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Valentine’s Day Celebrations and Lessons in the Classroom

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I have many memories of Valentine’s Days in my classroom. I Loved how the room became one giant Valentine littered with glitter, glue, doilies, and construction paper. I loved reading favorite books, some that I couldn’t get through without a sniffle or two. There was Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli, Koala Lou by Mem Fox, What Do You Love? by Jonathan London, Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, Be My Valentine, Amelia Bedelia by Herman Parish, The Night Before Valentine’s Day by Natasha Wing, and many more. And then there was the candy and oh yes, we must count, sort, graph, and weigh it to get a math lesson in. The sanity-saving trick was to balance the celebration with learning!

After I left the classroom, I was lucky enough to work with teachers at all levels as a literacy coach. This sometimes required me to teach a model lesson to students that I didn’t know on a day like Valentine’s day. I quickly learned that using a book to kick off a lesson was the key to a successful lesson. This led me to a lesson on informational writing that started with Pink Is for Blobfish by Jess Keating. After reading the book, we talked about other misunderstood animals. Then we listed reasons why they were important or misunderstood. The students then choose one of the animals and wrote a Valentine to it.

When I work with older students, I encourage them to use Grammar Girl as a resource. For Valentine’s Day, she has a few posts that you could use as lesson starters in your classes. One of my favorites is I Love You: A Subject-Object Valentine.

Wishing you a Happy and not too crazy Valentine’s Day!LuanaMitten

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 The intent of this three-part blog series is to share with you six simple changes I made to increase engagement and better meet the needs of boy writers. 

“How can I get the boys in my class more interested and engaged in writing?” That was the question I was most often asked while working as an instructional coach and writing specialist. My usual response was a list of time-honored practices that served all writers, not necessarily strategies that met the specific needs of boys. Although I knew the practices to be valuable; I knew the answer I gave was not the answer they were seeking. I knew, because I was also searching: searching for ways to reach more boys during writer’s workshop, ways for them to find value in their ideas, ways for them to own the page. Just like the teachers I worked with, I was looking for of an answer to that very same question.

My search finally came to an end when I attended a Ralph Fletcher workshop on boy writers. Fletcher’s workshop covered the information in his book titled, Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices. In his book, Fletcher documents his many observations about boy writers from his years of experience as an author and staff developer. He also includes research from the ground-breaking work of Thomas Newkirk, author of Misreading Masculinity: Boys, Literacy, and Popular Culture.

After reading the work from Fletcher, Newkirk and others, I began sharing what I learned with other teachers. It wasn’t long before I witnessed a definite change in the way boys were approaching their writing. They were writing with enthusiasm and purpose. They were engaged, on task, and focused. Just when I thought I couldn’t get much more excited about the changes the boys were exhibiting, a group of them approached me and asked if they could write instead of going out to recess. Write instead of Recess? I knew without doubt the answer to that question …YES!


Next post – What Boy Writers Need

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Are You Using Multicultural Books in Your Classroom?

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There can never be enough multicultural books in any classroom or library. Showcasing books around the many different cultures in the U.S. and world allows students, young and old, to understand people who are different from RedPencilthem. This understanding turns into acceptance and tolerance, which is what we should all strive for.

BoysWithoutNamesDo you know what’s in your classroom library? Your school library? Multicultural titles should be all inclusive regardless if that culture is represented in your classroom or school. It’s important to introduce cultures to students at a young age but just as important is continuing that education. The best way to introduce other cultures is through books. Here are some of our favorite books that represent a variety of different cultures perfect for preschool through high school. What are some of your favorite multicultural books? Add them to our list by leaving the title, author, and a brief description in the comments. For more information on diverse books, visit #WeNeedDiverseBooks at

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Baseball in April and Other Stories by Gary SotoBaseballApril

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

The Blessing Cup by Patricia Polacco

Boys without Names by Kashmira Sheth

The Cats in Krasinski Square by Karen HesseCatsInKrasinski

Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polaaco

Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco

Looking For Me by Betsy

Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco

My Name is Maria Isabel by Alma Flor Ada

Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco

Red Butterfly by A.L. SonnichsenRedButterfly

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

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                                      KeepingQuilt  ChickenSunday    PinkSay  KatzTush  Blessing Cup