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Celebrating Valentine's Day in the Secondary ELA Classroom

Valentine's Day is cheesy and awkward in the middle school and high school years, but with a little creativity, we can make Valentine's Day fun and even meaningful to our secondary ELA students.

Here are three ideas for celebrating Valentine's Day in the secondary ELA classroom. The best part? They all work in the remote and hybrid classrooms, too.

  1. Instead of love poems, teach break up poems.

Kids get all squirmy and uncomfortable with love poems, but they LOVE a good break up poem. Use Valentine's Day as an opportunity to help your kids get comfortable in poetry, teach them how to process poetry through multiple readings, and recognize important literary elements.

Some of my favorite break up poems include:

Bound by Aline Murray Kilmer: This poem is all about jealousy and revenge.

The last line will solidify your kids' love for poetry!

[you fit into me] by Margaret Atwood: Short and sweet, your kids will scream

over the second stanza. This would be fun to mimic in student's own writing.

My Honest Poem by Rudy Francisco: This video will give students a modern

perspective on relationships and the fear of losing, but it also has a hopeful

message that provides a nice contrast after reading about a hook in the eye!

Sonnet 139 by William Shakespeare: This sonnet will provide your students with

a challenge, but also help them to understand that breakups have been going

on for a very long time.

2. Spread kindness with a vocabulary activity.

My favorite way to celebrate Valentine's Day in the secondary ELA classroom is to boost my students' self esteem as much as possible by sharing kind notes from their classmates. A few years ago, I started decorating my classroom with powerful words that love. My goal was to teach students that words have power and that power can be used for good.

In the beginning of February, I would hand each student a small booklet with a different classmate's name on it. Students did not know who had whose booklet. Throughout class, students would look for the good in their secret classmate and use the vocab around the room to write a kind note in the booklet. I'd collect the booklets at the end of class, and then hand them out to a different student the next day.

On Valentine's Day, I would pass the booklets around for the first half of class and we would feverishly work to fill each booklet with words of affirmation and kind notes. Finally, I would collect all the booklets and hand them out to their rightful owner.

Students would silently flip through the booklet with their own name on it and read the kind words their classmates wrote to them. It was an emotional experience, and if there's one thing kids always remember about my class, it's Valentine's Day.

This year, I'm bringing this experience to the digital world for my hybrid students. You can check it out here.

3. Give the gift of not losing your page: A Valentine's Day bookmark!

Bookmarks are the easiest gift because all you need is cardstock. Click here to download Words that Love bookmarks:

Orange Typewriter Quote Bookmark
Download PDF • 313KB

Students can use the premade bookmarks OR you can use the bookmark on the last page of this file and students can make their own with this fun scavenger hunt activity: students search their books for words that show love and kindness. Give students ten minutes to find as many words that show love and kindess in their reading books as possible.

After ten minutes, follow the Give One; Get One; Move On protocol: have students walk around the classroom, give a word to a classmate, get a word from a classmate, then move on to a new partner to repeat the give one, get one protocol again. Do this for five to ten minutes, then share words as a whole class and record them on a large chart paper. Hang the Words that Love chart paper in your classroom all year and encourage students to use their words for good!


Have fun with your secondary ELA students and take some of the awkward out of Valentine's Day with these meaningful activities. If you try one in your classroom, let us know in the comments. Enjoy!

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