There are some days in an elementary school teacher’s life where the white flag must be waved. Halloween. The day before holiday break. Pajama Day. Crazy Hat Day. And, of course, Valentine’s Day. This year, our Valentine’s celebration fell on the Friday before our mid-winter break, which is a lovely week off from school. It happened to also be the 100th Day of School and children were encouraged to “dress like they are 100.” Friday morning, my classroom was buzzing with children in red and pink and children with white wigs and canes and granny glasses, carrying bags of cards, candy, and cartoon character valentines. “I’ve got one for you, too,” some assured me as they delivered their treasures. One student hand-made cards for all her classmates, writing personal messages appropriate for each friend inside. The manilla file folder valentine holders we made and decorated earlier in the week were quickly stuffed to the brim and this was all within the first twenty minutes of school! The rest of the day before us, with energy and excitement in the air, I had to admit that the lessons in our current units of study would not be appropriate for this day. Here are some ways we marked Valentine’s Day and snuck in some meaningful and enjoyable writing:
Valentines for the Blobfish
My students were first introduced to the blobfish in this video from Jess Keating‘s Animals for Smart People. They were fascinated with the blobfish and were delighted to find the book, Pink is for Blobfish, waiting for them on my rocking chair on Friday morning! The book is all about “the world’s perfectly pink animals.” The blobfish, though, is the star of the show. Having recently been voted “the world’s ugliest animal”, my students were feeling sorry for this creature. We read that there was a contest to make valentines for the blobfish, to assure him he is loved despite his title as ugliest animal (several of us thought the naked mole rat, also featured in the book, far more deserved that title). The students wrote valentine cards to the blobfish after we finished reading the book. I wrote one, too.
Writing Responses to The One and Only Ivan
Since mid January, I’ve been reading aloud Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan to my third graders. (If you haven’t read this book yet, please give yourself a gift this Valentine’s weekend and read it!) It is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read and it raises so many important conversations. Since our normal routines were a bit off, I had more time to read aloud. With a lump in my throat and tears threatening, I read the last page of the book. There were sighs and cheers- such a special moment when a community of readers has gone through a journey together and reached the happy ending! After, we watched some videos of the real Ivan (here and here) and read the nonfiction picture book, Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla, also by Katherine Applegate. I created a Padlet for students to write their reactions to the book. Padlet is a great digital tool with a lot of versatility. Students enjoy sharing their thinking and writing with other classmates around a common topic.
The PTA at my school has a nice tradition of creating a booklet of Valentine wishes for students, written by parents, teachers and staff. This year, I wrote an individual Valentine’s Day message for each of my students for this publication. When it was distributed today, I was very touched to see that the class had sent me a booster, too:
Quote for the Day
One of the class jobs in my room is the “Chief Inspiration Officer” or CIO. This person selects an inspiring quote for us, writes it on our glitterboard, and shares it with the class during the morning meeting. The quote selected today was perfect for Valentine’s Day, and every day, really.
Even though I had to wave the white flag for our usual learning activities, Valentine’s Day was still a day of laughter, learning, literacy, and love in the classroom. Happy Valentine’s Day to all!