I love a good, cheesy Valentine’s Day lesson as much as the next teacher, but oftentimes, this holiday falls just as things are revving up during second semester. Instead of setting aside precious classroom time for a goofy Valentine’s activity, here are six activities you could do that will maintain your rigorous standards and still embrace some seasonal fun.
1. Have a Debate
This holiday can be a polarizing one for teenagers, and that energy and angst can fuel a great debate in your classroom. Pose the question: Is true love just a fantasy or is it destiny for everyone? Let students take a side, send them out to find evidence to back up their claim, and unleash debate in your classroom! If you’d like to do something more formalized, I’ve put together ten non-fiction sources and a structured essay prompt and organizer if you want to turn this into a writing activity and would like to spend a bit more time digging into the question.
2. Have a Serious Talk About Dating Violence
While Valentine’s Day shenanigans can seem playful and silly, this holiday might be one that some of your students struggle with. Relationships are so incredibly vulnerable and delicate in high school. If you’re looking for a way to address the dangerous side of dating, you might let Leslie Morgan Steiner start the conversation. An Ivy League grad and big-time businesswoman, she talks about dating violence and shares how she was able to break free.
3. Speed Date a Book
If you’re at a place in the year where students have been into their independent reading books for a while, it might be a great opportunity to hit the pause button and have students present about their books to each other. Here’s a super fun way to do that from my friend Ashley over at her blog B’s Book Love - Speed Date a Book! She’s got lots of other awesome ideas on her blog, too, so here’s a link to the full post.
4. Write Love Poems for Characters
I love this simple and easy activity that gives you beautiful room decor, a festive feeling, and also asks your students to continue connecting their reading curriculum to new kinds of poetry. How about this - a Valentine’s Haiku? Here is a Google slide presentation introducing haiku, a stash of conversations hearts in multiple colors, and multiple versions of editable and PDF documents to help you get started. Just think of the possibilities? What love haiku would Odysseus write to Penelope? Montag to Mildred? Gatsby to Daisy? Juliet to Romeo? Have fun reviewing the novels and short stories that you’ve read so far by having students imagine the kinds of poems that would exist between these characters. I always encourage mine to explore a range of tones and emotions - there are a lot of ways our characters experience love, heartbreak, obsession, and so many more feelings in between!
5. Host a Haiku Death Match
Step One: Get your kids riled up. Or, simply, hold on for dear life because they’re already sugar-crazed maniacs.
Step Two: Get your fired up class up on their feet. Tell them to choose one side of the room - one side is for THE LOVERS (the ones who “love love”) and the other side is for THE HATERS (the ones who think “love stinks”). With your Nicholas Sparks addicts and broken-hearted kiddos split up, tell them they are about to battle it out.
Step Three: Teach students what a haiku is. 5-7-5. It’s pretty simple. You can certainly do a more elaborate lesson on haiku the day before (I like to show lots of examples and challenge them to have a really surprising turn in the poem between lines 2 and 3). Have them write five poems to bring with them into battle.
Step Four: Create a tournament bracket digitally or on your board. Send the students up to the front in pairs - one from the “love love” and one from the “love stinks” camp. Have a teacher or admin who is free that period come on in to judge the battle so that you don’t have to! The winning haiku (student) moves on to the next round to compete (with a new poem). Keep moving through the bracket until every student has had a chance to perform and you have a final winner!
Grab a copy of my Haiku Deathmatch Bracket!
6. Celebrity/Novel Nicknames
Remember the days of Bennifer? And Brangelina? There’s an academic word for this blending of names, and it’s pretty cool: portmanteau. According to Wikipedia, “A portmanteau is a linguistic blend of words, in which parts of multiple words or their phones (sounds) are combined into a new word, as in smog, coined by blending smoke and fog, or motel, from motor and hotel. In linguistics, a portmanteau is defined as a single morph that represents two or more morphemes.” Put your students into small groups or send them home with homework to come up with the celebrity nickname that they’d give to a significant relationship in the novel you’re reading. Make sure they provide a defense for why and how they combined the names. Students might even create a tabloid cover announcing some scandalous detail about the couple (depending on the novel and your students).
Have a happy February, all! Tell us what you tried in the comments below!