A great art project for Valentine’s Day is designing a mailbox for students’ valentines. So many students really need to work on fine motor skills – even in 5th grade – and designing a valentine bag is a fun and easy project. I used paper bags for mailboxes, but cereal or shoe boxes could be substituted.
In my class, I left this project very open ended. My one design rule was that students could only use heart-shaped pieces on their project. That may seem a little overwhelming, but I would have the class brainstorm about what they could possibly design. Animals were a very popular choice, but students could design cars, abstract designs, or any other idea they imagined. My goal was simply for students to stretch their thinking.
Create an Example – Live
I always took 10-15 minutes to show them how to make a design. It really helps your visual learners to see the steps. I would make my own mailbox earlier in the week, so the design I made in front of the class could be used for an absent student.
My rule was students could not get construction paper without showing me their design first. I never turned down a design unless it was clear that a student just scribbled something down in order to get done. I would give suggestions to students if they had a tricky design or were having difficulty. For example, if their design involved a long tail, I might suggest that they make a chain of hearts that get slightly smaller as they go toward the tip. However, the design should be their idea and creation.
Demonstrate How to Cut Hearts
During the live example, draw a blueprint for your design on a paper or the board. Students will have to think about how they can make certain shapes out of hearts. For example, on my paper bag dog, I made a very long, thin heart for the tail and glued it upside-down. You want to model this type of thinking during your design process.
After you make a blueprint, model how to cut out paper hearts. Some of your students will know how, but others may not. I strongly suggest that you also model how to save paper. Even the students that know how to cut hearts don’t necessarily realize to fold and cut close to the edge. After seeing many huge pieces of paper with a heart cut out of the middle, I learned to model fitting hearts on the paper. I would cut a strip of paper the width I wanted for my heart and then fold it in half. I showed my class how to carefully cut hearts close together. I also taught them how to put two paper squares in one fold in order to get 2 equal hearts.
Design First, Glue Second
I suggest that you keep the glue until the students have their hearts cut out and arranged on their bag or box. I actually had my students show me their bag with the hearts arranged on it before I would give them glue. I know this sounds overly stringent, but you can fix a problem – but not after its glued. Some kids use far too much glue, and you can use your check-in to remind them not to use too much. I figure better safe than sorry!
Let It Dry
Remember, some of your students will use too much glue. They just will. It doesn’t matter if you remind every single student, somebody’s bag will not dry very quickly. For that reason, we made our bags the day before or the Friday before – whenever I could squeeze time for it.
I also had students use markers to write their name on the mailbox – that makes it a lot easier when students are passing out valentines.
Just to recap:
- Explain the project – hearts only.
- Create a design in front of the class (quickly – pick something fast and easy).
- Demonstrate how to cut hearts using a paper-saving method.
- Have students create a plan and show you for approval.
- Have students cut and arrange the hearts on their bag or box and show you.
- Glue and leave the bags out to dry.
For Valentine’s Day, I always planned for my class to do lessons that integrated the holiday. This art project was one of six activities I used. The Valentine’s Day Integrated Unit is available in my store if you are interested.