From Shamrocks to Shillelaghs: Books to Read on St. Patrick’s Day
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2
As we Irish folk know, St Patrick’s Day is more than just leprechauns and pots of gold. St. Patrick’s Day honors the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick, and celebrates Irish traditions. The history of St. Patrick is extraordinary.
The books that I am sharing are a mix of nonfiction and fiction that will teach your students about the extraordinary life of St. Patrick as well as Irish customs and legends — and of course, leprechauns, pots of gold, and lucky shamrocks!
St. Patrick's Day Books and Activities
The nonfiction books St. Patrick’s Day by Gail Gibbons and St. Patrick’s Day by Carmen Bredeson will teach your students about the inspiring life of St. Patrick and the many ways people celebrate the holiday.
My favorite way to introduce a cultural topic to my students is to use a KWL chart. The K stands for "Know." The W stands for "Want." The L stands for "Learn." So for this topic, you'll be asking, what do you KNOW about St. Patrick’s Day? What do you WANT to learn about St. Patrick’s Day? What did you LEARN about St. Patrick’s Day? First, ask your students what they know about St. Patrick’s Day. Write down their responses. Next, ask the students what do they want to learn about St. Patrick’s Day? Write down their responses. As the students read and learn about St. Patrick’s Day, write down answers to questions the students asked in the “What did you LEARN?” portion of the KWL chart.
The chart looks like this:
The Luckiest Leprechaun: A Tail-Wagging Tale of Friendship by Justine Korman
Your students will enjoy this tale of an unlikely friendship between a feisty leprechaun, MacKenzie O’Shamrock, and a fun-loving dog named Lucky. Initially the leprechaun doesn’t want anything to do with the four-legged visitor. He actually thinks the dog has come to steal his pot of gold. As the leprechaun tries to do everything he can to get rid of Lucky, he eventually learns to tolerate the pup.
The plot thickens when the nosy Professor Chester enters the picture in search of leprechauns and their treasures. Needless to say, Lucky saves the day and the pot of gold. Mackenzie O’Shamrock learns a more important lesson about loyalty and companionship, which all your students will be able to relate to.
An activity to integrate with this story is to use the Scholastic Printables graphic organizer "Sequencing Frames" to retell the story of The Luckiest Leprechaun. The students can write about what happened at the beginning, middle, and end of the story. The students can illustrate their sentences when finished.
Jack and the Leprechaun by Ivan Robertson
This is my all-time favorite book to read on St. Patrick’s Day. The story itself is terrific, but what's marvelous about this book is how the author weaves in real Irish folktales, customs, and traditions. The students are introduced to words that they probably have never heard before like shillelagh and Gaelic.
An activity to pair with this story is to brainstorm ideas of what your students would want to find in their pot at the end of a rainbow. I had my students draw a picture of themselves as leprechauns. Then they created a rainbow out of whatever they liked (torn construction paper, paint, colored tissue, etc.) and made a pot. The students finished the assignment by writing about what they would want to find in a pot at the end of a rainbow.
Green Shamrocks by Eve Bunting
In the story, the main character, Rabbit, decides to grow shamrocks to wear for the big St. Patrick’s Day parade. Step by step, he goes through the process of planting his shamrocks, from finding a pot to plant the seeds in to watering them each day to help them grow. He is devastated when the shamrocks are missing and begins his search to find them.
An activity that your students will be fully engaged in is to have them grow their own shamrocks. All you need to do is supply your students with cups, soil, and seeds and let them do the rest!
Students can list what needs to be done first, second, third, fourth, and fifth in order to grow shamrocks.
An open-ended activity to connect with this story is for your students to create something out of a shamrock shape. Use a die cut of a shamrock and glue it to writing paper. Let your students decide what they want their shamrock to become. For example, in the picture below, my student created a flowerpot out of the shamrock and then wrote about it.
Leprechaun on the Loose by Marcia Thornton Jones
There isn’t a better book than Leprechauns on the Loose to give your students ideas to make their own leprechaun trap for St. Patrick’s Day. Students may write a step-by-step instruction manual to go along with their leprechaun trap.
Download the directions for making a leprechaun trap, and pass them out to your students.
What are you doing with your students to learn about St. Patrick and to celebrate his day? Please comment below!