Celebrating Valentines Day in the Reading Classroom

While we can’t give our favourite characters a large bunch of long stemmed roses and it’s a little hard to bombard our favourite authors with chocolates and declarations of love, we can bring the spirit of Valentine’s Day into our reading classrooms and celebrate all we love about reading and books.

 
Celebrate Valentine's Day in the Reading Classroom with these Valentine's Day teaching ideas. With a free character valentine resource and more. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Celebrating the Books and Characters We Love

Valentine’s Day is a great time to celebrate everything we love about our favourite books and characters. Whether it’s the small celebration of a classroom activity or a complete Valentine’s Book Love Party, sharing affection for favourite books and characters consolidates the classroom as a place where reading is valued.

How can your students show this love? They can write letters to their favourite characters or their favourite authors, telling them how much they mean to their lives. You can schedule a lesson full of book talks, where students share what they love about their favourite books and why their classmates should also read them. They can create images of their favourite characters and write about their lovable qualities or create Valentine’s Day cards for their favourite characters or books.

Taking it a little further, students can examine the qualities of a popular book or series and discuss why it is so loved. They can analyse why ‘bad guys’ are often loved by readers, or how to make an unlikeable character more likeable.

By acknowledging that emotion - falling in love with books and characters - is an important part of a reading life, we allow students to see reading as a lifelong pursuit - something they can have as part of their world long after school has finished.

 
Encourage students to share their love of books and reading on Valentine's Day and throughout the rest of the school year to create a reading friendly environment. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Celebrating Friendship in Books

Friendship is a central theme in many books for children and a great comparison topic for Valentine’s Day. Whether it’s the imaginative friendship of Jess and Leslie in Bridge to Terabithia, the frenemy friendship of Erica and Alison in Hating Alison Ashley or the often life-saving friendship of Harry, Ron and Hermione in the Harry Potter series, there’s so much to explore and discuss.

Some of the things students can question and discuss:

  • What does a good friendship look like in books?

  • Which books show us examples of good friendships?

  • How is the friendship in one book similar to a friendship in another book?

  • What picture books show us friendships?

  • What is our favourite friendship in books?

  • What do books teach us about friendship?

How Would Characters Celebrate Valentine’s Day?

What kind of Valentine’s Day celebrations would Pig the Pug plan? Does the Green Sheep stop resting to write Valentine’s Day cards? And would Gandalf send Bilbo a Valentine’s Day card?

Imagining Valentine’s Day celebrations for book characters allows students to step into the shoes of those characters for a little while. Students can discuss the features of those characters, what they would be likely to say or do, or how they might interact with other characters in an unfamiliar situation.

One activity students could engage in is writing Valentine’s Day Cards from one character to another character. This could be from a book you are studying as a class, books your students love or a brand new picture book you introduce to your students on the day.

Whether you just engage in a small book based activity or you plan a whole lesson of Valentine’s themed book celebrations, there’s so many ways to celebrate a class love of books on Valentine’s Day!

 
 
 
 

Allowing Students to Fail in the Classroom

How can we create classrooms which support risk taking? How can we allow our students to fail? How can we lift them up so we can try again?

 
Allowing Students to Fail - How we can encourage students to take risks in the classroom and create an environment where failure is met with growth. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

We’re sitting on the beach watching our six year old trying to make sandcastles. His first attempts are utter failures - they’re half formed, crumbling at the edges.

But he’s comfortable with sand these days. He knows that he can flatten the failed sandcastles out and try again. He knows that a different method might work better and that he can always add on to his attempts. He know that sand is a good medium to explore in.

Have a look around your classroom. What mediums have you provided which allow for students to fail and try again? Do you have concrete materials which can be manipulated again and again until students achieve? Do you have whiteboards or chalk boards which allow students to wipe away their work and try again? Do your students know that they can cross their work out and try again, that they can add in new words, experiment with different spellings.

Creating a classroom of joyful experimentation allows students to know they can fail and fail and still try again. It allows them to reach higher heights, to strive for their best work rather than the work which just meets the requirements. By placing materials which allow for trying again in our classrooms, we facilitate this experimentation.

 
Is your classroom mistake friendly? What can you do to help students know that they are in a place where it is safe to make mistakes? A Galarious Goods blog post
 

At the local play centre three 2 year olds take on the massive inflatable slide. It’s way too tall for them, way above their skill level, sure to scare them before they get to the top. But each of the tiny children make it to the top, each joyfully launching themselves down the steep slide. They know even if they fall, the inflatable puffiness of the slide will catch them.

What are the consequences of failing in your classroom? As a child, I remember a sense of deep shame associated with missing a word in a spelling test. I remember teachers who were quick to tell me where I was wrong, but not how I could use that to improve.

And I remember my Year 12 English teacher who absolutely covered a writing draft in red pen . . . filled with corrections, but also suggestions - suggestions which made my writing so much better, which nudged me towards growth in my writing. She helped me to develop the tools I needed to become a better writer.

As teachers, we can control many of the consequences inside our classroom - including the consequences for failing. Through promoting a growth mindset, we can encourage our students to look at failures as opportunities for growth, help them to see how they are building new knowledge and creating new understanding. We can acknowledge their failure quietly and help them see that they are building towards eventual success.

Ignoring failure - or work which needs improving - in our classroom isn’t the best path for our students. It’s how I made it through 12 years of schooling before someone really helped me fix my writing. But cultivating an atmosphere where failure is greeted with shame isn’t helpful either - it makes our students fearful of trying.

Instead we need to find a sense of ‘puffiness’ like the inflatable slide. The ‘puffiness’ is giving our students the confidence to try new or difficult things, knowing that if they fall short, we’ll help them to find what they need to succeed in the future. Knowing that failing is a learning experience, not an end point.

How do we let our students know that the ‘puffiness’ is there? Like 2 year old bounce and fall on the inflatable surface before they climb, we can give them opportunities for experimenting with it from the first day of school. We can use an art activity or a STEM activity to show them that trying and falling short is no big deal - especially when we emphasise the ‘what have we learned from this’ and ‘what can we change next time’ parts of the lesson. We can use books which show failure and growth to show students that this is what we believe. We can model writing and correcting ourselves or we can act out situations where we fail and grow.

It was her first day on the balance bike. She insisted that we stand either side of her, back ups in case she falls. As she got more confident, she allows us to move further away, but when she does fall, she knows that we are there to help her get back up again.

We can create classrooms of support, where everyone knows that mistakes and growth are valued from the moment they walk through the door. We can use our decor, our routines, the way we teach behaviour and expectations to let our students (and other people who step inside) know that we value learning and growth over perfection - the we know that learning from our mistakes helps us to create better thing.

Early on we may need to be more present supports for some students. We may need to ensure that we check in with them daily, that we let them know that we are there. We may need to reassure them that trying and getting it wrong is ok. We may need to model supportive language - and how to be a supportive peer - over and over again.

But as the school year progresses, we’ll be able to move further away. Our students will know that we’re there to offer that support if they need it, but they will also be able to spot their own growth, will be able to offer themselves (and others) the words needed to try and fail and try again. We’ll have created classrooms which allow students to fail and we’ll let them know that they have the tools to try again.

 
 
 
 

Helping Our Students With Goal Setting

Setting goals can help students take charge of their own learning and move them towards being more independent learners. It's also something which fits in nicely with back to school or new year activities - giving students a chance to make a fresh start. So, how can we help them set effective goals?

 
 

Talk With Our Students About What Goals Are

When we talk about goals and goal setting, it can become easy for our students to fall onto vague wishes or desires - to be a sports star or to 'do better'. Learning about what a goal is - and what it isn't - can help students to become more thoughtful and focused when they're setting their goals.

Goals are specific things to work towards, often with deadlines and objectives to reach. They can be big things - working towards getting top marks in all subjects - or smaller things - working towards learning certain mathematical facts. They can be aspirational, but should be realistic - for example, most Australian kids can't aim to be the President of the United States since they were not born there!

Encourage Reflection

It's easier to set effective goals when we know where we have strengths and where we can show improvement. Asking students to reflect on their own learning and their past experiences can help them have better success with goal setting. They can look at which subjects they'd like to improve in, but they could also look at their learning habits or how they go with challenging situations. Knowing more about themselves will also allow them to see improvement in the future - to be able to measure how successful their goal setting has been.

Model Goal Setting

There will always be students who learn better when they see what they should be doing. Set goals in front of your students. Go through the processes you might go through to set goals. Make the goals real and achievable - you might want to read certain books through the year or learn more about a specific topic. Allow students to check back in with your goals, let them know if you've been actively working on them or if you think you'll need to alter your goals. The more they see goals being set by other people, the easier it will be for them to set their own goals.

Brainstorm Ideas for Achieving Goals

Don't stop at just setting the goals - help students develop the skills they need to achieve them! I know I've set lots of goals that just end up as pretty little statements hidden in notebooks or tucked away on nice pieces of paper, but that doesn't help me achieve them! Goals are living things which often need feeding and watering to survive! 

Students can work together to brainstorm how they are going to achieve their goals and what steps they'll need to take to get there. Often working on goals can become a little boring or monotonous, so they might like to brainstorm strategies to deal with that as well. The more prepared they are, the easier it will be to achieve those goals.

Revisit Goals

Allow students time to come back on their goals. Show them that goals can be altered if they need to be or that students can come up with new ideas to approach them. Give them time to reflect on what has and hasn't worked as they try to achieve their goal and to think about whether they were too ambitious or not ambitious enough.

By revisiting goals, we also show students that goals don't have to be perfect to work for us. We show students how we can work on them, make them better, learn from our past experiences and grow into better goal setters.

 

By giving our students tools, time and examples, we can help them become better goal setters - a skill which will serve them well beyond their time at school.

 

Looking at goal setting at the beginning of the school year? The Back to School Goal Setting Kit from Galarious Goods is perfect for Grade 5 and 6 students - allowing them to set goals across multiple subject areas.