The month of February ushers in a slew of holidays, celebrations, and activities that you can do simply and easily in your classroom. Here are a few tips that I have used in my classroom – gleaned from teacher colleagues, the internet, and Scholastic.com.
It's just around the corner, but Valentine's Day is the perfect time for students to practice writing letters. One of California's second grade standards is for students to write a friendly letter - what better practice than writing 26 Valentine's Day letters to friends and classmates? This could be as simple as giving students the task to write the letter on a piece of notebook/writing paper and copying it (with their nicest penmanship, of course!) onto a pre-cut, pre-drawn, or a piece of construction paper heart. The end result is a fabulous Valentine, with great practice letter writing.
Parties - every school has their particular rules about parties for Valentine's Day, but I find it particularly important for students to share their writing and read what their friends and classmates have written for them. That being said, I have found this holiday "party" to be very chaotic as every student has to give out and receive a Valentine (assuming you have parents permission for their child to participate). I've had great success having the "party" during lunch time. Students go get their lunches and bring them to the class, we eat, exchange, share, and have a definitive ending time. As far as treats, our district policy states that foods must be healthy, so I ask that if students bring something to share, they bring something that has grown from the ground!
Black History Month
I find that many students lack a complete understanding of civil rights and being treated equally. This is a great time to explain of things past, as well as, tie into social studies. One of our second grade standards is people now and long ago and learning about courageous people. Black history is of particular importance because of the issues that surrounded the Civil Rights Movement and the ongoing discrimination today.
Teaching students about these figures and ideas lays the foundation for a complete history – not that of a utopian society. If your school or district subscribes to Discovery Education Streaming services, there's a fabulous NEST video about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad as well as other courageous African American heroes. And don't miss Scholastic's Underground Railroad videos and activities. Scholastic.com also has lots of printables for use with your students and some great books you can order if you don't have these in your library. There is a FANTASTIC reading of Henry's Freedom Box, by author Ellen Levine, to illustrate to students the life of a slave through the eyes of a child.
President's Day Activities
With two Mondays in February dedicated to presidents, there are lots of resources for President's Day. If you have a Printables account, you can find them all here on Scholastic.com. I found this site, called Kaboose with a great deal of kid friendly activities you can use in your classroom. A particular favorite of mine is the Paper Plate Abe Lincoln Hat. Teaching students the history of our presidential past is particularly important as the concept of a president may seem very abstract. The role of the president in our government can be grounded in concrete things your students can easily understand: Compare and contrast our government with the role of the principal at your school, your classroom rules, or who is the leader in a student's family. These types of discussions are of particular importance to ELLs that are developing academic language through classroom conversation.
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar and changes from year to year. This year is the Year of the Tiger and the New Year falls on February 14. Teaching students about a different culture (if your classroom's culture is not that of China), paves the way for great writing assignments and prompts. It promotes questioning and builds upon our students' distinctive desire to learn. There are great resources on Scholastic.com and you can find many Printables that relate festivals and activities in understandable ways for students. Some ideas I have used in my classroom is discussing that red is a lucky color, the culminating Lantern festival, and the lunar cycle.
If you have any additional ideas, I'd love to hear about them!
Thanks for reading!