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A Day In First Grade-148
“Follow The Child” — A Simple Valentine’s Day Activity
11 Feb, 2017. 2 Comments. A Day In First Grade, Kindergarten, Kindergarten Holidays, Kindergarten Language. Posted By: Kristen Smith

This past week my students have been non-stop talking about Valentine’s Day. To be honest, I wasn’t planning on doing anything big for it besides passing out cards and decorating bags, but my student’s had other plans!

We have been reading books on kindness each day to encourage compassion, empathy, and encouragement throughout our day and this naturally ignited my student’s desire to talk about and play “Valentine’s Day.”

As I wasn’t quite prepared with an entourage of Valentine’s Day centers and activities, it was a fantastic learning experience for me. As many of you know from following my blog or Instagram, I have been studying the Reggio Emilia approach to education for the last few years and fell in love with it! If you are not familiar with the Reggio approach, I have blogged about it here, here, and here. {Feel free to click on the words “here” to read more about it!} In short, the Reggio approach believes that students are highly capable and learn in 100 languages. It also believes very strongly in honoring and respecting the child and following their lead towards their interests.  I have gotten better at listening to my students’ conversations and questions to set up inquiries and investigations but I had only experienced this with non-fiction themes (Wampanoags, castles, Arctic, light and sound, etc.). This new “Valentine’s Day theme (for lack of a better word)” was uncharted territory for me.

It all started with my students coming in telling me about the Valentine’s Day cards that they were making at home. Each day multiple students came in bounding with enthusiasm that they made more cards last night or that they were working on a project at home.

Later, the concept emerged in their play. We are currently working on “money” in math and I had set out some coins for my students to explore. Much to my surprise, during exploration centers, the simple act of setting out coins turned into 10 students building a “Valentine’s day bank” so people could get money for valentines.

Kindergarten students create a "bank" at the building center.

The next day, I read the book “The Jolly Postman” to my class and they eagerly asked if we could write cards for their friends. I set out some envelopes and cards that I had purchased during a Michaels 80% off sale and taught my students how to write letters. We looked at the pictures of the envelopes in the book to see what we needed to put on the envelopes and my kids (very excitedly) got to work!

"Follow The Child" -- A Simple Valentine's Day Activity "Follow The Child" -- A Simple Valentine's Day Activity

As they were finishing their letters they exclaimed, “We need a mailbox to put these in! Can we make one?”

“Of course,” I responded.

My students drew up a plan on the white board and each contributed ideas to how we should build it.

"Follow The Child" -- A Simple Valentine's Day Activity

We then headed to the STEM lab (down the hall) and gathered the supplies and got to work on constructing a very simple mailbox.

"Follow The Child" -- A Simple Valentine's Day Activity

Within about 15 minutes, we had a working mailbox and my students got back to work writing letters.

"Follow The Child" -- A Simple Valentine's Day Activity "Follow The Child" -- A Simple Valentine's Day Activity

The day was filled with sweet smiles, joyful hugs, and lots of reading and writing.

Following the child is sometimes a daunting task and sometimes you might not know exactly what or where your student’s interests are. I am writing today to let you know that this is all normal and that by simply listening, observing, and letting your students play, you will be amazed at the things that they come up. Had I pushed this project on a group of students who were not interested, it would not nearly have gone as well. However, my students wrote for 2 hours straight yesterday. They were so focused and engaged in their idea that they didn’t even want to stop for lunch. They practiced so many of our academic concepts during this time. They spelled sight words. They worked on writing conventions. They counted envelopes. They read letters. It was amazing, easy, and fun.

If you would like to join a free group of teachers who discuss things like this, please, join our Facebook group! It’s a group where you can ask questions, share what is going on in your classroom, and meet friends. We would love to have you join us! Click here to join.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your day!

Kristen

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2 Comments
  1. I loved your post and especially admired your ability to follow their lead. So often their joy in a certain book or topic leads to some of our best opportunities to learn. THANKS FOR SHARING!

  2. It’s beautiful to see the meaningful learning experience you are providing for your students! I would love to read a post in which you share more about your school’s overall beliefs and understandings regarding instruction. What structure is behind the flexible, student-centered practice your are encouraged to have in your classroom? My school is moving towards inquiry-based teaching and I would really appreciate learning more from you!

2 Comments

  • I loved your post and especially admired your ability to follow their lead. So often their joy in a certain book or topic leads to some of our best opportunities to learn. THANKS FOR SHARING!

  • It’s beautiful to see the meaningful learning experience you are providing for your students! I would love to read a post in which you share more about your school’s overall beliefs and understandings regarding instruction. What structure is behind the flexible, student-centered practice your are encouraged to have in your classroom? My school is moving towards inquiry-based teaching and I would really appreciate learning more from you!

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