Each year, when February rolls around, the Valentine's confections hit the shelves, and are packaged perfectly for classroom use.

I grabbed a bag of 25 small (4 oz.) boxes of Valentine conversation hearts, and away we went using them to study classroom basics.

Here we have 7 different ways to use Valentine conversation hearts in your classroom!

**1.** __ What Fraction?__ Use the hearts to determine which fraction of the whole lot is colored yellow? Pink? Green? White? etc.

- First, instruct the students to dump their hearts in the middle of their papers. Arrange/sort them as they see fit. I think this step is a very valuable step for teachers as you can tell a lot about where a student is academically by the way he sorts. Or maybe he is an artist and arranges them in the shape of the Mona Lisa. :o) When students have had a chance to arrange them on their own, talk about the different ways they were arranged. Next, have the students who did not arrange by color do so now. By now, each student should have several groups of hearts, all organized by color.

- Have your students write each color on a piece of notebook paper. Now, remind your students the definition of numerator and denominator. Ask them to count the total number of hearts and place that number as the denominator. Then, count the first group of a single color. Place that number over the denominator. For instance, if the student has 9 hearts all together, and 2 of them are pink, they would list the fraction 2/9 right beside the word "Pink".

- Continue listing the fractions of each color. Talk in small groups. Who had the biggest fraction? Which color was it? Smallest? What was the most prevalent color? What was the fraction if there were no hearts in that color? (0/9)

**2.** ** Greater Than, Less Than, Equal To**. Student's use the "greater than", "less than" signs to determine how to arrange their hearts. This will show the unique heart demographic in each student's box.

- Instruct each student to draw a "less than" (<), "greater than" (>), and an "equal to" (=) sign down their papers, leaving room on either side to place hearts.
- Orally go through each color with the students, placing hearts on either side of the symbols on the papers.

**3. ** __ Heart Bar Graph__. Students can practice making a bar graph, using the hearts as part of the graph.

- Students can start by creating their bar graph, making sure to represent every number, even if, for example, their box did not contain any pink hearts. They would still include "pink", but show a representation of 0 pinks!

- Share the bar graphs in groups and then hang them on the wall to decorate the classroom. If you want to give your students a chance to eat their hearts after the assignment, have them color in their bars with crayons instead of using the candies.
Also, preschool siblings like to take part, too! Even if they don't quite understand the whole assignment, sitting through and adding their own "special touches" will undoubtedly give them a head start later on.

**4.** __ Heart Arrays__: Familiar with the new Core Standards? It is important for students to be able to demonstrate multiplication in a variety of ways. Arrays are one of the ways we can show multiplication.

- This is a group activity. Groups will receive several boxes of candies. Dump them out, and create multiplication problems using arrays.
- Then, write math story problems to match the arrays. Share with the class, or trade problems with another group and solve.

**5. Preschool Heart Art.** This is a great activity for practicing fine motor skills.

- Place several hearts face down on a copy machine. Make sure to arrange them in different directions; some pointing to the left, some to the right, some straight and some upside down. Then, make a color copy of the hearts.

- Give the child the paper and the hearts. Also, place some glue on a paper plate or paint pallet. Then, give the preschooler a small paintbrush to paint glue on the different hearts.

- The challenge for the preschooler is to get the correct color of heart glued on, and in the correct direction. This is great motor, color, directional practice for your 4 and 5-year-old students!

**6. I Heart Grammar Practice!** Use conversation hearts to decipher different grammatical phrases.

- Create a worksheet for your students, or have them create it themselves. All you need to do is separate the paper into 4 different sections. Label the sections with the following headings: Verbs, Nouns, Adjectives, and Abbreviations.

- Next, students take a minute to read each conversation heart, placing each one in the most appropriate section. Share in groups and students check each other's answers!

**7. **__ Statement Or Question?__ This is a great activity for teaching early primary students the correct usage of periods and question marks. Alternately, you could also add a section labeled: Exclamation! Just check your conversation hearts beforehand and make sure the variety you purchased includes exclamations.

- Create a worksheet for your students by dividing the paper into equal sections labeled: Question? and Statement. Students read through their hearts with an adult's help if needed, and then place the hearts in the appropriate section.

If your students have trouble finding solid questions from the conversation hearts, you could invite them to add a couple of key words at the beginning of the heart to make it into a question. This will teach them a valuable way to use context clues in deciphering questions, not just the end [question] mark. Notice how the words "Will you" were placed before the heart that says, "Call me"? Other words that could have been used are "Should you", "Would you", "When will you", etc.

- An extension of this assignment would be for students to create their own candy hearts using construction paper. Use a die cut machine to create a bunch of hearts in different colors. Then, have students choose a heart and write either a statement or question (or exclamation) on the front. Finally, students can add their heart to a class-sized chart. Maybe the chart is also the bulletin board? What a great way to show parents the sweetness of learning.

Have you incorporated conversation hearts into your learning time? Please share. I'd love more ideas!