Our kiddos love Valentine’s Day, so let’s hack that enthusiasm! Our primary students’ hearts are so eager for any kind of theme. Themes make learning more fun, and using a holiday theme can improve their engagement. Don’t let the party planning take all of your energy – save some for boosting their learning. Try a no-prep Valentine’s Day literacy activity (or three!) you can use to tap into the Valentine’s Day excitement!
Looking for the podcast? Here’s this episode!
Memorable Holiday Moments
I’m all about routines to keep students in their optimal learning and engagement zone. I will say we can twist the rules just a bit to create memorable learning activities during the holidays. Even though we sometimes feel the urge to do elaborate projects that we can put on Facebook, we don’t need those things to create memorable moments in our classroom.
Thankfully, in primary, there’s only one thing we really need to make things memorable and exciting for our students, and that is our ATTITUDE. Believe it or not, your attitude toward the activities you present to your students is what makes them fun and memorable. If you approach them with hype and excitement, your students will really feed off that. You’ll create a fun, holiday-themed, festive environment.
The simpler the better. When I plan big, elaborate projects, I get so grouchy. The kids get out of hand, and the end product may be worth it, but not all the time. I could have given them a fun, enjoyable atmosphere without all of that.
Valentine’s Day Literacy Activity #1: Read a Book
Oh my goodness, I know you’re rolling your eyes right now! Of course, I’m going to read a book. Yes, I always read holiday-themed books. Why are you calling this an activity?
I hear you. I’m going to give you some tips to make this book, or many books, extra special for Valentine’s Day. Remember that your language is everything. Your language, and the anticipation you build for reading these Valentine, love-filled books, will make it extra special for your kiddos.
Attitude is Everything
When you read these books, don’t just say, “Boys and girls, it’s time for our read aloud today.”
Say, “Oh my goodness, look over here! There’s a gift!” Have your book in a big red or pink bag with a heart on it. “Someone left us a gift! What does it say on the tag? ‘To: Mrs. Mullins’ class. From: Your Secret Admirer.'” So, of course you prepared this ahead of time and you’ve sort of hidden it in the corner.
Your kids will know that probably you did it, but they love playing these kinds of games with their teacher. Grab the bag dramatically and pull it out like it’s the most amazing thing in the world. I love doing these kinds of things, especially in kindergarten, because their little hearts just overflow with excitement.
I got this idea from a teacher I observed when I was in college. She had this box wrapped in beautiful paper, and it was her special read aloud box. Every time she pulled a book out of it, it was a special event for her students. It built anticipation and made them believe that those books were extra special. It really puts that love of books and reading in their hearts, so I love that strategy.
When you pull the book out, whatever the book is, you can even say something like, “Boys and girls, I’m going to warn you right now. If we read this book, it may make you fall in love! You may fall in love with someone after reading this book. You may want to smooch and kiss them even!” Just wait until you hear their little giggles and laughs.
The Little Extras
When you’re reading the book, do silly things that keep them engaged. Maybe wink or blow a few kisses. To make it even more fun and more like an activity, I recommend following it up with some kind of treat. Maybe there’s some kind of special treat in the bag for students who are listening and really interacting with the book.
Another thing you can do is follow it up with a dictated drawing. I love pulling up Art for Kids Hub on YouTube (check it out HERE) because they always have themed drawings for the holidays, and I’ve already checked out some for Valentine’s Day. You can choose an object that goes along with your story.
Valentine’s Day Literacy Activity #2: Valentine’s Day Word Works
I’ve finally got it done! For years I have been wanting to create a Valentine’s Day set for Word Works, and this was the year. I’m so excited for you to see it. If you’re not familiar with Word Works, it is a daily phonological and phonemic awareness with phonics activity that you do with your whole group. It is a daily review of the most important prereading skills to help your students master them.
I’ve just created the Valentine’s Day version. If you are a bundle owner, that is a free update. If you are not a bundle owner, for the next five days (beginning on 2-4-21) this product is on sale at the cheapest price it will ever be. You can check it out here for KINDERGARTEN and FIRST GRADE.
If you’re teaching virtually, you can present it to your students by sharing your screen. If you’re teaching in the classroom, you can put it up on your projector or SMART board.
Teachers love Word Works because it is highly visual. If you think about phonological and phonemic awareness, those skills are all done with auditory learning using our ears. Years ago I wanted to make it a visual thing for my students, that way they could connect what they hear with what they see.
That was a game changer for my students and has been for thousands of teachers who use this program every single day. I love the holiday versions I’ve created in the past because they add a richness with the images and sounds that really excite and engage students during the holidays.
What’s in it?
In kindergarten, you get a total of 10 days. Each day has nine individual skills to practice including concept of spoken word, rhyming, beginning sounds, middle sounds, ending sounds, counting syllables, counting sounds, and some others.
The first grade set includes Word Wizard, Seek the Sound, Inflective Endings, Depot Dash, middle sounds, all of the skills covered in the everyday routine with an adorable Valentine’s Day twist.
My favorite parts are the kissing sounds and the love music at each brain break. Your kids are going to giggle and laugh. I can’t wait to share it with my RTI second graders who are still working on these first grade skills.
I’m also hosting a giveaway in the Primary Teacher Friends Facebook group, and a lot of lucky teachers are going to get it for free. If you haven’t joined yet, request to join here!
Valentine’s Day Literacy Activity #3: Write a Love Letter or Poem
Writing is such an important part of teaching a child to read and be literate. I love writing, and I have loved it ever since fourth grade when Mrs. Pennington told me she loved my story about a talking dog. She really bragged it up, and ever since I truly enjoy writing.
Our students can get that same love for writing if we give them authentic experiences to write that are motivating and special. Just like… an upcoming holiday! We can hack the holiday to get our students excited about writing.
Our third Valentine’s Day literacy activity is to give students the opportunity to write a love letter or poem to someone they care about. Tell them how excited and appreciative the recipient will be. “Oh my goodness, they’re going to love having this special memory from you!” Tell your students how you store up all the letters students write you, and that you keep them forever! That’s how special handwritten notes are to people.
Also, give them a template to follow that will help guide their writing. I have created one just for you – it’s at the end of the post. When I was thinking about this activity, I wanted to give you something to use because I wanted it to be no prep. I created a little set of Valentine’s Day postcards. You can give this template to your students, and the theme will really help to guide them in writing their love note or poem. I even differentiated them so if you teach a lower grade level it will make it easier for them.
Make it Special for Students and Recipients
I’ll print these for my students on cardstock, and this will really help give an authentic and rich writing opportunity. I cannot wait to see what they write. It’s going to be so sweet. 😊
To help your students before they begin this activity, you can make a list of words they may need to know. Take out an anchor chart, draw a few little doodles, and write some words like love, appreciate, all of those things your students may need during writing to make your life easier.
I also recommend that you model the writing activity for your students. Show them your think aloud. “I’m thinking I want to tell my mom how pretty she is, so I’m going to say, ‘Mom, you are so pretty.'” And I’ll model that under the document camera so they can see how it works. Make sure you block a little extra time for coloring and decorating, because they will definitely want to make their note as pretty as possible.
It would also be a great idea to use these postcards to surprise some staff members in your building. Maybe let your students make one for someone they love at home and then have another time set aside to create them for the lunchroom or office staff. You can get some authentic writing and show appreciation and gratitude at the same time.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Teacher Friend!
Don’t forget your postcard template download!
Now, it’s Valentine’s Day, so I’m going to get a little mushy. Teacher, I love you. You bring encouragement and purpose into my life, and I hope I do the same for you. I hope you have a super fun Valentine’s Day week with your kiddos!
Go make a difference, teacher friend!