Valentine’s Day always snuck up on me as an educator. All of sudden, there are giant teddy bears everywhere and the drama meter goes way, way up. Celebrating Valentine’s Day in your English class doesn’t have to be over the top or dramatic, though. In this post, I hope to share three ideas for celebrating Valentine’s Day in the high school English classroom appropriately.
Valentine’s Day Ideas for the High School English Classroom #1: Read a Love Poem
What better Valentine’s Day activity is there for a high school English classroom than reading a love poem?
There are so many love poems out there, you can slip them into pretty much any unit.
For example, reading a Shakespeare play? Take a break to check out his sonnets.
For Valentine’s Day haters, I love having students compare the tone and sentiments in Shakespeare’s sonnets 18 (“Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?”) and 130 (“My mistress’s eyes are nothing like the sun.”) Looking at both can prompt some pretty fun discussion. Which sonnet feels genuine? Which sonnet would you most like to be written about you?
There is no shortage of love poems out there, so you should be able to find one that won’t stray too far from your current curriculum.
For a true love poem, I prefer “To My Dear and Loving Husband” by Anne Bradstreet. It’s the most straightforward and easy-to-understand classic love poem you’re probably going to find. It’s accessible for even struggling students.
“To My Dear and Loving Husband” is an exceptionally great choice if you happen to be teaching The Crucible or covering Puritan literature. Bradstreet herself was a Puritan, but she doesn’t write like one. It’s rare to have the work of a female Puritan and it’s a nice break if you’ve been studying fire and brimstone for a few weeks.
Valentine’s Day Ideas for the High School English Classroom #2: Write a Love Poem
What’s better than reading a love poem? Writing one of course!
You do need to be careful with how you phrase this assignment. You don’t want your Valentine’s Day ideas for your high school English classroom to devolve into teenage self-pity or drama.
Instead of directing students to write a love poem to someone, have them write a love poem to something!
Odes are a great choice for this. On Valentine’s Day, you can introduce the concept of the ode to your students and share an example or two. Then, you can have students choose an object to which they write their own ode.
They can write an ode to their cell phone, to study hall, to their shoes…. Basically, anything that’s school-appropriate.
(This makes odes another awesome way to squeeze in some student choice and differentiation into your classroom, too!)
I have a whole blog post about teaching odes right here.
Valentine’s Day Ideas for the High School English Classroom #3: Figurative Language Tasting
Maybe your students are already doing a lot of reading and writing in class, and you want to give them a little bit of a break. Or maybe you just know that your sullen teens are not going to buy into any love poem, no matter the angle you take.
If love isn’t going to engage your students on Valentine’s Day, then go with the next obvious theme for the holiday: candy.
With a Figurative Language Tasting Activity, you provide students with small, cheap snacks. (Think a couple of pretzel sticks, some mini marshmallows, a peppermint, etc.) Then, students have to use figurative language to describe the taste, smell, and general sensation of eating those snacks.
I have a whole blog post about hosting your own Figurative Language Tasting right here.
Valentine’s Day ideas are hard to come by for the high school English classroom. Our students miss the days of decorating mailboxes and opening tiny valentines from their classmates. But they’re also either jaded or overly invested in the holiday.
Instead of ignoring Valentine’s Day, make it just another opportunity to explore great language. Whether students are reading or creating beautiful phrases, a love for English class will definitely be in the air.