Love is in the air in February. Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate others and to tell them thatwe love and care about them. For our students, it’s a time to send and receive valentines and to eat quality candy. Why not use these feelings of love to teach a quick, easy, quality lesson this month?
When I was in 6th grade, my teacher, Ms. Craft, created hearts for each of her students. She then had us all write something on each heart. I don’t remember her exact instructions, but the end result is pictured. It is something I have held onto and was a source of inspiration for a lesson in my own classroom.
So, clearly from my heart, you can see I wasn’t the quietest of students. I was noisy and talkative. That I knew before this lesson. What the 11 year old me didn’t realize was that I was smart, funny and a good friend. I distinctly remember seeing this heart and feeling good about myself. It is a feeling I want my own students to have too.
Each year, I hand students blank sheets of paper with their names on them. I also create one for myself. Sometimes they are in the shape of a heart, other times literally just sheets of construction paper. My directions are quite simple:
Write something nice about each of your classmates.
One word is fine.
A sentence is all right too.
Do not sign your name.
Don’t make it obvious it is you.
Students then walk around the room and write. They sit at classmates’ desks and reflect on the child who sits there. They read what other classmates have written and smile. The observations I make year after year are priceless. My students truly want to spread kindness.
Once I observe students to be almost finished, I give a two minute warning and then have the class return to their seats. I put on music and let students have time to read what was written about them.
A Valuable Lesson
To end the lesson, I take out my own heart from 6th grade. It’s tattered, but the 90s aqua ink used by some of my peers has stood the test of time. I tell my students that this is a treasured item from my childhood. I share with them that I knew I was talkative, but I didn’t realize I was also smart, funny and friendly in the eyes of my peers. As an adolescent, I didn’t always feel confident or sure of myself, but this heart reminded me of who I really was.
In your classroom, you can use the one your students create for you. I teach middle school, so some years I have 5 of these. I always hang them up and I always keep them. When I am having a bad day, I go back and read them. A smile and a sense of purpose are always the result.
After I share, students reflect on their own feelings. The conversation is candid but powerful. So much can come from a lesson with little planning or supplies. All it takes are sheets of paper and writing tools. With modeling and directions from you, this lesson will run itself.
Before my students leave, I encourage them to hold on to their papers. Put them somewhere safe. When they are having a bad day or are feeling bad about themselves, take them out and read them. Remember the person they are. Remember that they are cared about. Remember that they are loved for just being them.
What meaningful lessons do you remember from your own childhood? How have you made them your own and used them in your classroom?