Planning special Valentine’s Day activities for my high school students is important to me because I want to make sure each of my students feels loved and considered.
When I was in elementary school, I hated Valentine’s Day. It was always SO nerve-wracking for me because I was TERRIFIED of being that kid who only got two or three valentines on exchange day (and only because they had parents who made them sign a valentine for every student in the class).
Valentine’s Day didn’t get any better in middle school because only the ~cool kids~ had boyfriends or girlfriends and were getting Valentine’s Day gifts at school. I can vividly remember the time my mom sent me flowers to school because she must have sensed my turmoil surrounding this holiday. Fortunately, she had the foresight to not put “Love Mom” on them. 😉
I always had this vision that when I was a teacher, I would try to make Valentine’s Day a special and positive experience for students who might need a little laughter and lightheartedness on this day. And that’s what I’ve done with all of the Valentine’s Day activities I’ve tried over the years.
Even as a high school ELA teacher, I have found ways to make holidays like Valentine’s Day special while continuing the rigor of my normal ELA lesson plans. Not only will the following Valentine’s Day activities meet lots of literacy standards, they will also help to make your students feel more loved and thought of on the day of valentines.
Valentine’s Day Activities for High School and Middle School ELA:
Valentine’s Day podcast episodes for the classroom- As my regular blog readers know, I’m a huge proponent of using podcasts in the classroom. While I love nothing more than sampling hundreds of podcasts for ELA, I know that most English teachers do not have the time. That’s why I started sharing more and more ELA specific podcast recommendations on my website and Instagram (@BuildingBookLove). Holidays are the perfect time to try podcasts in the classroom because they provide a natural reason to break up regular lesson plans and produce extra engagement for candy-filled schooldays like Valentine’s Day. For a fresh Valentine’s Day activities, consider playing a podcast!
Here are some middle school and high school podcast recommendations with a theme of love:
- Episode 26 “The Kinseys” from the podcast This is Love. This is a MUST LISTEN. It’s one of those rare stories that puts a big fat smile on your face the entire time while also being socially important. I find it to be the perfect Valentine’s Day podcast because it’s also fitting for Black History Month. I also have this episode as a podcast and poetry pairing here.
- Episode 19 “The Wolves” from the podcast This is Love. I had to hold back ugly tears on this one. It’s a beautifully told story about the wolves of Yellowstone and the relationships they have with each other. Fascinating and heartwarming, it will enthrall your students. This is another one I have in my podcast and poetry pairing pack!
- Episode 13 “The Ugly Club“ from the podcast This is Love (I could list many more from this podcast, but will cut myself off) . The host visits a tiny town in Italy where it’s good to be “ugly.” This touching episode reminds us that beauty comes in multiple forms and that love brings humanity together.
- Episode 126 “A New Kind of Life” from the podcast Criminal. This love-themed episode is both extremely creepy but also…. sweet? The macabre paradox of it will definitely grab your listeners and could even make a nice pairing for Poe’s “Annabelle Lee” or Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.” For another podcast recommendation in this same love-after-death vein, check out this post: Podcasts Pairings for the Secondary ELA Classroom: Podcasts to use in English Class
- Season 7 Episode 3 “Heartbreak: Why does it hurt so bad?” from the podcast Science VS. I love this podcast because their goal is to look at scientific facts in contrast with common beliefs. They have lots of great topics that fit with argumentative writing in ELA, but for Valentine’s Day, their heartbreak episode is perfect. They even embed a ready-made metaphor for us!
- Reservation Math: Navigating Love in Native America from the Smithsonian’s Sidedoor podcast, this is an important episode that builds empathy for Native American issues surrounding the topic of love. This could also make a poignant pairing for Romeo and Juliet.
- Love in the Time of Emoji – This is another one from Sidedoor that gives an interesting history of emojis and how they started and evolved with love. It also has a built in tone lesson around minute 15!
If you are an elementary teacher, I also have some Valentine’s Day podcast recommendations for you too! I do not teach elementary school, but when I present on using podcasts in the classroom, I hear from lots of educators who have found great success with young listeners.
- Episode 19 “Chocolate” from the Pants on Fire podcast. This podcast is all about helping kids distinguish between fake news and expert accounts. This episode is all about chocolate which makes it a sweet episode for Valentine’s Day.
- Episode “The Love Potion” from Stories Podcast. This is a cute fictional story for kids based on a traditional Ethiopian folktale.
- Episode “Do Animals Get Married?” from the But Why podcast. This interesting informational text episode is SO CUTE. It taps into children’s natural curiosity and explains topics in ways that children can understand. This episode on animal couples is perfect for Valentine’s Day!
Whether you are teaching teens or younger grades, it’s important to set your listeners up for success during their podcast activity. The first step is finding an engaging and timely topic (covered that above!) and the second step is to help listeners stay focused. The best way I have found to engage listeners is through coloring and doodling while listening to podcasts. The fist time I tried this strategy with my high school English class, I was SHOCKED by how well it worked. It keeps their hands busy and their minds focused. You can try this by downloading these three FREE podcast coloring notes for your students to use while listening to a love-themed podcast this Valentine’s Day. To get these downloadable Valentine’s Day activities, join my Building Book Love Letter here:
Literary valentines for any book – Another fun Valentine’s Day activity for middle school and high school is to make literary valentines. First, I showed students my mentor literary valentines then gave them craft supplies and assigned Lord of the Flies valentines since that is what we were reading at the time. To up the rigor, I had students divide one piece of paper into four sections. In addition to characterization and themes, each section had to contain one of the following:
My students honestly had so much fun making these literary valentines! I love that it incorporated creative writing and a little comic relief into our regularly scheduled unit. If you want to grab my mentor literary valentines, you can find those here: Literary Valentines and Valentine’s Day Activity for ANY Text! These make for an engaging Valentine’s Day activities!
Candy wrapper grammar– If you give out candy for Valentine’s Day, have students get in pairs and use the wrappers to come up with sentences. This makes a fun Valentine’s Day activity because it’s challenging and group-centered (plus it involves candy!). Each group must form one complex sentence, one compound sentence, and one compound-complex sentence with candy wrappers (the mini kind!). I did this fun Valentine’s Day activity my first few years of teaching, but unfortunately I don’t have any pictures since this was way before my blogging days. However, here is the gist:
- Complex: Though he was afraid of SNICKERS, he asked the NERDS for help.
- Compound: They were SMARTIES about many things in the MILKYWAY, but they did not know how to help him win the love of his SWEETART.
- Compound/Complex: As a last resort, he consulted MR. GOODBAR, and he gave him this sage advice: the best lessons on love are found be TWIX the pages of a book.
This same concept can be applied to all kinds of other ELA lessons as well! However, PLEASE use your school’s policy on candy. Some school systems do not allow candy or candy with peanuts.
Letters to Books
Love letters to a book- Another engaging Valentine’s Day activity that fits directly into your regular plans is having students write a love letter to a book. On a whim, I put up a goodbye letter template on my board when we finished Animal Farm. The week before, I read that Mud, Ink and Teaching gives her students creative ways to finish novels so that there’s no awkwardness at the end. One of those ways was to write a letter to the book. I didn’t trust that all my students would take it seriously, so I put a template up for them to go by, and oh my goodness, they BLEW me away with their responses.
After such a great experience, I decided to create greeting cards for books for any occasion. I made writing templates for all occasions and put them on pretty stationery paper (digital or zen doodle). I included a love letter template in the set that is perfect for Valentine’s Day! You can find all 10 of the letter templates including a love letter here: Letters to a book template
Valentine’s Day Book Raffle
Valentine’s Day Book Raffle- In addition to implementing 10 minutes of daily free-choice reading time into my high school ELA class, hosting book raffles has done wonders in promoting a love of reading within my secondary students. I picked up this strategy by following elementary teachers, but rest assured, middle school and high school students get just as jazzed when they win first dibs at checking out a new book!
To host a Valentine’s Day book raffle, simply choose books with a common theme. I went with book cover colors (pink and red), but you could do love stories, sweet stories, etc. Next, quickly talk up each book. Then, give students a chance to put their name in for the book they want a chance to check out. HOT TIP 1: If students are at desks, the likelihood of them getting out of their seats to put in their name in front of their classmates is slim. I’ve found that adding this to a station or during independent work time yields the most participation. HOT TIP 2: If you can’t afford to buy new books for the raffle, don’t fret! Sometimes simply displaying your old books in a new way will give them the attention they deserve. For this set up, I bought three “new” books from a used bookstore, but the rest came from my classroom library. By talking them up and putting them on display, they all got checked out!
Speed Dating a Book
Speed dating a book- If free-choice reading is thriving in your classroom, students will want a chance to talk about their books! Setting up a “speed dating” session for the free-choice books provides a perfect opportunity for students to discuss their books and perpetuate reading love. It’s a natural fit for a Valentine’s Day activity, but it can also be used any time of the year! Love for books is always in the air!
Our speed dating event is probably my favorite day of the semester. It only takes me a few minutes to set up, but my students truly appreciated my effort and had a BLAST talking about the books they were reading. You can find this for FREE in my TpT store here: Speed Dating a Book Conversation Starters . Examples include: Where are you from? Tell me about your setting. Where do you see yourself fitting in? Tell me about your genre.
For a quick yet engaging set up, try these ideas:
- Play Valentine’s Day ambiance on your computer and projector like this one:
2. Put out battery tea lights or string lights. It doesn’t have to be elaborate for students to find it special!
3. If you have time, arrange your tables in a line so that students can rotate down the line just like in a real speed dating session. Notice in the picture above that I only used one desk for two chairs. This made it easier to rearrange quickly. If you have no space or time to move desks, other arrangements can work as long as students are moving around and meeting new books! They can even stand and walk around the room while doing this!
Love Themed Language
Love-themed figurative language– Literature is a love language for English teachers, so why not use the month of love to showcase its beauty! With these love-themed literary devices, you can make a Valentine’s Day bulletin board or use them for any Valentine’s Day activity such as mentor texts, thematic examples, writing prompts, and more! You can download these posters here: Love-themed figurative language posters
Not only can students see examples from literature, but they can also try their hand at writing their own with the addition of a show vs tell prompt this this resource.
Poetry Gallery Walk
Valentines gallery walk and scavenger hunt- You can also use this resource to host a gallery walk activity on Valentine’s Day! To do this Valentine’s Day activity, print the slides out and tape them around the room. Direct students to go on a gallery walk around the room reading each slide. Next, give groups of students different poems or passages to read. Then, give each student or group a certain number of sticky notes. After that, have students find x number of examples from the passages to be written on individual sticky notes. Lastly, have students walk around the room and stick their examples to the corresponding poster. You may want students to do a second gallery walk after this to look at, double check, and discuss the added examples.
Another way to use this resource is to incorporate the gallery walk idea above, but instead of applying it to reading, have students use the posters as mentor texts for their own writing.
While it makes a great Valentine’s Day activity, this resource also works to use common themes to guide students into creative writing. For example, if you are reading Romeo and Juliet, have students do the gallery walk using the Love Theme Posters then write their answers to the questions you are asking about R&J in creative form. For instance: Using a hyperbole, describe the importance of the balcony scene. Or, Using color symbolism, design the set for Juliet’s bedroom. Or, using repetition, rewrite scene x into modern language.
Lastly, this resource also works by having students do an analysis of their favorite love or anti-love song. They can figure out the rhyme scheme, find at least three figures of speech, and give a summary of the song’s deeper meaning.
Love Themed Informational Text
Valentine’s Day informational text- There are so many different ways to incorporate informational text into Valentine’s Day. Here are a few ideas:
- Do an ELA STEM challenge by having students read an informational text about the heart failure risks of too much sitting and then design a solution to this problem. Continuing with this idea, have students debate or write an argumentative essay about the new trend of having students stand up while in school.
- Read about the history of Valentine’s Day and how it was romanticized by Shakespeare and Chaucer in this article: The Dark Origins Of Valentine’s Day After reading, use one of these Socratic Seminar strategies to discuss different view points regarding Valentine’s Day.
- Take any two topics and compare and contrast them using hearts instead of circles.
Hand out literary valentines to students and staff- Decorate your room with literary posters and hand out punny valentines that only English teachers could love. Students get a kick out of these and they make fantastic Valentine’s Day door decorations as well!
New this year for 2021, I made these FREE Amanda Gorman Valentines for staff members or students! I put window crystals with mine, but candy could work too. You can either cut out each small circle (will take a while) or simply print out a single page and add the magical suncatchers under it!
I also have these: Punny School Supply Valentines
I hope that these Valentine’s Day activities for middle school and high school have inspired you to add a little sparkle to your Valentine’s Day lesson plans! If you want to twin with me, I will be wearing this shirt:
All proceeds go to the World Literacy Foundation and you can order your swag here: Do you love your English teacher? Check YES or POE
Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day and know that your students love you!
Xoxo, Ashley Bible
P.S. My newsletter subscribers will be getting a free Valentine’s Day activities sent to their inbox! Be sure to sign up for my email to join in!