I love holidays. All of them! Whether I’m doing a class on Lunar New Year in Asia, Dia de los Reyes Magos in Spain, or the more familiar Christmas, holidays make for great lessons, and they’re something that all my students enjoy learning about. Valentine’s Day is no exception. Even if you or your students fall on the Cupid-hater side of things, you could still get a great lesson out of that!
Valentine’s Day Lessons for Kids
With kids, Valentine’s Day is easy. It’s a great opportunity to teach some new vocabulary and send them home with a cutesy craft for Mom and Dad. Since I’ve got a Smart Board in my classroom this year I’m looking forward to using the Valentine’s Day Powerpoint flashcards and flash game by Mark at MES-English. If you’re not as lucky as I am as far as technology goes, there are also tried and true regular printable flashcards on the same site.
In my pre-school-age class I’m leaning toward the idea of making Valentine’s Day Leis. All you need to make these adorable necklaces is paper, string, and straws. Talk about a cheap craft! I’ll draw tracing lines on the paper before class and my students will practice their fine motor skills by drawing and cutting out the hearts before I help them put together the final product. With my small class of 10 students and the help of two TAs it should be easy enough to manage, but I wouldn’t recommend it with this age if you have a bigger class.
If you want to adapt the same craft for older kids (7+), it could be turned into a writing activity (one compliment per heart) and given as a gift to their moms, sisters, or friends.
Even large classes should be able to manage this craft well if they’re over 7 years old. They won’t need as much help putting it together, leaving you free to monitor their writing. Of course, the older the boys are, the more convincing they will need. Telling them how much their mom or grandma will love it will probably do the trick.
Valentine’s Day Lessons for Teens and Adults
Most of my teens are obsessed with the idea of finding “true love” and my adult students have a lot to say on the matter as well. I have some die-hard romantics in my classes as well as more jaded students who’ve witnessed too many celebrity break-ups to believe in all the hype. For better or worse, the subject of romance always gets my students talking. I look forward to Valentine’s Day lessons every year because they allow me to devote an entire day to a topic that really draws my students out of the shells. Valentine’s Day lessons always make for good debates between the love-sick and the love-skeptic students in class.
I always follow the same basic staging for a Valentine’s Day lesson, keeping in mind my different classes ages and levels while planning each lesson. As long as the tasks are graded properly you can use the staging of this basic lesson plan for any class.
Step 1: Valentine’s Day Vocabulary Brainstorm
You can give this warmer some structure by providing your students with categories to brainstorm. For example: 5 Valentine’s day gifts, 5 famous couples, 5 date ideas, etc.
Step 2: Group Discussion
Give your students statements about love and Valentine’s day to discuss in groups. The statements should fuel debate so choose strong ones like “everybody has a soul-mate,” or “men are more romantic than women.” I like controlling how long my students speak. To do this I reveal one statement at a time on Powerpoint. You could also have them draw the next statement out of a hat, or simply read the next statement to them yourself when you think they’ve discussed the last one for long enough.
Step 3: Valentine’s Day Quiz/Reading
Here’s where most of your vocabulary input comes in. The quiz or reading should be graded according to your students’ level. It’s easy enough with a google search to find an abundance of Valentine’s Day resources. Remember you don’t have to stick to just ELT materials! This year I’m using an eHow article on how to plan a date because it ties in to a video I want to show at the end of my lesson. If you choose to use authentic materials like this, remember to make the activity doable by pre-teaching difficult language and creating a task for the students to complete (i.e. a gap-fill or ordering the text.) As always, you need to give them a reason to read.
Step 4: Practice the Language from the Quiz or Reading
After my students have completed the reading that I selected for them, they’ll play a vocabulary game to practice the new words. My students are crazy about charades and backs-to-the-board. These games require zero prep time so they’re some of my favorites too!
Step 5: Using the Language
At this point you want your students to actually use the language that they’ve learned from the reading. Since mine will have done a reading on how to plan a date, they’ll be doing just that now. After planning a date, they’ll have to invite each other out. Remember that when you do a speaking activity like this, you should board relevant process language. My class has already studied language for invitations, as well as accepting & refusing them, but I’ll write some useful phrases on the board anyway to make sure the activity runs smoothly.
Step 6: The Technology Stage
By now your students will have already learned and produced new language. A fun way to round off any lesson with teenagers or adults is to incorporate technology. I like to finish off my lessons with either a song or a video. This year, I’m going to use this comedic short film by iCandy Productions of a well planned date gone wrong.
The video fits in perfectly with the context of my whole lesson, and that’s no accident. I created the entire lesson so that I could use this video. One of my favorite video lesson activities that requires no set-up is having half the class describe to their partner (who can’t see the video) what’s happening on the screen. You can either turn half of your students away from the screen or use blindfolds for this activity. Midway through the video I’ll have the pairs switch, and afterwards, everybody will watch the entire video through again. If we have time, I’ll ask my students to narrate what the poor guy in the video is thinking through each scene. Silent films like this one are fabulous for this kind of activity.
So that’s what I’m doing for my Valentine’s day lessons this year. How about you?