February sure is a month full of celebrations!

After all the Groundhog Day festivities last week, our PreK and kindergarten students spent this week’s library lessons focusing on Valentine’s Day.

(Next week, we’ll move on to Presidents Day–whew!)

As adults, we often think of Valentine’s Day as a time for romance, but one of my favorite things about this holiday when I was a kid was celebrating my love for my friends and family.

In fact, my very favorite childhood valentine gift was a single red rose from my Pappaw. He was my mom’s dad (and husband to my Mammaw whose birthday was Groundhog Day), and he always called me the apple of his eye.

I also remember having so much fun picking out or making the perfect Valentine’s Day cards for my school friends, my parents and grandparents, and sometimes even my little brother. 🙂

So I’m thankful that, in the midst of so much learning, our kids still have the opportunity to exchange valentines, enjoy love-themed celebrations, and take time to appreciate the people in their lives who are special to them.

In the library this week, our PreK and kindergarten students started off by reading the book If You’ll Be My Valentine by Cynthia Rylant:

image from http://www.indiebound.org

In this sweet story, a little boy creates Valentine’s Day cards for the people he loves–including members of his family, his dog and cat, his teddy bear, and even the little bird who sings outside his window. Each new valentine is presented with a short rhyme expressing what the boy loves about all of these special people (and animals) in his life.

After reading the book together, we created our own whole-class valentines, which I’ll be printing over the weekend to give to each class and display outside our library.

Each student contributed to this Valentine’s Day writing project by dictating to me a sentence about someone who he or she loves. In PreK, this often involved a long list of family members and pets! And in kindergarten, I encouraged students not only to tell me who their special person was, but also to describe something that they loved about that person.

I typed students’ responses into a Google document for easy editing and formatting, and once everyone in the class had a chance to share their responses, I copied and pasted their responses into a text layout generator on Festisite that bends the text into a lovely heart-shaped spiral!

I’m still waiting for responses from two of my kindergarten friends who were at Disney World this week (fun!), but I wanted to go ahead and share our class writings in case you’d like to try out this fun activity for yourself! I’ll update the valentine for Mrs. Ellett’s class next week when our traveling friends have returned. 🙂

(Click the tiles to view larger images.)

Note #1 about Festisite that I wish I’d realized before using it with 4- and 5-year-olds this week: This tool will layout a text selection that is 1,000 characters or less. Any more than that and you will be prompted to edit your text to fit these parameters.

Of course, instead of knowing the limit ahead of time, I ended up learning this lesson with a class of eager kindergartners sitting on my library rug watching me edit 43 characters out of their responses to make them fit the character limit! (Fortunately, although they could easily have gotten a little wacky during the wait, they were very sweet and patient!)

So, you’ll see that although each student dictated a complete sentence to me in the format “I love….”, I ended up editing their responses into slightly shorter phrases, replacing the word “and” with an ampersand (&), etc., to make them fit the character requirement.

Besides this fun text layout generator (which I could see being used for tons of individual and group writing activities), Festisite also lets you make tons of others fun products like banners, mazes, rebuses, spirals, playing cards, logos, and more, and they also have several iPhone apps that let you create “puppets” using your own photographs.

Note #2 about Festisite that you’ll want to know before using it with students: The logo section does include parody logos for several different brands of adult beverages, so I would be wary of using the logo creator with students unless I’d taken the time to have a conversation with them about what is and isn’t appropriate for school. 🙂