Valentine’s Day can be an anxiety-inducing day for students. Kids spend the day wondering if they’ll receive cards from their classmates and what those cards will say. Though this holiday is intended to share appreciation and love, unless schools are intentional, Valentine’s Day can promote exclusion of certain students that aren’t as “popular” or social as their peers.
I just heard the story of a young girl named Betsy, who is in third grade and about 30 lbs overweight. She received a valentine from a classmate with a pig on it. Though this might have been cute if we were talking about a pig that portrayed fictional characters like Wilbur or Babe, this was not the case; it was an attempt to tell a young girl who she was.
Recently, I spoke with some of my colleagues, teacher consultants Mary Ashby and Barbara Newman, about ways schools can combat the negative attitudes, bullying, and exclusion that can occur around this sentimental holiday. Elementary teachers at any school can use this activity to demonstrate that every student is important and an essential part of the community.
All you need for this activity is:
– Red or pink construction paper
– Heart shaped stickers
Beforehand, cut out a large heart from each piece of paper. You should have half as many hearts as you have students (plus a few…it never hurts to have extra!). Now that you have your stack of hearts, cut zigzags down the middle of each heart (as if to resemble a broken heart).
Mix up the “broken hearts” and hand one to each student.
Have students find their match (perhaps cue some fun music at this point). Once students find their partner, have them write something they like about them on their partner’s paper heart (i.e. “You draw well”, “I like your laugh”, “You are good at puzzles”, “You have a great smile” etc.). If a student is unable to physically write, be sure to help them with this portion.
Give everyone a sheet of the heart shaped stickers. Use two stickers to tape the broken hearts together and then make a display with them on the wall of your classroom.
Students should still have plenty of stickers left. Throughout the month, whenever a student wants to encourage a classmate, they can place a sticker on their friend’s heart and write something nice about them. The goal is to get rid of all their stickers by the end of the month. An added bonus: no double dipping! Challenge students to place a sticker on a different classmates’ heart each time (that way, everyone receives encouragement, and not a few select students).
Talking Point: Isn’t life better when we have friends around us? Without the gifts of our friends, we would only have half a heart. Ask students to think of additional ways they can do something nice for a friend.
It’s your turn!
How do you include all students in your Valentine’s Day activities? Did you try this activity? How did it go? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Katie Barkley is the marketing communications manager at CLC Network. She loves hearing stories that share the beauty of inclusive community.