A St. Patrick's Day Lesson from Teaching House
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St. Patrick’s Day has its roots in Ireland of course, but is now celebrated all over the world, making it a great topic for a fun and enriching ESL cultural exchange class. In this lesson, learners will develop reading skills and expand their knowledge of St. Patrick’s Day related vocabulary, as well as develop their speaking fluency.
The lesson starts with a discussion to activate learners’ background knowledge on the theme and to make it personalised and engaging. You can also include a vocabulary brainstorming task if you have more time to dedicate to the lesson, or if your learners are higher level. The suggested activity here is “pass the pen”, where learners line up in two teams facing the board. The person at the front writes a St. Patrick’s Day/ Ireland-related word on the board, then passes the pen/chalk to the next team member in line and then moves to the back of the line. Alternatively, for online lessons you can give each team a blank Google doc that they use to brainstorm as many associated vocabulary items as they can in 2-3 minutes. Be sure to do a demo so they know what to do! A bit of competition can be fun, so count up how many correct words or phrases each team gets and crown the winning team.
The next part of the lesson involves reading a “10 facts about St. Patrick’s Day” text and has the bonus goal of developing learners’ question formation grammar. First, the class is divided into group A and group B. Each group’s version of the text has some missing information, and the goal is to ask correctly formulated questions in English to find out the missing facts from the other group. Each group spends 10-15 minutes writing questions for the gaps in their version of the text. For example, if the gap says “St. Patrick was ____ years old when he was kidnapped”, the correct question would be “How old was St. Patrick when he was kidnapped?”. Students can work individually then compare as a group, or they can work in small groups, depending on how confident they are. While they’re working, as the teacher you’ll monitor and check the accuracy of their questions, prompting corrections if necessary. Question formation is notoriously difficult in English so the more practice the better.
Once they have their questions, students regroup so there is one student from team A and one student from team B in each pair. Making sure they keep their worksheet private, they ask and answer each other’s question for 5-10 minutes until they have completed all their missing gaps. After they’ve finished, they can check their answers - you can skip whole class feedback here and just let the pairs compare their worksheets and check their answers together, though you should of course be available in case of questions.
Next, for full comprehension, there is a true / false task for them to work on individually then with their partner. It’s a good idea to get learners to say why they believe each statement is true or false during the whole class feedback stage, to make sure they’re not just guessing and to help the whole class reach a full understanding of the text.
Finally, the lesson ends with some speaking fluency practice. Give learners a few minutes to think about the positive and negative aspects of how St. Patrick’s day is celebrated. They can use this infographic to help them
https://www.tpisolutionsink.com/printing-company-blog-waltham-ma-/st.-patricks-day-fun-facts-infographic . Brainstorm together as a class so that everyone’s ideas are shared, and be aware that alcohol consumption might be a sensitive topic for some of your learners. The students are then divided into small groups to think of ideas for a new way to celebrate this festival. They may come up with ways to celebrate the benefits of immigration, or they may take a more light-hearted approach by suggesting, for example, a green cake to celebrate instead of beer. They can let their imaginations run wild! After a few minutes, encourage learners to share their new celebrations either with a new group or with the class as a whole, and perhaps even vote on the ones they think are good enough to submit to the Irish tourist board. Whatever their ideas, it’s bound to give your learners the “gift of the gab”.
Lesson Plan Overview
Level: Intermediate (B1) and upper-intermediate (B2) students
Learning Outcomes: Learners will develop reading skills and review/expand their knowledge of St. Patrick’s Day related vocabulary. Learners will also develop their speaking fluency through summarising an article verbally and making a spoken presentation.
Note to teacher: This reading text has 10 facts about St. Patrick’s Day and infographics for the students to use to design a better celebration
- Pre-reading: Students discuss these questions, which are on their worksheet
● What national holidays are holidays in your country?
● Is it celebrated anywhere else in the world?
● Do you/ people in your country celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?
● If yes, how do people celebrate?
● Are there any similarities or differences between how people in your country celebrate St. Patrick’s Day from the way that people in the USA celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? If so, what are they?
- Pre-reading vocabulary brainstorm: OPTIONAL
Have learners brainstorm words they know that are connected with Ireland. If you are teaching face-to-face and your class is small enough / your board is big enough you could play “pass the pen” for this. Students line up in two teams facing the board. The person at the front writes a St. Patrick’s Day/ Ireland-related word then passes the pen/chalk to the next team member in line and then moves to the back of the line. Online, this can be done collaboratively using two shared documents. This continues for around 2-3 minutes. The team with the most correct words wins.
- Information Gap Reading
Split the class into As and Bs and hand out appropriate worksheets (see below for the “10 facts about St. Patrick’s Day” worksheet). Students quickly read the text and formulate the questions they need to ask to complete the text. For example, student A’s first blank is “He was born in _________ in either Scotland or Wales” and so student A should write the question “When was he born?” or “In what year was he born?”. Check the questions as you monitor, but don’t give full class feedback yet.
Regroup the students so As and Bs are sitting next to each other and get them to ask and answer each other’s questions.
Once they have completed the text, compare both worksheets to see if they match facts in “A teaching House St. Patrick’s Day: Reading Worksheet B” and ask As for the missing information.
- Detailed Reading Task
Students decide whether the following aspects of St. Patrick’s Day are true or false.
● The actual colour of St. Patrick’s is green. (False, it is blue)
● The very first St. Patrick’s Day parade aws in Ireland in 1737. (False it was in Boston in 1737)
● The phrase, “Drowning The Shamrock” is from the custom of floating the shamrock on the top of whiskey before drinking it. The Irish believe that if you keep the custom, then you will have a prosperous year. (True)
● Many bars in the United States, and abroad, serve green beer to celebrate. (True)
● The tradition of drinking on St. Patrick’s Day is a new aspect to the holiday. (True)
● More than triple the amount of Guinness is consumed on St. Patrick’s Day. (False)
- Speaking and presenting
Put the students into groups of three. Give the students the infographics about St. Patrick’s Day. Students should work together with their group and discuss the positive and negative aspects of the St. Patrick’s Day tradition. It could be about:
● Alcohol consumption
● Dying things green
● A traditional event
● Something else that you choose
They should prepare to give a short presentation to the class on how to improve the celebration in their city. They should include:
● What the new tradition is
● Why it is a good idea
● How it will make St. Patrick’s Day better
Students then regroup and present their ideas to each other. The new groups then choose the best ideas and make the “Perfect St. Patrick’s Day Celebration”.
Download the St. Patrick's Day Lesson Worksheets below: