By Teachers, For Teachers
Each and every year, all teachers anxiously await Valentine’s Day! The best of all days! It is a day of complete classroom harmony and inspirational teaching moments. Right? Wait! Valentine’s Day? Actually, the excitement level for kids is at an all-time high on February 14th. It is something like combining Halloween and Christmas. Most teachers are merely surviving on this day! However, there are some activities that teachers can incorporate into this fun-filled day to enrich the day for students and to help the teacher maintain their own sanity. Of course, the day will include the traditional snacking and exchanging of valentine cards, but here are 10 ideas that have been teacher-tested and are ready to implement in your classroom for Valentine’s Day.
One tried-and-true activity that kids love for Valentine’s Day is making heart animals. There are so many options – bird, bunny, crab, hippo, dog, elephant, and the list goes on. They are quick and easy to prepare! Check out the huge variety of options on DLTK-Growing Together.
Heart-shaped marshmallows, which are readily available around Valentine’s Day, along with toothpicks make a great STEAM building activity. Give each student or group of students a certain number of marshmallows and toothpicks. Then give them a time limit to see which group can make the biggest and/or most stable building.
There are so many great activities that can be done with this Valentine’s Day candy staple. Graphing is just one math activity you can do. Students can sort the hearts by color or by the phrases written on them and graph them. For another STEAM activity, students can use conversation hearts to see which group can build the tallest tower.
The week of Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to teach your students how good it feels to do kind things for other people. The best way to help them get into the spirit is by doing some unexpected kind things for them. Then, as a class you can decide someone else in the school that you would like to do something kind for. You may be surprised by how excited students get about doing something for someone else.
Plan ahead in order to perform a reader’s theater. You can also perform for parents, other classes, or other grade levels. Many classic Valentine’s Day books can be adapted for reader’s theaters. Some examples are Happy Valentine’s Day, Curious George by N. Di Angelo and The Valentine Bears by Eve Bunting and Jan Brett.
Show some support for staff appreciation! This could be a class or school-wide effort. Each group can be assigned a custodian, teacher assistant, office staff, etc. to write special valentine notes of appreciation to. More great opportunities for acts of kindness!
Want to keep those students moving because of all that extra energy they have? Much like an egg hunt at Easter, try a heart hunt! Hide paper hearts throughout the school. Hearts can be different sizes and colors. On the back of each heart can be a point value. Have students collect hearts and add up their points to see who wins. This can also be a school-wide event with classes competing against each other or within one class. It incorporates movement and math!
This is another activity that incorporates movement and emphasizes exercise. This is an activity that would work best in a large space like a gym. Students are divided into groups and must complete the exercises at various stations. Upon completing these stations, students can earn a letter or a word that is a part of a Valentine’s Day word or phrase. The first group to complete the puzzle wins! Use Valentine’s Day stickers, pencils, etc. for prizes.
Above I mentioned using some Valentine’s Day books for a reader’s theater. Of course, you can also do some read-alouds with those books. My personal favorite for which I do a week-long unit every year is Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli. This is a fantastic story about a lonely man that gets a valentine from a secret admirer. Even though there is an unfortunate misunderstanding, this story turns out to be a very heartwarming tale that demonstrates the difference that a simple act of kindness can make in someone’s life.
Finally and most importantly, teach students about love. Of course, you say, “love,” and your students will inevitably say, “EWWWWW!” However, this day provides the perfect moment for teaching children the importance of loving and caring for their fellow man. Let students know that love isn’t always the “EWWWWW” kind and that the world needs a lot more of it!
Lori is an elementary school teacher and holds an Ed.D. in School Leadership/Administration.