Eve Bunting’s book The Valentine Bears is a fun readaloud for young students, with lots of good teaching points.
In the story, Mr. and Mrs. Bear have never celebrated Valentines Day before, since they are always hibernating at this time of year. This year, though, Mrs. Bear has planned ahead to make a special surprise for Mr. Bear on this special day.
The story is simple and fun to read aloud. Young students will enjoy listening to the story, and will like the “jump story” section as well as the details of the bears’ plans.
Read the story, enjoy the students’ retelling as you look again at the pictures, and then add some cross-curricular connections.
- The story begins on October 14th and continues till February 14th, so it makes a great calendar studyopportunity. Use the Learning Resources Elapsed Time Pocket Chart, a standard calendar pocket chart, or your classroom calendar to trace the bears’ story. Note the alarm clock in Jan Brett’s charming illustrations — it has months rather than hours!
- Seasons are an obvious connection. The story details the preparations Mrs. Bear made in the summer, as well as the plans she has for spring and the steps she takes in winter and fall. Make a quick pie chart to divide the activities as you read, either on the board, of using paper plates for individual graphic organizer seatwork.
- Hibernation is another obvious science topic choice. Many of us use hibernation and estivation in discussions of seasons, but this is also an excellent example of an adaptation. Bears don’t hibernate, strictly speaking, but rather go into a state of torpor. Students young enough for this book may not be old enough to appreciate the difference fully, but we point it out just to avoid later confusion.
- Mrs. Bear has hidden a special snack for Mr. Bear: honey and “Crispy Critters” — dried bugs. This would make a nice starting point for a discussion of what various animals eat, or of the basic needs of living things. You might also like to introduce students to some insect recipes.
- Mrs. Bear has written two Valentine poems for Mr. Bear. “Termites are sweet, and you are, too” is my favorite line. Have students write their own valentine’s poems on heart cutouts.
- Jan Brett is the illustrator of the book. Here you will find her printable Valentines bookmarks, and here are some easy napkin rings. Use these to add a festive air to your reading, or to prepare for a Valentine party.
- Figurative language can be hard to find in books for young children. The Valentine Bears has some, though. We read that “The sun shone through a haze, pale as milk… The arms of the trees scratched at the sky.” Use these lines as a starting point to discuss figurative language.
- One episode of the story has Mrs. Bear trying to wake Mr. Bear. This is a nice, dramatic bit, and it could inspire your class to write about how hard they or a family member can be to waken.
- Add a tech connection with an E-cards Valentines Lesson Plan.
If you have Bring Your Bear Days at your school, coordinate one with the day or days you read this book. The bears will really enjoy it.