At my school we are only allowed to have two celebrations per year, once before Winter Break, and once at the end of the school year. However, I am all about sneaking in fun and celebrations wherever I can. I strongly believe in rigorous content and not filling my day with fluff.....but occasionally first graders need a chance to be 6 years old. Am I right?

So this year we are putting an educational spin on our Valentine cards! I teach in a Title 1 school and while some students can afford to bring cards in, many others can't. With this approach I can ensure that everyone takes home something special for less than $1 total! For the whole class! #teacherwin

I first began using Napkin Books years ago and it is one of my favorite ways to inspire my students to write. I have blogged all about them here. Today I am going to show you how to use simple decorative napkins as a meaningful way to spread kindness and celebrate the occasion.

First, you will need a pack of Valentine themed napkins. I like to buy my napkins at Dollar Tree or craft stores (with a 50% off coupon). I also like to stock up after each holiday when things are on clearance to save for the following year. Yes, I am a crazy lady napkin hoarder.

Pass out a stack of blank paper to each child, I use white copy paper. For example, if you have 18 students in your class, every child receives 17 pieces of paper. If you have 25 students, pass out 24 to each child. I pre-cut the paper to match the size of my napkins (or slightly smaller so I can fit two to a page).

Have each child write one student name per piece of paper. I find this process easier if I call out one name at a time, spell it out loud for students, and they write it as I spell. This way, all names are spelled correctly and we don't forget anyone.

Next, give students time to write one compliment on every piece of paper about the person whose name is on it. This could be something they love about that person, a strength that they see in them, or a general compliment.

This step may have to be broken down into small chunks throughout the week, especially if you have a large class.

Once everyone finishes writing their compliments, students will pass out the pages to the child they wrote about. At the end, everyone will have a pile of notes from every person in the class.

I simply staple the pages into a Valentine themed napkin and ta-daaaaa! Instant book!

These messages are much more personal than a box of pre-packaged cards. Plus, students have the opportunity to practice writing and being kind. Win win!

If you prefer to have lines already on your paper or a template for your struggling writers, I do have a set of Valentine Napkin Book writing prompts with over 45 prompts about love, kindness, friendship, Valentine traditions, and more! Just click one of the images below to see what's included.

What's your favorite way to spice up a classroom tradition like Valentine cards?

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 We finally changed classroom jobs this month so I wanted to share a few tips that have helped me these last few years get rid of the headache that can be caused from the job chart! I know what you may be thinking....ummm...slacker! Isn't it the middle of the year?!? Yup!

Hi there! Building a classroom community where students recognize each others strengths, support each other, and feel appreciated as individuals is what every teacher strives for. I have a quick activity today to help build this environment in your own class. The best part is, it takes less than a minute and has a huge impact! Note, you may have to model it the first time, maybe with another teacher, assistant, or volunteer.

Have you ever had one of those days/weeks/months where you just feel like you are not the teacher you always dreamed you'd be? Maybe you just had an evaluation and received less than desired scores? Maybe your students just took benchmarks and didn't make the growth you hoped for or expected and feel like its your fault? Maybe there's been a big change in your personal life and you aren't giving as much time or energy to teaching like you used to? Maybe your class is full of wild children, who despite being great one on one and your usually awesome classroom management....are a total hot mess when under the same roof?

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