The St. Patrick's Day Shillelagh
||Author: Janet Nolan
Illustrator: Ben F. Stahl
ISBN: 0807573442 (hardcover)
Summary: On his way from
Ireland to America to escape the potato famine, young Fergus carves a
shillelagh from his favorite blackthorn tree, and each St.
Patrick's Day for generations, his story is retold by one of his
Unit Study Prepared by Celia
Pronunciation: shillelagh = shuh-LAY-lee or shuh-LAY-luh (means cane or walking stick in Gaelic)
Geography -- Ireland
The beginning of our story takes place in Ireland. Ireland is the third largest island in Europe. It lies to the northwest of
Continental Europe with the island of Great Britain lying to the east.
Politically it is divided into the Republic of Ireland, a sovereign state
occupying five-sixths of the island, and Northern Ireland, a part of the United
Kingdom, occupying the northeastern sixth of the island. The name
'Ireland' derives from the name …riu (in modern Irish, …ire) with the addition
of the Germanic word 'land'.
Capital: Ireland's capital is Dublin; Northern Ireland's capital is Belfast.
Official languages: English and Gaelic.
Population: The population of the island is slightly under six milLion (2006),
with 4,239,848 in the Republic of Ireland and about 1.7 milLion in Northern
Flag: Ireland's flag is made of three equal-sized rectangles of orange, white
and green. (The green is by the flagpole.)
Climate: Ireland has a cool, often-cloudy climate.
Enchanted Learning (includes maps, flag activities, information, and more!)
History: Irish Potato Famine 1845 to 1849
Also known as the Great Hunger or the Great Famine.
In 1845, half of Ireland's potatoes were infected with a disease
(see Blight in Science lessons). The following year, even more
plants were killed. By 1847, almost all potato plants had died.
Because potatoes were almost the only food the poor Irish farmers
lived on, many of them starved to death. Many left Ireland.
(You can read more on the last page of the book.)
Older Student Research Project: An older student--Jr. High/High
School aged--may wish to research the political aspect of the Famine.
Great Britain refused to help the Irish during the Famine, and
animosity between the two countries continues even today as a result.) You
may also want to take this opportunity to learn more about immigration.
History: Brooklyn Bridge -- 1870 to 1883
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridge in
America. It stretches over the East River and is nearly 6,000
feet (more than a mile!) from end to end. It took 13 years
to build (1870-1883). At the time it opened, it was the
largest suspension bridge in the world.
Brooklyn Bridge--Creating Grandeur
History: "Rosie the Riveter"
During WWII, so many men were away at war that there were very
few left on the home front to work in factories. Workers were
needed in the factories to keep the army supplied. Many women
began to work in the factories, taking the place of the men who
were now at war. These women became symbolized by "Rosie the
Research Options for older students
World War I -- 1914 to 1918: Also known as the Great War or the First World War.
World War II -- 1939 to 1945:
The Second World War.
Oral Storytelling (including
Language Arts and Art ideas)
In the days before most people
could read and write, stories were handed down from generation to
generation by oral storytelling. And, like in our book, if
the story is not told, it can become forgotten. Are there any
stories in your family? Pass them along now to your child--before
they become forgotten!
Take some time this week to help your student write down stories that you
would like to be passed from generation to generation so that they will be
preserved. Perhaps this could be a family project. As
a family, go to your parents or grandparents and ask them to
share family stories. Write them down.
Art: Have your
student(s) illustrate the book. Have copies made and bound
or place in a nice folder. Give a copy to your parents or
grandparents as a gift.
Through this story, we learn a bit about Kayleigh's family tree. Does
your student know who your mother and father are? Your grandparents?
Make a family tree with your student this week. Be sure to tell stories
about each family member. You may even want to make a small scrapbook with
your student-- something that he can show his own children someday.
Great Website-- don't miss this one!
Discuss the term heirloom with your student-- a heirloom is a piece
of personal property handed down from generation to generation. Ask your
student, "What was the heirloom in this story?" If you have any heirlooms
that were passed down from your ancestors, take some time to share them with
your student. Is there a story behind the item? Do you plan to pass
it down to your student? You may even want to visit a grandparent to learn
about other family heirlooms.
Bible and Character
Bible Study: Remember
Using a concordance (teach your student how to use one!), look up the word
remember in your Bible. What does God have to say about
You may want to just concentrate on this story/passage--
The Old Testament prophet Samuel set up a stone of remembrance (I Samuel
7:10-13) to mark a victory over Israelís enemies.
Bible Study: Generations
What does the Bible say about telling the next generation about the things
God has done? What else does God tell us to tell our children?
Deu 6:1-9 Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it: That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments,
which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in
thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. Deu 6:8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
Prepared Vocabulary Puzzle
shillelagh: a short stick, often thick and used as a weapon (i.e. a club)
farewell: to say good-bye
court (verb): to try to win the affections of another in hopes of marriage
lass: A girl or young woman (particularly an unmarried one)
wee: little or very small
Gaelic: The ancient language of the Irish
reel: a lively Celtic dance
generations: people who descend from a common ancestor. For
example, Mommy is one generation and you are my child, so you are
another generation. We both descend from Nana, who is my mom and
she is another generation. Her mom, your Great Nana, was another
famine: an extreme and general scarcity of food
Besides the story
of Fergus and the shillelagh, what else did each person pass down
to the next generation? A few words. In some cases, these words
were an adage. An adage
is a few words of wisdom, much like the Proverbs in the
Bible. Make a list of the adages in this story.
Fergus to Declan: Take this branch as a memory of Ireland (This is not an
Declan to Emmet: The past that walks with me today will walk with you tomorrow.
Emmet to Mary Maeve: Remember, a good story takes its time in the making and its time in the telling.
Mary Maeve to Garrett: May the stories of our past guide you to your future.
Garrett to Ryan: (none)
Garrett to Kayleigh: A good story never has to end as long as someone remembers to keep telling it.
Journalism: Newspaper Headlines
Notice the New York Times Newspaper and Headline. Headlines are
designed to get people's attention-- to make them want to read the article.
If you have some newspapers at home, look at the headlines together.
Discuss whether or not the headline was appropriate for the article. Did
it grab your student's attention? Why/why not? Can your student
think of some headlines for the articles in your newspaper?
See Social Studies lesson-- Oral Storytelling.
For a younger
child sitting in on the story, perhaps you could introduce/review the
penny. Make up story problems about Fergus getting pennies for
shining shoes or for selling newspapers. Work on whatever skills
the student needs (For example, to work on counting by 5s.....Fergus
received 5 pennies for each newspaper he sold. How many pennies did he
get for selling 5 newspapers? 5, 10, 15, 20, 25....25 cents.)
Stars on the Flags (and a little history too)
Look at the page where Emmet comes home from WWI. Ask your
student if the flag looks different than our flag of today. Have
your student count the stars (either individually or by multiply 6 rows
times 8 stars). Ask how him how many stars our flag of today has
and whether he can figure out why they have differing numbers.
(Alaska and Hawaii had not yet been admitted, so we only had 48
time-line of the story. Start with Fergus and place him at about
1847, the time when Irish really started leaving Ireland in mass
numbers. Continue with Declan (have your student review the
Brooklyn Bridge building dates and choose a year that is appropriate).
Emmet fought in WWI (again have your student review the dates
for the war and choose an appropriate year.) Mary Maeve worked
in the factories during WWII (review dates and choose).
Help your student choose approximate dates for Garrett and Ryan
and finally ending with Kayleigh (maybe pretending she just found it
this year). Don't forget to add your student on the time
line--is he perhaps about the same age as Kayleigh?
Have your student determine how many years have passed since Fergus
left Ireland. How many years passed between Fergus leaving
Ireland and when Declan worked on the Brooklyn Bridge? Emmet and
WWI? Mary Maeve and WWII? How many years have passed since
WWI? Since WWII? Between WWII and your student was born?
Converting Years to Days
For extra multiplication practice for an older elementary
student, have him roughly calculate the number of days it took for the
Brooklyn Bridge to be built, for the First World War, and for the
Second World War. Use the approximate number of years each
lasted: 13 years for the Bridge (365x13=4,745 days), 4 years for
WWI (365x4=1,460), and 6 years for WWII (365x6=2,190 days)
We get our science lessons from the opening words of the story:
after day, Fergus felt a rumble in his empty belly as he sat beside his
favorite blackthorn tree, watching the clouds reach down from the sky
and touch the earth. It was a terrible time in Ireland, when
Fergus was a child. The potatoes had rotted in the fields and
children lay in their beds at night hungry.
Review the parts of the
food passes through the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large
intestine, rectum, and out the anus.
What makes an empty belly rumble?
Your brain automatically turns your digestive system on and off several time a
day and digestion continues no matter what (even if you don't eat).
The rumbling you hear is actually produced by gas in your intestines squeezing
together to mix and digest food, and the medical term for it is
borborygmus. The rumbling is produced every time your body is in
digestion mode, but you hear it more clearly and loudly when there is no food
there to muffle the sounds.
Botany: Blackthorn Tree
A tree native to the British islands. It is often used as a hedge and the dark
blue sloe berries are enjoyed by birds. Its white flowers appear in
spring before the leaves.
There is much legend and lore behind this plant. Some say that Christ's crown
of thorns was made from the Blackthorn tree's sharp thorns. Some believed that
if the tree had many berries on it, the winter would be severe. The Celts
believed the tree had protective "powers." In Irish folklore it was believed
that the "little people" lived in Blackthorn bushes.
If your student is interested, spend some more time learning about trees native
to your area.
You may wish to
take this time to review various types of clouds and cloud
classifications. (See the HSS unit for Island-Below-the-Star or
Time of Wonder).
Also use this time to discuss specifically the low level clouds:
cumulus, cumulonimbus, stratocumulus. Clouds stay
suspended in the air because of the lifting action of the wind
currents. How then did the clouds in the story reach down
and touch the earth? The "clouds" were probably fog.
Fog is basically a
cloud that is right above the ground. As the air warms around it,
it dissipates. There are different kinds of fog. Let's look
at three of them.
When the nights are cold, clear, and calm (remember Fergus' last
night when he cut the branch?), the ground releases the heat it had
absorbed during the day. As the ground then becomes cooler, a
cloud of water droplets forms above the ground.
Advection (also called Land) Fog: This kind of fog forms when warm, moist air travels over a cold surface.
Sea Fog: This fog is carried from one place to another on the winds.
(Sources: Fog & Mist and Wiki)
plants rotted because of a blight. The blight was a
plant-destroying disease (there is discrepancy as to whether phytophthora is a mold or a fungus--good research project for a
older student) that attacks every part
of the potato plant. It is a serious problem even today,
and not just among potato plants. It also affects other
vegetables and even flowers.
Just for Fun
Coloring Page (hat, shamrocks, and shillelagh)
Eat lots of potatoes this week! Eat them baked, fried, boiled,
mashed, scalloped. Don't forget potato cakes for breakfast!
Do a little Irish dancing (Riverdance, anyone?)
Listen to some Gaelic music (Celtic Woman has one, "Siuil A Run". Enya often sings in Gaelic.)
Play a tin whistle, fiddle, flute or drum
Tap out rhythms with a stick
Listen to some Gaelic songs