Friday, February 7, 2014

Will You Be My Amazing, Wonderful, Fantastic Valentine? Using Adjectives to Build Character and Caring in the Classroom

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Woah! I've been hibernating for too long. The only thing that makes me feel better about my blogging hiatus is that school's been out of session this winter just as much as I've been away from the blog. What a crazy year of weather so far!

I'm amazed at how many times I've used some snippet from "The Simpsons" to relate to something serious that I'm trying to explain. Now, of all things, I'm going to use a funny little scene about Valentine's Day from the show to introduce an activity that is probably one of my most favorite of the year.

In the scene, Marge (the mom) is talking to Bart (the son) about the school's policy that students must give every one of their classmates Valentine cards. She proceeds to show him a video that was sent from the school that is to be viewed by all parents. In the video (which spoofs the news show, "Frontline"), the narrator focuses on a classroom in which students may choose to whom they want to give Valentines.  An unpopular little boy named Danny only received two Valentine cards, which may be the result of a rumor that has gone around about him. Meanwhile, the rest of his class is shown sorting through the piles of cards that they have each received. The boy is aware that he has not received as many Valentines because "human young are born with the ability to count Valentines." That night. the boy desperately checks his mailbox at home one more time before eating way too many candy conversation hearts and passing out.

As an adult, I can look at this clip and see the intended humor. However, I also see this as a reminder to make sure that all students feel appreciated and acknowledged during a holiday like Valentine's Day. In a world that can sometimes be downright mean, who doesn't want to feel loved and appreciated?

With this in mind, I found a fabulous idea in a Mailbox magazine called "Heartfelt Adjectives" to supplement the traditional Valentine cards that students distribute each year.  (I know that blog posts should be full of new ideas, but this one is just too good not to share!) The academic content covered in the activity is applying adjectives. The character content covered in the activity is recognizing the value of others and encouraging others through words.

Each student in the class has their own blank page on which their classmates and teacher write a one-word adjective to describe that student. At the end of the activity, students will have personalized Valentines that showcase how others see their talents and personality in positive ways.

Here are the process and procedures I used to make this work for my 5th grade classroom:
  • I used Valentine-colored construction paper: red, pink, purple, and white. It could be fun to doll up the Valentine with doilies, stickers, or glitter. Students might also want to cut it into a heart shape.
  • I put a picture of each student on his or her Valentine to personalize it.
  • Prior to starting the activity, we reviewed adjectives, what they are and what they are not. I also provided students with an extensive list of personality-type adjectives and took some time to go over any of the adjectives that they were unfamiliar with. I also banned boring words like "nice" and "kind" to encourage more thoughtful and interesting language use. 
  • We discussed what might be inappropriate adjectives (ex. physical descriptions like "pretty" or "skinny") and adjectives that could make other students uncomfortable.
  • I made a rule that each student must sign his or her name under the adjective that he or she writes.
  • The students left their blank Valentines on their desks. Then, students took a marker or pen and proceeded to move to the desk to their right every time the timer went off to write on that student's Valentine. I gave students 30 seconds at each desk (less time as the activity went on).
  • I collected the Valentines before students could read them and checked them for appropriateness before distributing them back to the students.
  • I even had a Valentine for me! Who doesn't want to feel the love? 

Students really enjoyed this activity, and I watched them as they couldn't help smiling at the thoughtful comments their classmates said about them.

Do you do any special activitied with your class for Valentine's Day? Please leave a comment!

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