Valentine's Day Activities for Upper Elementary Kids

Valentine's Day Activities for Upper Elementary Kids

Celebrating Valentine's Day each February is unavoidable for teachers! Am I right? And since this holiday is always on the mind of our upper elementary students as soon as the calendar flips to February, why not harness all of that excitement into meaningful learning experiences!?

By now, you know that I just LOVE celebrating the holidays and seasons in my upper elementary classroom. But when February comes around, every minute of this short month is accounted for because of ALL the holidays, like...

Groundhog Day

100th Day of School

Lunar New Year

Presidents Day

Leap Year

Football's Big Game/Bowl

Random Acts of Kindness Week

It can feel overwhelming to try to get in all of the February holidays, special events, and the standards and even test prep depending on when your standardized tests begin!

Need help planning for Valentine's DayI can help! I am sharing five must do and meaningful activities that are the perfect blend for any upper elementary classroom looking to celebrate Valentine's Day! From age-appropriate picture book read-alouds to community building fun, this list includes something for every upper elementary teacher to try out this February!

And the best part? These activities do more than celebrate Valentine's Day

1. Create a Kind Environment with Valentine's Day Decor

valentine's day february bulletin board ideas for the classroom

Valentine's Day is the perfect time to adorn your walls and bulletin boards with messages about kindness! I love spreading kindness and encouraging random acts of kindness in our classroom, and with Random Acts of Kindness Week taking place in February, it is the perfect time to spread some kindness.

πŸ‘‰You can grab this free set of kindness posters in my TPT shop Think Grow Giggle right HERE.

Another fun way to celebrate Valentine's Day with meaningful decor is to have your students write love poetry about something they love! It is a simple writing activity that makes a great bulletin board for the month of February. It also gives students the opportunity to take a short writing piece through the writing process!

Valentine's Day writing activities

Want to add a touch of decor to your classroom this February? You will love these Valentine's Day Must Haves!

Valentine's Day decor ideas for the classroom

2. Read a Valentine's Day Picture Book

Valentine's Day picture book read alouds for upper elementary classroom

When it comes to any special day, holiday, or change of season, I love to dive into a picture book to celebrate! You know that I love reading picture books with upper elementary. There is nothing better than gathering at the carpet, sharing a story through images and words, and discussing the message, theme, and characters with big kids!

When it comes to Valentine's Day, I love to read stories with themes of friendship, self-love, kindness, and love...and the kids love listening to them!

πŸ‘‰Head to this post to read about 9 picture books that are perfect to get into the season of Valentine's Day and are just right for your upper elementary students! While you are there, grab the free download of activities to use with some of the book suggestions, too!

3. Learn Through Themes and Traditions

Valentine's Day reading passages

Students are instantly engaged when we study the history and traditions of different holidays! They love learning the why behind special days and the traditions that accompany them. When it comes to Valentine's Day, there are many traditions that the kids love to learn about; here are some of the ones that I have found that truly engage the kids...

πŸ’œheart health
πŸ’œcandy hearts

πŸ’‘Short on time? Try this teaching tip!
Grab a collection of reading passages about each of these topics. Divide students into small groups. Give each group one of the topics. Have students create short presentations on each topic with a handout to pass out. The kids love creating handouts to pass out to their audience! This gives students a chance to learn about each of the topics for the holiday from their peers in a short amount of time!

4. Community Building Appreciation Letter

Valentine's Day community building activities for kids

Using community-building activities throughout the year is important to me! Activities that are specifically designed to strengthen our classroom community and spread kindness are a must to do throughout the year and should not just be limited to the first two weeks of school. Community building activities are especially fun when they are tied into holidays like Valentine's Day! Since this holiday focuses on friendship, kindness, and community it is the perfect time to do a little community building in your classroom!

This friendship letter community building activity is simple yet powerful and you will want to do an activity like this each month!

Here is how we send friendship appreciation letters to others to celebrate Valentine's Day:

  1. Instruct your students to write their names on a small piece of paper and fold it into fourths. Have the kids place the pieces of paper in a basket.
  2. Have students randomly draw a name from the basket, checking to make sure that they did not pick themselves. If they do pick themselves, have them show you before selecting a new name.
  3. Students then write an appreciation letter to the student whose name they picked. Their friendship letter should be positive and upbeat and include specific reasons on why they appreciate their friend. Encourage students to use examples from the school year to help them be specific.
  4. When all students are done creating the letters for their classmates, they deliver them. They really love both giving letters and receiving them!

5. Bust Out the Crayons

Valentine's Day coloring activities for 3rd 4th 5th graders

Lately, I have been talking a lot on social media about how the students that I work with love to color! Coloring activities and direct drawing tasks have become a staple for brain breaks, morning work, indoor recess, and Fun Fridays.

We love using color by code (color by number) review activities to not only bring in coloring and fine motor skill practice, but also to practice important skills like reading comprehension, grammar, word work, and math practice. And when you add in Valentine's Day, it makes it extra fun for February!

We also love using Doodle Thinkers to celebrate the holidays! Doodle Thinkers are intentionally designed to help upper elementary students brainstorm as they color small doodles. When they are done coloring, they complete list building, word work, and writing tasks. The kids LOVE these!

One last art-inspired activity that we LOVE to do is to complete this self-love activity. It is simple to do. After reading aloud the book, Be You by Peter H. Reynolds, each student gets a heart. Then they fill up the heart with everything that they love about themselves. They can write words or draw pictures. You can grab the self love hearts for free right here! Print them on white paper and have the kids color them or you can print them on different color Astrobrights.

6. Join in on the Party!

valentine's day cards for students from teachers

Whether you have a class Valentine's Day party or not, definitely get into the spirit of the day by passing out your own Valentine's Day cards to your students! I love these because they are easy to print and go, and use year after year! All you have to do is download them, print them, sign your name, and leave on your students' desks. You can also add a personalized note to each student on the back.

Always be ready! Grab these print-and-go Valentine's Day cards to use year after year!

πŸ’™ Bug Themed Cards

πŸ’™ Llama Themed Cards

πŸ’™ Valentine's Thank You and Kindness Cards

If you are having a party I have just the tips you need to make Valentine's Day party planning a snap! From playing different meaningful games to writing notes of gratitude, I have some fun ideas that you will love!

πŸ‘‰Head to this blog post to read about the different activities we do during our Valentine's Day party!

This Valentine's Day, bring in some meaningful picture books, tradition-focused activities, and community-building tasks that students love! You will find that when you weave Valentine's Day topics into your everyday learning targets and lesson plans, you can easily engage your students AND meet the standards, too! 

Happy Valentine's Day!

You will also love to read:

Check out my favorite Valentine's Day activities HERE

Like these Valentine's Day NO Prep activities to just add to your lesson plans!

Valentine's Day Activities for Upper Elementary Kids

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Valentine's Day Activities for Upper Elementary Kids

*affiliate links: “Think Grow Giggle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.” (source: Section 5)


5 Chinese Lunar New Year Activities for Upper Elementary

Lunar New Year Activities for Upper Elementary

Celebrating the Chinese {Lunar} New Year is always on my lesson to-do list! I truly believe that it is a great way to explore other nations, traditions, and holidays. While many of our students do celebrate the Chinese New Year, many do not. By bringing this holiday into your classroom, you are helping students learn about how people worldwide celebrate the New Year!

Not sure how to get started? I can help! These five meaningful activities are the perfect blend for any upper elementary classroom looking to celebrate the Chinese New Year!

From captivating picture book read-alouds to hands-on projects, this list includes fun and educational experiences. Discover the significance of Chinese Lunar New Year traditions, compare celebrations worldwide, and join in community-building activities to help your students feel connected. 

Let's make learning about the Lunar New Year a colorful and memorable experience for your students, fostering understanding and a strong sense of community in the classroom. 

Get ready to celebrate and engage your students in meaningful holiday activities through these enjoyable lesson ideas!

πŸ’‘Teaching tip: While the Lunar New Year is celebrated in China, which is why it is often referred to as the Chinese New Year, it is also celebrated in many different countries worldwide. When engaging students in activities, be sure to include both terms!

Let's dive into Chinese New Year learning activities for upper elementary students!

1. Chinese New Year Read Alouds

Lunar New Year Activities for Upper Elementary

Nothing says let's celebrate a holiday than reading amazing picture books with your students! There are so many picture books to read with your kids to kick off lessons about the Chinese New Year.

Here are some of my favorites for upper elementary:

✔ This Next New Year written by Janet S. Wong

I love this one! It is filled with all of the traditions and customs of the Lunar New traditional foods, how to get rid of bad luck, and how to have a fresh new start each New Year!

✔ Amy Wu and the Patchwork Dragon written by Kat Zhang

This one is part of the Amy Wu series of books. Amy is faced with having to make her own dragon for the upcoming celebrations, and she doesn't know how to create a holiday-worthy dragon until her grandmother helps!

✔ Ruby's Chinese New Year written by Vickie Lee - This is a fun story that follows the main character, Ruby, as she heads through the forest to her grandmother's house. Along the way she encounters all the animals in the Chinese Zodiac. This book includes fun Chinese New Year craft activities and directions on how to make them!

✔ A Sweet New Year for Ren written by Michelle Sterling - I love the note from the author and the pure excitement that the main character Ren has for the upcoming holiday celebration with her family!

2. Learn About the Traditions

Lunar New Year Activities for Upper Elementary

Learning about the different traditions of holidays and celebrations around the world is a great way to engage students and open up their worlds!

One activity that I love to do with students is to create shape poetry about both the Lunar New Year and New Year's Day. For this activity, students must understand a tradition for each holiday and be able to draw a symbol related to it. Once they have drawn the symbol, they create a free verse shape poem to tell or explain about that symbol and tradition for the Chinese New Year! This is a fun Chinese New Year craft and makes a great bulletin board, too!

You will be wowed by the work that your students do with this shape poetry task!

3. Dive into the Zodiac

Chinese New Year Zodiac Activity for Upper elementary

The kids are always fascinated by the Lunar New Year Zodiac! They love seeing which Chinese Zodiac Animal it was for the year they were born and for the upcoming New Lunar Year.

Why not harness all that excitement and energy into reading all about it! This will help them understand the Chinese Zodiac, the traditions accompanying each animal, and why this is an important part of the New Lunar Year. 

These passages are just perfect for our upper elementary students' interests and to help strengthen their nonfiction informational reading comprehension, too! #teacherwin

πŸ’‘Teaching tip: Check out this page for even more information about Lunar New Year Animals and Zodiac!

4. Compare and Contrast to New Year's Day

Chinese New year Reading Activities 3rd 4th 5th grade

At the beginning of the school year, we spent much time focusing on comparing and contrasting in October. We compared and contrasted Halloween to the Day of the Dead for that study. The kids loved it! They loved reading about different holidays, traditions, and cultures and truly got the ins and outs of comparing and contrasting different paired passages.

That is why when the new year came around, I  knew we had to compare New Year's Day to the Lunar New Year! And it was a hit!

After reading a nonfiction passage about New Year's Day we read a passage about Lunar New Year. The kids actively read, taking notes in the margins and compiling the information that they collected into a Venn diagram. We spent much time comparing the reasons and traditions behind each holiday. The students went one step further and wrote essays that compared and contrasted the two holidays. It was a great way to learn about the holidays AND still meet all the standards!

As you have students learn about the Lunar New Year and New Year's Day, have them collect important information on graphic organizers. Once collected, students can use the information that they gathered to write short paragraphs or essays about the different holidays that they learned about!

Grab the FREE graphic organizers right here!

5. Send Good Fortune and Building Classroom Community

Lunar New Year Activities for Upper Elementary

I love using community-building activities throughout the year! Teaching a lesson that focuses on strengthening our classroom culture and atmosphere is a great change of pace. Community building activities are especially fun when tied into holiday activities like Lunar New Year which falls right in the middle of winter, making it the perfect time to focus on strengthening our classroom family!

This activity is simple yet powerful and you will want to do an activity like this each month!

Here is how we send good fortune to others to celebrate Lunar New Year:

  1. Have students write their names with a pencil on a small piece of paper and fold it into fourths. Now, place all the pieces of paper in a basket.
  2. Have students randomly draw a name from the basket one at a time, ensuring they did not pick themselves. If they pick themselves, have them show you before selecting a new name.
  3. Students then create a fortune cookie with good fortune inside to the student whose name they picked. Their good fortune messages should be positive and upbeat and be focused on having a great new year!
  4. When all students are done creating the fortune cookies for their classmates, they deliver them. They really love both giving letters and receiving them!

πŸ’‘BONUS IDEA: Get Your Art on!

Chinese New Year coloring pages 34d 4th 5th grade

If you have been following me for a while, you know we have been all about hands-on, coloring, and tech-free activities lately! The kids love creative, art-inspired activities over tech-focused tasks...and I am most definitely here for it! 

To get creative during our Lunar New Year celebrations, we create the shape poems and do a Lunar New Year Doodle Thinkers! Both are a great way to have students focus on traditions, symbols, and tie together creativity, art, and learning!

Incorporating the celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year into your classroom is more than just an item on your to-do list; it's an opportunity to explore new traditions and diverse holidays. 

While some students may already be familiar with the holiday of Chinese New Year, many are not, making it a wonderful opportunity for cultural discovery.  As we compare celebrations from around the globe and engage in community-building activities, we create an inclusive environment where students can learn, celebrate, and build connections. 

Happy Lunar New Year!

You will also love to read:


Leap Year 2024 Activities and Ideas for Upper Elementary

5 Leap Year Activities and ideas for Upper Elementary 2024

Here we are in 2024, and it is a Leap Year!

Leap Year 2024 is so exciting for the kids to learn about, especially our upper elementary students! They are old enough to understand that an extra day in February breaks the calendar rules that they thought they knew! They are also old enough to understand the science behind this special day that occurs only once every four years...with exceptions!

Since you have one chance this year to celebrate and bring learning about Leap Year into your classroom, try these ideas and grab the free resource, too! They will instantly engage your students and have them critically thinking about this unique global event.

1. Build Background Knowledge!

free leap year videos for upper elementary

Leap Year is a tricky concept! 

Kick off your Leap Year learning by watching one of these kid-friendly videos to build background knowledge for your students. Of course, watching one video is not enough for students to truly understand why we have Leap Years, but it is a great starting point and easy to sneak in during snack or after recess! Have your students take notes about the video to hold them accountable and to help them easily compare different videos. Grab the free Leap Year notetaking pages HERE.

Try one of these:

*As with any video that you show your students, please preview these videos to ensure they are appropriate for your cohort of students!

2. Dive into the History and Science!

leap year reading passages for upper elementary

Put your students' reading comprehension skills to work with reading about Leap Year. These reading passages tie together all of the important reading comprehension skills that students need with the history and science of this special day that occurs every four years!

Included in this set are three passages about Leap Year. Try this! Break your students up into three groups. Have each group read one of the passages, take notes, and create a quick presentation for the class. Engage them by giving them a piece of chart paper and markers to create a visual aid for their presentation. When students are all done, have each group present to the class. Now, each student will learn the information from each passage through their peers!

3. Get Creative!

leap year coloring pages for upper elementary

Lately, the kids are loving creative, art-inspired activities over tech-focused tasks...and I am loving it! Lean into their art and creative interests with activities designed to get them thinking critically!


Try this...

  • Have your students think about four years into the future! How old will they be? What grade will they be in? What interests will they still have? What types of shows would they like?
  • Have your students think about four years ago! How old were they? What grade were they in? What interests did they have? What was their favorite show? 
  • Have your students take these ideas and create illustrations and short paragraphs about their Leap Year past and future! They come out adorable and are perfect to display on a Leap Year bulletin board.

You can also use Leap Year themed color-by-number pages, doodle thinkers, and open-ended posters to celebrate Leap Year all week! 

4. Get Up and Move!

free leap year math activity upper elementary

This activity is a fun one! 

Grab some measuring sticks or tape and have your students start leaping to see who can leap the furthest in your class! It is easy to do. 

Here is how I have done this activity...

  • Mark a starting line for students to jump from. If you are outside, you can use chalk; if you are inside, you can use blue painter's tape.
  • Enlist the help of the students to mark off different foot increments. Again, use chalk or blue tape. We have marked up to five feet. So after every foot, leave a mark.
  • Have students predict how far they think they will jump before they jump.
  • Have students work in pairs, taking turns being the jumper and the recorder.
  • If space allows, you can have each pair of students create their own leaping area to reinforce measuring skills. If not, you can have students rotate through the one leaping area you create.
  • You can use the recording sheet I use HERE, or just have your students create grids in their notebooks.

Grab the free Leap Year math leaping page HERE.

5. Make a Time Capsule!

No fancy paper needed for this one! Grab some lined paper and plain white paper and have your students get writing their their future self. I love keeping this one simple so that students use their own handwriting and their own ideas to create illustrations. When students write their letters, I allow them to include what they want. These will be private letters just for them to open during the next Leap Year. 

If you want to give your students some ideas or prompts, use these ideas...

  • what is going on in your life right now...grade, teacher, friends, hobbies
  • one of your favorite memories
  • something important to you right now
  • advice you would give yourself 

No matter how you celebrate, your upper elementary students will love learning about Leap Year!

The science and history of this rule-breaking day will surely be a true highlight of their learning for 2024. Build background knowledge, get reading, allow creativity, leap down the hall during math, and have your students write that time capsule letter to themselves for 2028. With all of these activities and resources, Leap Year becomes more than just a rare occurrence - it becomes a memorable educational journey for our upper elementary students that sparks curiosity and critical thinking!

Happy 2024 Leap Year!

You will also love to read:

Grab the No Prep Leap Year Pack HERE.


leap year activities 3rd 4th 5th graders

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leap year 2024 fun for 3rd 4th 5th graders

*affiliate links: “Think Grow Giggle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.” (source: Section 5)

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