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15 Easy Ways to Build Fine Motor Skills in the Classroom

15 Ways to Build Fine Motor Skills in the Classroom

Have you noticed more and more students entering kindergarten (or preschool) without the fine motor skills they need to make everyday school activities easy to achieve? Hopefully, this list of ideas for incorporating fine motor activities into your daily routine will help you get your students where they need to be!

Why are fine motor skills important?

Fine motor skills in young children are a predictor of academic success, but many students begin school struggling in this area. It makes sense that children with dexterity and hand strength would be more successful in a classroom that requires writing and drawing, but researchers have found that the connection goes beyond that. Through a series of studies using longitudinal data that tracked students from kindergarten through eighth grade, researchers determined that strong fine motor skills in the early years of life help form connections in the brain that lead to greater academic achievement throughout the school years. Unfortunately, advances in technology have led many families away from traditional activities that promote fine motor development. The time that many children spend using computers, tablets, and smartphones is time they are not spending building, drawing, and manipulating objects in the world around them. Many children are beginning school with a deficit of motor skills, both gross and fine. It is important for schools to give children many opportunities to build those skills.


What can teachers do to foster the development of fine motor skills at school?

Most early childhood teachers try to incorporate lots of developmentally appropriate activities into their preschool or kindergarten day, but as academic demands increase, these sometimes slip through the cracks. Here's a list of simple fine motor activities you can add to your daily routines to help your students strengthen their fingers and build dexterity and balance. At the bottom of this post, you'll find a link to a PDF version of these ideas that you can keep on hand or pass on to parents and colleagues.

1. Start big!

Gross motor activities, like crawling and playing on the monkey bars, build core muscle strength required for stability and balance. Great fine motor skills require more than just strong fingers!

Start Big! boy on monkey bars

2. Play with dough.

Manipulating play dough, clay, or putty is a fun way for kids to build finger strength. Idea: hide beads or little toys in the dough for your students to excavate. Use these free playdough task cards to give your students dough ideas!

3. Take it to the floor.

Tummy time isn’t just for babies! When students lie on their stomachs to write or play, they build trunk strength. This gives them more stability and stamina for seated tasks!

Take it to the floor. two boys reading on their stomachs

4. Tear paper.

Tearing paper improves grip and strengthens hand muscles. Save scraps from other art projects to use for tearing! Children can glue torn paper to make mosaic pictures. This fine motor task box set includes a paper-tearing activity.

5. Go vertical.

Try having students write on a vertical surface such as a chalk- or whiteboard. This position encourages proper grip and builds stability. When children write on the board, they also have the opportunity to cross their midline.

6. Use tweezers.

Children can use tweezers to move small objects like pompoms or mini-erasers. This activity strengthens the hand and can be combined with counting and sorting tasks.

Use tweezers. a child's hand using tweezer with beads


7. Try chalk.

When children write with a small piece of chalk on a chalkboard, they are naturally encouraged to use a pinching grip. The resistance of the chalk on the board gives small hands more control. Children also use more pressure with chalk, building strength as they go!

8. Stickers!

Who doesn’t love stickers? Have students peel and press small stickers to help develop control and dexterity. Stickers can be used as part of a math activity (count and stick to match the number) or for art and writing (make a sticker picture, write or tell a story).

9. Start spraying!

A spray bottle full of water is a great fine motor tool. Holding the bottle upright while squeezing the trigger builds arm and hand strength. Kids can use the bottle to wash tables, water plants, or “paint” outdoor walls.

Start spraying! Hand holding spray bottle


10. Snip, snip, snip!

Cutting with scissors is a crucial fine motor activity. Start small by having children snip strips of paper into small pieces. Children can also use scissors to cut play dough.

11. String beads.

Children love playing with beads! Stringing pony beads onto laces or pipe cleaners is a fun way to build coordination and pincer grip. Stringing beads ties in nicely with patterning lessons in early childhood classrooms.

12. Let them build!

There are so many great construction toys that help children develop the muscles in their hands. Snapping blocks together, turning bolts and nuts, and fitting pegs into pegboards are all activities that naturally grow finger strength.

13. Pick a puzzle.

Give children chances to piece together jigsaw puzzles and you will be helping them build dexterity with a side of spatial awareness! Start small by using sturdy puzzles with twelve or fewer pieces to avoid frustration.

Pick a puzzle. girl playing with a jigsaw puzzle


14. Lace it up.

A helpful precursor to shoe-tying, lacing cards help students develop eye-hand coordination, pincer grip, and motor planning skills. Warning: Untangling the laces may be your fine motor challenge for the day. 😉

15. Pop, pop, pop!

Save your bubble wrap! The irresistible practice of popping those little bubbles is a terrific and satisfying fine motor activity for children. Add some bubble wrap to your calm-down area or your indoor recess tub to give kids a chance to work their little fingers!

If you'd like these ideas in a handy PDF, you can grab that by clicking the image below.

Grab the PDF!


If you want to incorporate fine motor activities throughout the year in a more structured way, you may be interested in my fine motor skills task boxes. You can check those out on TPT by clicking the image below.

Fine Motor All Year! Image of Fine Motor Skills Task Boxes Bundle

I hope these simple fine motor ideas help you incorporate strengthening activities into your routines! Please comment below if there are some great activities you use to build fine motor skills in your preschool or kindergarten classroom--I'd love to read about them and I know others would as well!

Thanks for reading!

15 Ways to Build Fine Motor Skills in the Classroom Pin




Life Cycle Activities and Ideas for Your Classroom

Life Cycle Activities for Kindergarten and First Grade

Whether spring has sprung or is just a dream on the horizon, you may be ready to begin planning butterfly, plant, or frog life cycle units for your classroom and I have some ideas (and freebies!) to share with you!

Does Everything Grow?

I like to start a life cycle unit with the classic Raffi song, "Everything Grows." (This is also a great one to hang onto for an end of the year performance for parents!)


After listening, have a class discussion about whether or not EVERYTHING actually grows. Lead the children to the understanding that living things grow, but non-living things generally do not. Talk about what other characteristics living things share (need for nutrients/water/food, ability to reproduce...). Have students brainstorm some things that are living and some things that are not.


Finally, bring the conversation to life cycles. Looking at your list of living things, talk about how they grow. Ask the children to think about what changes these living things go through and how they begin growing. Here's a fun song to help students visualize a life cycle as a circle--something that keeps going round and round. 


Digging In

Once your students have the background knowledge about what a life cycle is, it's time for some in-depth exploration of specific living things and their life cycles. There are lots of great informational books and videos about life cycles. If you are able to, this would be a great time to bring some nature into your classroom in the form of caterpillars, tadpoles, and/or seeds and plants.

I also have some resources in my TPT store that include informational PowerPoints (along with lots of printable activities). You can see the bundle here, or looks at the individual units by clicking the pictures below.

Informational Frog Life Cycle UnitInformational Butterfly Life Cycle UnitInformational Plants Life Cycle Unit

Acting Out Life Cycles

Integrate some movement into your lesson to keep your students focused. Choose a living thing and have the children act out its life cycle. For example, have them curl themselves into tight balls to be butterfly eggs. They can then hatch into wiggly caterpillars, form very still chrysalises, and finally emerge into butterflies who stretch their wings and flutter away.

Once they understand the parts of any particular life cycle, have your students engage in this simple activity that helps with memory (and, as a bonus, has them cross their midline!). Have them raise one arm up so they are pointing above their head and say the first part of a life cycle ("Egg!"). Then have them move their arm a quarter circle, pointing to the side, and say the next part ("Caterpillar!). Pointing straight down ("Chrysalis!") and to the other side ("Butterfly") completes the life cycle. After getting the motions down, have the students complete the circular motion a little more quickly a few times in a row while saying the stages of the life cycle. This helps students understand what a cycle is and that it continues indefinitely! 

Life Cycle Activities

Hands-on activities are a great way to for students to solidify their learning and for them to demonstrate that they understand a concept (in an age appropriate way). I've put together some materials that you can grab for free to help you plan this type of activity for your class. Whichever task you choose to have your children complete, it's a good idea to have them follow it up with an oral language piece. Having students bring their finished product to a friend (or teacher, volunteer, etc.) to narrate the life cycle gives them a chance to use new vocabulary and to build public speaking skills.

These paper plate life cycle puzzles are something you can do with any life cycle! They are also easy to differentiate (have students draw, draw and label, or cut and glue pre-printed pictures depending on their levels/needs). I have included simple life cycle pictures for butterflies, plants, and frogs if you want students to cut and glue. If you want students to draw, all you need are paper plates (the cheaper the better), scissors, and crayons or colored pencils. First have students fold their plate like a taco shell and then crease. While it is still folded, have them fold it in half again, matching the corners. When they unfold the plate, the creases will show them where to draw the life cycle stages (and arrows) before cutting. Students can store their completed puzzle pieces in a zip-top baggie. Having students assemble and explain their life cycle puzzle is a great way to do a quick one-on-one assessment.

Paper Plate Life Cycle Puzzle

Another way for students to manipulate life cycle stages to put them in order is with  this life cycle chains fine motor activity. With a just a little prep-work by the teacher, this activity can be added to your rotation of fine motor skills activities. In the free life cycles printable file, I have included a label and instruction card in case you want to add this activity to your Fine Motor Skills Task Boxes collection.

Life Cycle Chains Fine Motor Activity

One last activity is this template for students to make a fingerprint butterfly life cycle. Have students lightly color the leaf and the branches and then use washable paint to have them add fingerprints. This activity can be done in small groups with a volunteer (and plenty of baby wipes!). The free life cycles printable file includes the full-page template (pictured below) as well as a template with writing lines for students to do some informational writing after the paint dries.

Fingerprint Butterfly Life Cycle Template

Life Cycles: Digital Edition

Finally, if you want to incorporate some technology into your life cycle lessons, here are some ideas.

Interactive Life Cycle Models

These interactive life cycles from ecosystemsforkids.com are a simple way to explore a lot of different life cycles. They don't have a lot of detail, but they are easy to manipulate and can be a springboard for inquiry. If you have an interactive board in your classroom, these would work nicely as quick fillers when you have a few extra minutes.

Time Lapse Videos

There are lots of really neat time lapse videos of life cycles on Youtube and other video sharing sites. I love this series that shows the entire life cycle of a dandelion.



Digital Activities for Home or School

If you want your students to have independent practice with life cycles through your learning management system, check out these activities in my TPT store.

Butterflies Ebook and activities for Seesaw and Google Slides

Plants e-Book and digital activities

Frogs Digital Activities for Seesaw, Google, and Boom


Thanks so much for reading! I hope these activities help you out as you plan your life cycles activities!

 

Twenty-Two TWOSDAY Activities for Your Primary Classroom

22 ways to celebrate Twos-day twosday 2's Day Two's Day

Who doesn't love the opportunity for a fun theme day?! This year, February 22nd falls on a Tuesday, making the date 2-22-22, otherwise known as TWOS-day! This day presents an opportunity to fill the day with fun, educational, two-themed activities. Here I have compiled a list of 22 ideas for incorporating the number two into your day. (This post contains Amazon affiliate links.)

1. Make a list of things that come in twos.

Eye, ears, feet, and shoes--these are things that come in twos! Have your students brainstorm a list of things that come in pairs. This can be a shared writing anchor chart activity that targets whichever phonics skills you're working on (or reviewing) or can simply be a quick mental warm-up! Singing "Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" to start this activity will get the wiggles out and the mental juices flowing.

2. Practice counting by twos.

If you haven't introduced counting by twos to your students, now's a good time. If they already have experience with this skill, you can practice skip counting further! There are many counting by twos songs on Youtube that range from catchy to calming. Here are a couple of my favorites.

     

You can find several counting by twos pages in my Twos-Day Activities pack on TPT.

3. Practice AABB patterns.

This skill ties in nicely with counting by twos. After making an AABB pattern with manipulatives or drawings, students can count the objects or pictures by twos. Grab these completely free pattern templates for students to practice coloring AABB patterns! (If you do these on Monday 2-21-22, you could make them into a quick banner to decorate your classroom for Twos-day. Kids love to see their work on display!)
Twos-day number two AABB pattern templates

4. Make bead bracelets or necklaces.

Add some fine motor work by having students string pony beads on laces to make AABB patterns. Students can count their beads by 2s when they finish! You can find pony beads here.

5. For more fine motor work, make patterned paper chains!

Pre-cut two colors of construction paper in strips. Let students work on making AABB patterns (a great center!) and then connect all the chains together to decorate the classroom. You can find a center directions sheet for paper chains in my Twos-Day Activities pack on TPT.

Twosday Paper Chain Activity

6. Read a book about Tuesday.


7. Make a Twos-day crown.

Have students create their own crown or use the template in my Twos-Day Activities pack on TPT. 


22 Ways to Celebrate Twosday

8. Explore ways to show the number two.

Have students brainstorm places they see the numeral two and ways they can show two using math tools (their fingers, ten frames, dominoes, dice, links, etc.). If you have a document camera, that can be a good way to display the representations students come up with. You can also make a big 2 on an anchor chart and write/draw ways to show two there. (If your students need some inspiration in their brainstorming, Jack Hartmann has them covered!)



9. Take a look at the number 22 as well!

Exploring ways to represent 22 is a great chance to dig into place value. If your students are ready for bigger numbers, you can work with showing twenty-two as two groups of ten and two ones. Use base ten blocks, ten frames, chain links, or connecting cubes to give hand on practice. My Twos-Day Activities pack also includes resources for exploring the numbers two and 22.

10. Take a movement break by playing elbow tag!

This fun game brings Twos-day out to recess! Elbow tag, also called partner tag, has students link elbows in pairs. Learn how to play here.

11. Make a drawing out of the numeral two.

Write the numeral 2 with a black marker in the middle of a sheet of paper (not too big) and have the students draw to turn the number into something else. My Twos-Day Activities pack includes a PowerPoint/Google Slides e-book to offer inspiration to students. You can turn the final drawings into a book to add to the classroom library!
Twosday Class Book

12. Practice reading two-letter words.

Project or display a list of two-letter words. Depending on the level of your students you might simply practice reading the words, look for patterns within the list, or practice reading the list within a certain time frame (e.g. How many words can you read in 22 seconds?) This website has several fun timers to project for timing challenges!

13. Write a list of two-syllable words.

Practice counting syllables in words. Have students contribute words (including names) that have two syllables to add to a chart.

14. Add doubles.

If your students have already been introduced to the concept of addition, Twos-day is a great time to introduce or practice adding doubles! If you can get your hands on it, the book Two of Everything by Lily Toy Hong is a wonderful tie-in to adding doubles. My Twos-Day Activities pack also includes doubles dot flash cards and a few doubles worksheets for practice.

15. Watch one of these fun videos about the number two.

   

16. Teach about the differences between two, to, and too.

Because these three spellings and meanings are each fairly common, to, two, and too present a nice opportunity to introduce homophones to students.  Here's a free little poster you can use!

To Too Two Homophone Graphic

17. Teach some common idioms that include the word two.

Several idioms include the word two. Teach one or more of these and have the students make connections to life experiences. Here are some you might want to use:
-One step forward, two steps back
-Two wrongs don't make a right
-Two heads are better than one
-My two cents
-In two shakes of a lambs tail
-Like two peas in a pod

(My Twos-Day Activities pack includes a writing template for "two peas in a pod.")

18. Do brain break exercises in sets of 22.

Get some energy out by doing jumping jacks, arm circles, stretches, and other simple exercises in sets of 22.

19. Make up funny tongue twisters.

Brainstorm a list of words beginning with T and have students use those words to create their own "Two" tongue twisters. They can challenge their friends to say their twister "two times fast!" 
Two tricky toucans taught tracy to tiptoe.

20. Read books about pairs and the number two.

Here are some books to look for:
The Missing Pairs by Yvonne Ivinson
A Pair of Socks by Stuart J. Murphy
One is Not a Pair by Britta Teckentrup
Two by Kathryn Otoshi

21. Parade around the classroom marching two by two.

If the children have had the chance to make patterned bracelets or necklaces and crowns, they can dress up for a little Twos-day parade. Have them count by twos as they march!

22. Make Twos-day structures using 22 cups.

Divide students into groups or pair. Give each group 22 plastic cups and challenge them to create an interesting structure.

I hope these TWOS-day ideas will make your planning a little easier! Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments to share with everyone. Happy teaching!

TWOS-DAY Activities for 2-22-22



 

Comparing Numbers 0-5: Pumpkin Freebies in Digital & Print!

Comparing Numbers 0-5 Pumpkin Activities

Here we are in October of what is anything but a typical school year in most places. Whether you are teaching in-person with extra safety protocols, completely virtually through a screen, or some combination of the two, you have surely faced a variety of brand new challenges this school year. I'd like to make this month just a tiny bit easier for you by giving you some free resources for teaching students to compare numbers using words like greater, less, and equal.

Free Digital and Print Resources

Digital Comparing Numbers Resource with Video - FREE
I've put together a digital activity that I've pre-loaded into three platforms: Boom, Seesaw, and Google Slides. (If you haven't tried Boom Cards yet, and want to learn about them, here's a post that will fill you in.) This activity includes an instructional video (great to share with asynchronous students) and several interactive slides for practice. Each task includes audio instructions, so students should be able to work on these independently.

Comparing Numbers within 5Comparing Numbers 0-5 with Pumpkins


Printable Center Game for Comparing NumbersFor those of you who are working with students face to face or who are providing physical materials to students at home, I've also put together some simple, pumpkin-themed printable activities for comparing numbers.
Dry erase center game for comparing numbers
These activities can be used in dry erase sleeves or page protectors and are great as an independent center. For children who are just beginning to understand comparing numbers, have them use counters (pumpkin erasers or table scatter are fun, but circle counters or pompoms also work), along with a single die. Students will roll a die, count a set of counters and write the number on the work mat. They will repeat this for the other section, then will circle the number that is greater. I've included a color and black and white version of this work mat.

For children who are ready to move beyond the concrete, I have included a work mat that allows students to simply roll, write numbers, and circle the greater number without the use of counters. I've also included two printable worksheets (one for circling the greater number and one for circling the lesser number. 

You can download the links to the digital sets right here, and the printable PDF right here. Enjoy!

More October Learning

I hope your October is full of all kinds of fun. I'm linking some of my thematic fall resources below--hopefully you'll find something useful!

     

     

     


Thanks for reading and happy October! 🎃🍁🍂


What Are Boom Cards? Getting Started with Boom Learning℠

Boom Learning and Boom Cards are the trademarks of Boom Learning Inc. Used with permission.

As teachers plan for this new school year, there are so many uncertainties. Whether students will be coming into schools and learning face-to-face or will be learning remotely from home in front of a screen, the new challenges are tremendous. When teachers, students, and families were thrust into distance learning in March, we all realized that "normal" can change in the blink of an eye.


 How Can Boom Learning Help?

Distance learning brought with it a whole bunch of learning management systems and platforms for delivering instruction to students. There are now so many ways to reach students from a distance, it can be quite overwhelming. When I first discovered Boom (which has been around for several years), I was hesitant to try another new system, but I'm so glad I did! Boom Cards are interactive, digital task cards created by teachers for students to use within the Boom Learning platform.


There are many great things about Boom, but what I like best is that it can be used in conjunction with your other learning management system (Google Classroom, Canvas, Microsoft Teams, Seesaw, etc.). This is because Boom Cards are played within their own platform which can easily be linked to whatever method you use to communicate with your students.

Here are some other things I love about Boom Cards:

  • Boom Cards are self-checking, which allows students to be independent.
  • Boom Cards support audio, meaning that creators can embed audio instructions. This makes Boom accessible to pre-readers!
  • Boom Cards can be played on just about any device with a connection to the internet.
  • The Boom platform has thousands of decks, both for sale and for free, that teachers can choose from to meet their students' needs.
  • Teachers can also create their own Boom Cards. Not seeing what you need? You can make your own deck just for your students or to give or sell to other teachers as well.
  • Boom Learning provides teachers with data reports that can help drive instruction.
picture of boy playing Boom Cards Ways to Make Ten with his parent
Child Playing "Ways to Make Ten" Boom Deck


Getting Started with Boom

Teachers must have an account with Boom Learning in order to assign activities (called decks) to students. This requirement keeps the platform secure and safe for students. There are different levels of accounts with different associated costs depending on how you want to use the platform.

You can head over to the Boom homepage to read the most updated membership information, but as of right now, here's a breakdown of the cost and benefits of each level:

Free - Starter Level: At this level, teachers (or parents) can create five student accounts. They can assign decks to those five students and can view reports of those students' progress. At the starter level, users can make five of their own decks, but they cannot add custom sound to those decks. At this level, and all membership levels, teachers can assign unlimited Fastplay links to decks in their library. Fastplay links allow students to play the deck without signing in, but do not provide any reports or data to teachers. Fastplay links expire after five days with free accounts and after 14 days with paid accounts (at which point the teacher can generate a new Fastplay link).

$15/Year - Basic Level: At the basic level, in addition to the benefits of the starter level, teachers can create up to 50 student accounts which they can place in up to three different sections.

$25/Year - Power Level: At the power level, the student number is increased to 150 accounts in up to five sections. Teachers can create an unlimited number of decks to assign to their own students. Teachers also gain a "live monitoring" capability at this level, which allows them to view live progress reports as students play.

$35/Year - Ultimate Level: At this final level, in addition to the benefits of the previous level, teachers can create up to 200 student accounts in up to eight sections, can add custom sounds to their own decks, and can sell their own decks in the Boom store. 

If you join Boom by redeeming a link for a Boom Deck that you accessed through TPT (such as this free sample of my alphabet activities for Boom), you will be automatically be given a free trial of the premium features for three months. Simply click the link in the product download and then follow the prompts to create a new account!



Using Boom Cards with Students

Once you have a Boom account, you will be able to see any Boom Decks that you have purchased (or gotten for free or created) in your library on the Boom Platform. These are decks that you can now assign to your students. Boom has created a very useful collection of tutorials and videos in their help section that you can access if you have trouble when adding students and assigning decks.

Once you have created your roster on Boom (or imported your roster from Google Classroom if that's the system you're already using), you will need decide how you want your students to access the Boom Cards. If you want students to be able to quickly play a game for practice and you aren't interested in collecting data, you can simply have them click a Fastplay link (in your library, click on the blue "action" box next to a deck and select "Fast Pin" to get the link). You can send students this link through whatever LMS or communication system you use.

If you want to collect data (which you probably will at some point!) you have a few student sign-in options that you can explore in depth in this tutorial.

Boom Learning is a robust platform with too much to explore for me to cover in one post, so stay tuned for more! In the meantime, check out my Boom Cards on TPT to see if I have anything perfect for your class!

Boom Cards Bundle of Kindergarten Math Activities    Letter Activities Bundle for Boom Cards Literacy Center


Thanks so much for reading and please leave a comment below if you have any questions about Boom!

Simple and Engaging Leprechaun Traps in the Classroom

A leprechaun stands beside a simple classroom trap on Saint Patrick's Day

Every March I see pictures on social media of absolutely beautiful leprechaun traps that students have made at home as a family project before bringing to school for St. Patrick's Day. While I think there is definite value in that kind of parent-child experience, I have only ever done leprechaun traps as an in-class activity for a few reasons. Planning and constructing simple traps at school can make for an incredibly engaging and educational day that children will remember for the rest of the year (and beyond!). Completing this activity in class is also an excellent opportunity for collaboration and provides a chance for all students to participate equally, regardless of their home environment. Making leprechaun traps in the classroom is less about creating something flashy or cute and more about the meaningful critical thinking and engineering strategies students practice as they plan and construct their creations.

Learning About Leprechauns

Before getting to the trap building, your students will need to build on their background knowledge of leprechauns to come up with a purpose for the activity. After discussing what children already know about leprechauns (you can make a KWL chart if you'd like), reading a book or two about St. Patrick's Day and leprechauns will set the stage for this activity.

A photo of five books that will help prepare students to make leprechaun traps this St. Patrick's Day
Some of my favorite leprechaun books are (affiliate links):

Fiona's Luck: A clever Irish woman is able to trick the leprechauns into returning luck to Ireland. This fun story has a lesson about the importance of wit over luck.

The Night Before St. Patrick's Day: Tim and Maureen attempt to trap a leprechaun but end up getting tricked. This one has simple, rhyming text.

Tim O'Toole and the Wee Folk: This story, which could be compared and contrasted with Jack and the Beanstalk, involves leprechauns (called little ones and wee folk), tricks, and treasures. Just as a heads up--it also includes a little violence (the leprechauns hit peoples' legs with sticks), but it is presented in a silly way.

The Story of the Leprechaun: This cute story gives a lot of background about leprechaun legends and retells a traditional tale of a leprechaun tricking a gold-seeker. 

That's What Leprechauns Do: This story tells of three leprechauns who play a few funny tricks on the way to completing their main job of putting a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

After learning about leprechauns and the legends associated with them, the purpose for building a trap will be clear: catch a leprechaun to get him to tell where the gold is hidden!

Talking About Traps

Photos of a lobster trap, a venus fly trap, and a student-made leprechaun trap
A useful next step is to talk about various kinds of traps and what they are used for in real life. Your students may be able to come up with a few kinds of traps on their own, which you can then discuss (How do they work? Would they be a good option for catching a leprechaun?). Some traps children might be able to think of on their own (depending on their life experiences) are mouse traps, spider webs, or crab or lobster traps. Showing photos of various kinds of traps and talking about how they work (bait? trigger?) will help get the kids' wheels turning. The PowerPoint presentation in my leprechaun set includes photo examples of traps with explanations of how they work.

Making a Plan

When your students have a good understanding of leprechauns and traps, it's time to begin planning! This is such a flexible project--you can have students work independently or in groups to make several traps or just one. One year I had each student draw a trap design and share it with the class. We then made a new plan as a whole group that combined attributes of several of the designs and built that trap together. You can make this project as complicated or as simple as you want to!

Photos of a student planning sheet for a leprechaun trap and a trap made out of a bun, blocks, and paper coins
Before you send your students off to plan, it can help to inventory the supplies that are available for building traps. Some ideas: bins, boxes, tubs, art and craft supplies, books, writing utensils, and toys...

When the children are drawing up their plans, they will need to think about what is going to lure the leprechaun into the trap and how the trap is going to keep the leprechaun from getting away. It helps to have a discussion about these things to brainstorm ideas!

My leprechaun set on TPT has planning forms your students can use, or you can just have them use plain drawing paper.

Building Traps

When it's finally time to build the trap (or traps), reassure your students that it's ok to revise and make changes! When my students were working to build the trap pictured here, they tried a few different bins and boxes before finding one with a lid that worked in the way they wanted it to. A couple of students worked on drawing and cutting out "gold" coins, while others built the staircase out of blocks. A boy even donated his golden chain to use as bait (thankfully the leprechaun didn't get away with it, so he was able to get it back at the end of the day)!

A Leprechaun's Visit

A leprechaun stands beside magic leprechaun rocks made of baking soda and a rhyming note
Once your traps are ready, you will all have to leave the room since leprechauns are far too clever to come into a classroom full of children! When the children are out of the classroom, it's time for some leprechaun mischief. In some stories (and classrooms) the little guys make quite a mess. Bear in mind that while some children will find it silly to come back to find their classroom in disarray, others may find it a little stressful--especially if the classroom is their safe space in a chaotic life. Some simple, but easy to clean up mischief that I find fun is to turn each of the student chairs around backwards, turn a few anchor charts or posters upside down, and to "write" a message (something simple like, "Ha ha ha!") by arranging crayons or pencils on the floor near a trap.

The most important thing, or course, is that the leprechaun must spring the traps, but manage to escape, leaving behind a message and a treat. Some treat ideas: chocolate coins or Rolos, little bags of Skittles, plastic gold coins, or these fun magic leprechaun rocks. The rocks are made out of baking soda, water, and food coloring and each has a plastic gold coin in the center. When dunked in a bowl of vinegar mixed with water for cleaning, the rocks fizz and foam and leave behind the gold. I followed the directions in this post from Gift of Curiosity to make my rocks and left this note in the classroom beside the trap.

I hope these ideas help you plan out a fun St. Patrick's Day experience in your classroom. I'd love to hear from you about your ideas--feel free to post a comment below! Have fun with your traps and Happy St. Patrick's Day! Here are a couple of resources from my TPT store that might interest you:

Leprechauns: PowerPoint and Printables is a TPT resource from My Happy Place     St. Patrick's Day Addition is a TPT resource from My Happy Place