Saturday, February 6, 2016

Valentine's Day Activities for High School and Middle School ELA Students

When I was a kid, I used to hate Valentine's Day. It was always SO nerve-wracking for me because I was TERRIFIED of being that kid who only got 2 or 3 valentines on exchange day and only because those kids had parents who made them sign a valentine for every student in the class. It didn't get any better in middle school because only the cool girls had boyfriends and were getting flowers on that day. I can remember once that my mom sent me flowers because she must have sensed my turmoil surrounding this day. 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 light-heartedness on this day. But then, I got hired as a high school teacher and basically just didn't even acknowledge the day at all for years. However, since I have realized that you can still make the holidays fun and special while also incorporating rigorous learning standards....even with older students.

Here are some ways to bring a little Valentine's Day fun into your classroom: 

1. Have students do an analysis of their favorite love or anti-love song. They can figure out the rhyme scheme, find at least 3 figures of speech, and give a summary of the song's deeper meaning.

2. Do a little comparing and contrasting using hearts instead of circles.

3. Do a 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. 

4. Set up a "speed dating" session for the free-choice book they are reading. This event was probably my favorite day of last semester. It only took me a few minutes to set up, but my high schoolers truly appreciated my effort and had a BLAST talking about the books they are 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.

5. 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. Each group must form 1 complex sentence, 1 compound sentence, and one compound-complex sentence using at least 10 candy wrappers (the mini kind!).

6. Do a poem puzzle using Storybird. Have students create a poem using a Valentine's themed picture search. To up the challenge, you can have them use one example of personification, one parallel verse, one set of alliteration, etc. (P.S. Storybird generates the word bank, so making this one was a challenge. I did the best I could because I really wanted to use the dog love picture). :)
Directions on how to use Storybird (just scroll down the post a bit)

7. Decorate your room with literary posters and hand out punny valentines that only English teachers could love.  My students got a kick out of these last year, and I can't wait to try a tip that a buyer suggested by also using these in my room as February decorations. :) They can be printed as posters and as cards! 

If you think these might be a little too advanced for your younger students, I also have these: Punny School Supply Valentines 

8. Have 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 had 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 that I was going to create greeting cards for books for any occasion. I made writing templates for all occasions and put them on some pretty stationery paper (digital or zen doodle). I included a love letter template in the set that is perfect for Valentine's Day!

8. Teenage angst color-by-number. I try to use coloring therapy every time I get the chance! Students love getting into the flow of coloring, and it's a nice break from staring at their computer screens. Since I also want to make sure whatever I'm doing is rigorous and content-based, I designed a color by number "Grumpy Cat" coloring sheet that can be used with ANY subject and ANY questions. I'm going to be wrapping up A Separate Peace next week, so I'm going to have 10 questions about that book. Instead of answering traditionally, students will choose "A, B, C, etc." by coloring a part of the cat according to which answer they want to choose. A=Gray, B=Brown, C=Yellow. They are going to love it!

Would you like some grumpy cat bookmarks!? Be sure to sign up for my newsletter using the form below: 

9. Even if you have to keep class as normal on V-day, you can still make it special by playing a little themed-ambient sound in the background. I'm HOOKED on this YouTube station that has tons of Harry Potter ambient sounds. Here is theValentine's Day one

10. Wear a cute Teeshirt (the modern version of the classic teacher holiday sweater and pin ha!) All proceeds from this shirt go to St. Jude's Hospital. I can only set the campaign for 3 days in order for the shirt to arrive on time, so this will end Jan. 24th 2017. Be sure to follow me for next year's design! (or possibly a repeat of this one).

Have a wonderful Valentine's Day and know that your students love you! 
Xoxo, Ashley 

P.S. My newsletter subscribers will be getting a free Valentine's Day activity sent to their inbox! Be sure to sign up for my email at the top to join in!