find that they've actually caught a leprechaun. But will they be able to find his pot of gold?
2. That’s What Leprechaun’s Do by Eve Bunting
What do leprechauns do? They bury a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, of course. But as Mrs. Bally Bunion’s ox, Miss Maude Murphy’s hen, and Old Jamie soon find out, they can’t resist having a little fun along the way. For, besides burying pots of gold, mischief is what leprechauns do!
3. Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk by Gerald McDermott
Tim O'Toole and his wife Kathleen are so poor they have not a penny or a potato between them. Even their cats are too skinny for the mice to chase! When Tim goes out to find a job, he stumbles upon "the wee folk" - a band of leprechauns who give him gifts sure to make his fortune. That is if Tim can keep clear of the evil McGoon family...
4. Clever Tom and the Leprechaun by Linda Shute
Clever Tom Fitzpatrick thinks his fortune is made when he captures a leprechaun and forces him to reveal the hiding place of his gold, but the leprechaun is clever too.
5. Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato by Tomie dePaola
Tomie dePaola’s take on an Irish folktale is wonderfully entertaining and the illustrations are done in whimsical dePaola style.
Next, I enlist the cooperation of the parents. Families are asked to work together to build a leprechaun trap. They are encouraged to work as team, be creative, and have fun. To help cut costs, I suggest they use recycled materials from around the house, such as: shoe boxes, cereal boxes, egg cartons and such and fancy them up using their imagination. There’s tons of ideas on Pinterest. (If we have covered Forces in Motion in science unit, I will assign the Leprechaun Trap as a culminating activity to demonstrate their knowledge of the standards. No worries if you haven’t done that science unit. The leprechaun trap will still be a fun assignment either way.)
As part of their homework, students will write an explanatory piece explaining the steps they took to make their traps. This addresses Common Core Explanatory Information Writing CCSSW.2.
A day or two before St. Patrick’s Day the students set up their traps around the room. We take turns explaining how we created the trap and the materials we used. This addresses Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards CCSS SL.1/ SL. 2/ SL.3/ SL.4/ SL.5 and SL.6.
Once all students have presented, they will vote for their favorite trap. Next, they’ll share their opinions in writing citing evidence and examples to support their opinions. This addresses Common Core Opinion Writing CCSS.W.1.
After school on the eve of March 17th, I overturn desks and chairs. I make paths of green glittered footprints, confetti, and sprinkle gold coins or shamrocks around. Often, I will stack books in a tall tower on my desk, dismantle our classroom library, or turn charts upside down. I will put a treat, like a chocolate coin or a Rolo in wrapped in gold foil in each of the students’ traps or in little plastic black caldrons on their desks. I’ll often get these from the Dollar Store or Oriental Trading.
When the students arrive they find all kinds of clues that their playful pesky visitors have been there. It’s quite remarkable to see their thrill in discovering the leprechaun antics. This experience serves as a great opportunity to write a personal narrative about the time the leprechauns were on the loose in the classroom Common Core Standard CCSS.W.3.
If you would like to see this March writing resource (which includes: themed writing paper for all three text types, parent letter, and list of March read alouds) please stop by my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.
How do you celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day in your classroom? Don’t be shy. I’d love you to share your creativity and imagination.
Happy Leprechaun Hunting!