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Did you know that St. Patrick’s Day – or the Feast of St. Patrick – is a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador (where it is observed on the closest Monday to March 17th)? While we might not have the day off in our part of the world, a St. Patrick’s Day ELA activity presents an exciting opportunity to teach middle school students about fantasy, folklore, and the cultural traditions of the Emerald Isle, all while having a little fun along the way!
This week, I’m sharing one of my favorite St. Patrick’s Day-themed activities for middle school ELA students. The Pot of Gold Reading Mystery challenges students to make inferences, read more closely, and look for evidence within a piece of text. All the reading is themed around the mythology of leprechauns!
Before you dive right into the activity, it’s important to get familiar with the legends surrounding leprechauns. These tiny fairies, often portrayed as bearded men, are believed by some to have hidden gold away from humans!
I love to embrace holidays in the middle school ELA classroom. With a bit of inexpensive decor, and a whimsical accessory or two (students love the shamrock-shaped glasses I found at the dollar store), you’re halfway there. Add an engaging activity and it’s easy to create a lively St. Patrick’s Day ELA activity for middle school students.
Begin by putting a poster on the door. Where is the pot of gold? If your students are anything like mine, they might also enjoy some seasonal decorations. In addition, they may like a small prize (a sticker, or maybe a gold coin) if they dressed for the occasion by wearing green!
Begin by sharing the story of the Fortune Hunters, a band of treasure hunters in Ireland who are determined to find the leprechauns’ gold! Read the story out to the whole class. Alternatively, have your middle school ELA students break out into small groups and carefully read the backstory together. Either way, you’ll want your students to be in small groups for the next stage of the activity as they work through the mystery of the gold’s location!
The basic premise of the activity is that the leader of the Fortune Hunters now holds some of the most credible legends that speculate where the leprechauns have hidden their gold.
Next, in groups, your middle school ELA students must read each of the legends – as well as some facts about shamrocks, rainbows, and gold – closely, and determine which of them is the most likely to lead the Fortune Hunters to the elusive pot of gold!
To determine the most likely location of the hidden leprechaun treasure, your students will need to comb through the evidence, which includes a selection of myths. These legends explore the origins of leprechauns, as well as their likely – and unlikely – modern-day whereabouts!
Middle school ELA students will get into the St. Patrick’s Day spirit when they read about Carlingford. Carlingford is a small town in Ireland where leprechauns are officially a “protected species.” They’ll also love learning about Mill Ends Park in Portland, Oregon. This city could perhaps be home to an American colony of leprechauns!
As they comb through the evidence (which also includes fact sheets about gold, shamrocks, and leprechauns), students will find clues that will help them solve the mystery. This also supports the development of essential literacy skills, including critical thinking, close reading, text evidence, and inference skills, which are all essential aspects of a strong reading foundation.
During the reading portion of the task, each group can appoint a recorder. This person can use the graphic organizer to keep track of what they learn about each potential location for the leprechaun’s gold.
It is important that students collect detailed evidence during the recording task. This way, they are prepared to defend (or refute) their final theories with support from the readings. In other words, they can’t just make a random prediction or “go with their gut” – they have to be able to back up their ideas!
Finally, you can wrap up the task by taking an informal poll of where each group thought the gold could be located. Alternatively, a representative from each group could share their theories, supported by specific evidence from the text, of course.
Once each group has had a chance to defend their choice, it’s time to review each of the potential locations, and identify the correct answer! As an exit task, you may wish to have students complete a brief reflection on their learning. This will help with identifying areas of strength and growth for next time.
That’s it! I hope you and your students enjoy this St. Patrick’s Day ELA activity for middle school. This mystery is one of 40 included in the full-year reading mysteries program. You can check it out by clicking here.
Looking for more middle school ELA activities for St. Patrick’s Day? Click here.
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