Avoiding hurt feelings on the holiday of love
Fun classroom activities – or should I say potentially fun – can sometimes go awry. That's the case with classroom Valentine activities. Let's look at it this way: Can we design an event that has maximum potential to hurt children's feelings?
This unfair event would have:
- A card exchange where certain kids can be left out based on petty personal agendas.
- Loads of candy with “I like you” message that may – or may not – be shared depending on who's popular at the moment.
- A not-so-secret whisper campaign of “who likes who” and “who got what from who” and what that means for “who didn't get anything.”
Of course, that's what we already have available to us with Valentines day: a behavior management time bomb wrapped up in red-and-white bows.
For the reasons outlined above, this is a holiday classroom party that absolutely cannot be left to run without teacher oversight. Do you remember any not-so-fun Valentines trauma in elementary school? Let's save our kids from that – and build up our classroom community at the same time.
Valentines party procedures
As you can see on the school birthday party page, rules of conduct, firmly enforced, can turn any event into an extremely valuable lesson on politeness, sharing and gratitude. The same is true of your school Valentines party.
And, as you'll see, we'll even slip in a tiny bit of curriculum as well!
Before the party
Let your students and parents know the ground rules:
- A child must bring one Valentine card for every other student in the class or none at all.
- The cards may have a piece of candy attached (many come this way) but no other candy should be sent to school
Creating Valentines mailboxes
Obtain or create Valentines “mailboxes.” I’ve had great success in the past with folding large origami boxes. This is something we do in class as a math patterning activity.
Don't forget to do a box for yourself! You can also just decorate paper sacks.
Let students individualize their mailboxes with anything you have on hand, but limit the time spent on this; mailbox decorating doesn't fit into any curriculum of which I'm aware!
Notice that no one gets a special container and no gets to decorate their container in a special way. I don’t allow students to bring something from home, where some parents will go over the top and some will do nothing at all.
Place the mailboxes or containers in alphabetical order around your room. Have the students take care of this organizational step.
The card exchange
As with all classroom parties, this one doesn't start until the last half hour of the day. The first step is for all students to sort their school Valentines party cards into alphabetical order. It's great skill practice and a touch of curriculum.
A few students at a time go down the alphabetical line of mailboxes and put a card from their alphabetized stack in each, then return to their seats. Other students continue to work on other standards-based work that is Valentine themed.
Students bring their mailbox to their desk and, while enjoying a thematic and healthy snack such as strawberries, open up their cards one at a time.
As students open their cards, rotate a few through the snack line. Remind them to say thank you for the snack.
Next comes the real community-building process – and a really warm-fuzzy feeling, to be honest! When it comes to fun classroom activities, it's always great to incorporate politeness and thankfulness.
With every card a student opens, they must call out a “thank you” to the person who provided it. After a few minutes, the “thank you's” and smiles are flying around the room and the overall atmosphere is exactly what you are hoping for in your classroom: Kind, caring, courteous and genuinely happy.
Teachers should also call out “thank you's” when opening Valentines (you'll get a bunch of them).
Take some time to roam around during the classroom party because students will want to share Valentines they like.
In addition to the healthy snack, each child may have one or two candies from one of the cards; the rest of the candy goes home with them.
Clean up and wrap up
Everything goes into the mailbox (scraps of paper into the garbage) at the end of school.
Classroom Valentine activities can be challenging to arrange in ways that benefit every child in your room and build up your community. But this process, with its sharing and thankfulness, will create a Valentines day that all of your students will savor.
With a little extra time and attention, you can ensure that Valentines can be as joyful a holiday as anything else celebrated at school – and you can build your classroom community at the same time.