Since I teach 4th grade, the students are still at an age where they decorate a bag or shoebox and make Valentine deliveries to classmates in honor of Valentine’s Day. Many of my sweet students bring me a Valentine along with the Valentines they share with classmates. I like to reciprocate and give my students a cute Valentine too. This year, my teacher teammate and I are wrapping erasers with white tissue paper to look like a piece of taffy. At this point in the school year, the students have rubbed, chewed, or picked away every pencil eraser they own and desperately need a way to cleanly fix writing mistakes or remove stray marks from their papers, so this little Valentine is actually more of a gift for the teachers!
rectangular erasers (I used PaperMate “Expressions” erasers, but you could also choose something like the classic “Pink Pearl”)
white tissue paper, ~6″ x 3 1/2″ (wrap a test piece of tissue around your eraser to determine the best size)
small stickers (I used Avery 5195, 2/3″ x 1 3/4″, 60 labels per sheet)
Determine the tissue paper size you will need. I wrapped the tissue around one eraser, so the tissue covered the wide flat side two times. I had about 2 inches on either end of the eraser for twisting. Cut all of the tissue paper rectangles that you need first, so you can create an assembly line for wrapping the erasers.
Wrap a tissue rectangle around each eraser and twist both ends.
Put a sticker with your name and/or Valentine message on the side of the eraser with the edge of the tissue paper to keep the tissue from unwrapping. I had a tiny glitch with my labels. If you choose to print with a return address sized label like I did (Avery 5195), make sure your words or any images are not up against the edges of the label in the document. The labels are so small that if the printer does not grab the label sheet at exactly the right starting point, the labels print into the label below (see my cut off hearts in the pictures). Yes, the mis-alignment makes me CRAZY, but I ran out of labels and I am trying not to let the OCD side of me take over on this. I think little heart or Valentine themed stickers would be a good option too.
Cut the edge of the twisted ends off a little if they seem too long and flappy.
I tried parchment paper and wax paper before settling on the white tissue paper. The stickers don’t adhere, and the twisted ends with the parchment and wax paper do not stay twisted together as well.
Yes, we start planning class Valentines early at our house. I am sure that is no surprise to the readers who have been with me for awhile. I always need a Valentine of some kind for my students, and Miss Priss and Mr. Star Wars are still at ages where they bring in Valentines to distribute to their whole class. While it would be the most efficient to think of one type of card and mass produce it, the three of us usually make different kinds of Valentines for each of our classes.
This year, Miss Priss is filling small colored paper sacks with assorted jelly beans. We closed the little bags with a label that says, “Keep Calm and Eat a Jelly Bean.” To finish, Miss Priss signed her name at the bottom of each label.
My caramel brownies are not the only reason TheRoomDad wanted to marry me, but the chocolatey, gooey goodness is definitely a contributing factor. This is the best Valentine’s Day sweet treat I know, and in the early years of our courtship, I baked a batch of these brownies every Valentine’s Day and some birthdays too. Until yesterday, it had been many years since I served them. My kids don’t remember ever eating them! What was I thinking?
I got the recipe from one of my mom’s friends when I was about nine years old. For years, I have been under the impression that we were a privileged few who had access to the secret. Then, I did a Google search. Damn. It is not a secret. Since my recipe (and many spin offs) are available online, I am going to go ahead and share the version I use.
1 11-oz. bag light caramels, unwrapped
2/3 c. evaporated milk, divided
1 box German chocolate cake mix
2/3 c. margarine, melted and cooled slightly
1 c. chocolate chips (~6 oz.)
Combine caramels and 1/3 c. evaporated milk in a double boiler. Stir until melted and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine cake mix, melted margarine, and 1/3 c. evaporated milk.
Press 1/2 of the dough in a greased 9″ x 13″ pan. Bake at 350 degrees for ~6 minutes and remove from oven.
Sprinkle the partially baked dough with chocolate chips.
Spread the melted caramel over the chocolate chips and gently spread evenly with a spatula.
Crumple the remaining dough over the caramel layer.
Bake an additional 15-18 minutes.
Remove from oven. Let cool and cut into squares to serve.
If you don’t have a double boiler to melt the caramels, use a metal mixing bowl on the top of a pan of water as a double boiler. The caramels can also be melted with the evaporated milk in a microwave. Heat in 45 second increments stirring at the end of each time until the caramels are melted completely.
We could have bought a box of pre-printed cards to give to classmates for Valentine’s Day, but that would not have been complicated or original enough for my tastes. I had multiple suggestions like Paper Fortune Cookies and Button Paper Clip Bookmarks, but Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss were having none of it. They just wanted to give a snack size bag of Valentine M&Ms or a box of candy hearts with their name written on the back in Sharpie pen.
We compromised. I cooked up these little Valentine “medicine bottles” that are filled with mini M&Ms. We printed stickers that looked like prescription labels. The labels say, “Heart Medicine” and have a use by date of 2/14/15. I got the satisfaction of a homemade, crafty Valentine, and my kids are happy because it involves candy.
Mini plastic bottles with lids (I used Bead Landing 6.3″ x 5.3″ x 1.4″ bead storage jars, sold in a box of 30)
My fourth grade students are preparing for the annual Valentine’s Day Poetry Slam showcasing original student prose. I have this fabulous music teacher at my school who enthusiastically embraces this project every year and helps me organize the event. I used to hate to read, teach, discuss, analyze, or create poetry because my memory of studying it as a child is not filled with sunshine and chocolate. My short stint as a high school English teacher did not improve the situation. In fact, many schools handle poetry in such a dry way, we all have a bad taste in our mouth when it comes to poetry.
In the last few years, my view has changed. Poetry can be fun for students and offer a creative way to express feelings students might not share otherwise. I have also started to realize how much poetry enhances other areas of language study.
Many poems typically follow a pattern of some kind. There might be a rhyme scheme. Rhyming words reinforce spelling patterns and expand vocabulary. Authors might repeat words or phrases in a specific order to emphasize an idea. Identifying a repetitive word pattern demonstrates a writing style that a student can emulate in their own writing.
The repetition of letter sounds draws the attention of the reader to the beginning, middle, or ends of words, which supports spelling instruction. The easiest letter sound repetition to find is alliteration. In the fourth grade, I never teach assonance because I just can not bear using the word with a bunch of ten year olds.
Figurative language requires some brain power. A student has to activate background knowledge to interpret expressions that are not literal. When Emily Dickinson tells us that hope is the thing with feathers, students have to translate the thing with feathers to a bird and then compare the bird to hope by tapping into a vocabulary bank for the various meanings and applications of the word, hope. Without critical thinking, the poem’s message would be lost.
Poems use words in a creative way. Students often follow the same subject followed by verb sentence order when they write. Poems show how we can have flexibility in our writing.
Poetry can be intimidating for kids, so I started breaking down different poems and types of figures of speech into simple activities to help students create their own poetry.
Take a poem you love with many lines that repeat and replace with ideas from your own life. I like to use the first stanza of “Love That Boy” by Walter Dean Myers. My students keep the beginning of most of the lines and develop their own simile (so I get to teach simile at the same time). My son, Mr. Star Wars, is actually in one of my language arts classes this year and his “Inspired By” poem made me cry. (He does not know I am reprinting his poem here.)
Give each child an object. I like to choose an object from nature like a cloud, mountain, tree, flower, sunset, or ocean. Have the kids write five sentences about the object, but each sentence must use personification. The cloud could offer comfort. The mountain could glare down at you. The flower could dance. The students list the five sentences to create a poem.
Provide three categories for students. They could be categories like sports, food, or animals. The students choose a topic like basketball, ice cream, or dog for each category and then generate a word bank to go with the topic. The students go through the word bank and group words that start with the same letter sound. The student also attempt to add words that have the same starting sounds as words that are already in the word bank. Using words with similar sounds to create alliteration, students organize the words into lines of poetry. Voila! Instant poem. (Hint– onomatopoeia words work well with this activity too.)
Many authors have started writing books that center around poetry but are presented in novel(ish) form. They are fast reads and good stories. Here are a few titles that I like.
Love That Dog and Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech
Gone Fishing by Tamera Wissinger
Word After Word After Word by Patricia MacLachlan
Emily by Michael Bedard (picture book)
Have some fun writing a short poem this Valentine’s Day!
I have more poetry ideas for the classroom in my teacher store. Click HERE and HERE.