A perfect way to begin this lesson is the video, "St. Patrick's Day- Bet You Didn't Know" which gives a fast and fun overview of why March 17th is St. Patrick's Day.
After we've watched the three minute video, it's time to talk a little bit about the traditions of the Irish and their culture. It's too bad that we don't have the time to explore many more cultures throughout the year, but the built in fun of St. Patrick's Day is the perfect time to explore at least this one. The video raises a few questions about this famous day, and those watching carefully can answer them as well as I can.
The video has definitely engaged the kids and they anticipate what will happen next- then a student brings up the question of "Leprechauns." One of the legends we read is about Leprechauns, so it's a perfect lead in when we start talking about the main assignment. We read aloud two Irish legends/myths, then the students use a graphic organizer to compare and contrast the informational texts.
I was specific in my reasoning for choosing the texts. The first, about leprechauns, dispenses a rich amount of information about these legendary characters while the second, about a Giant Rat is actually an Irish legend. I was eager for the kids to distinguish between the two as they analyzed each reading. A lesson such as this is an opportunity for quality practice in comparing and contrasting. Almost immediately, the differences came into play...
As I introduced the Leprechaun informational text, one of the students said, "If it's about Leprechaun fairies, it can't be informational...it's literature." This was a great opportunity for me to illustrate the difference between the two. The story about Leprechauns was indeed informational, because it was describing exactly what the myth said about them. Just because it described a fictional character doesn't mean it wasn't dispensing information. "The Giant Rat," however, is certainly literature. An obvious difference between the two.
After both have been read, I pass out the two writing pieces, and the kids use the graphic organizer to compare and contrast. I enjoy reading their work and it sometimes cracks me up...saying what leprechauns "do for a living" for example.
They're usually happy to draw pictures, and this is no exception. I allow them to browse on the computer/use the stories to work together to pick a favorite scene from one of the legends, and illustrate it. The kids are then encouraged to show their picture to the class and describe. I make it a point to ask them in their presentation, to support their reasoning in choosing one or the other to illustrate. It may seem like an arbitrary decision, and sometimes it is, but many times they have a clear reason to share. Without asking them to answer this question, most will not think to include the answer. I love the collection of drawings they create!