I always look forward to Valentine’s Day. As a teacher, it is a treat to be able to tap into the energy that love brings to the classroom and the opportunity for us to find out a bit more about our students, to personalise learning activities and to bring a bit of fun and humour into our teaching. Love is a great starting point for a lesson: it evokes an emotional response and is often linked to formative or significant moments in our lives; it’s something everyone has feelings and opinions about.
Why is love such a great topic? Well, by way of a short linguistic diversion, and so as not to alienate any potential section of my readership:
- For strict grammarians: It’s a topic to which everyone can relate.
- For most normal adults: It’s a topic which everyone can relate to.
- For young people: It’s so relatable!
(If you get bored with the topic of love, you now have the option of debating with fellow teachers, the pros and cons of ending a sentence with a preposition, or the formation of neologisms using the -able suffix)
So, let us get to the ideas. I’m not providing full lesson-plans – just some classroom activities for English language learners. My aim is really to get you thinking about the possibilities and to provide you with some jumping-off points for your own creativity!
Quick and easy EFL activities requiring little or no preparation
- Draw a large heart on the board and elicit some adjectives that describe positive characteristics of an ideal valentine. Have students rank-order these or produce individual lists of their top five characteristics to discuss and compare.
- Prepare some cards or slips of paper with famous couples. One half of the couple should be on one slip, the other half on another slip – they can be historical (Napoleon, Josephine), fiction (Marge Simpson, Homer Simpson) or celebrities (choose couples who are current or noteworthy). Hand the slips out at random and have students mingle to find their love match.
- Have each student write on a slip of paper the name of a famous person they would like to have as their valentine. Collect in and mix up. Read out the names of the famous people and have the class guess who has written each. Once all the names have been read out, check to see which guesses were correct. Ask students to tell the class what it is about that person they love.
- Write the word ‘valentine’ on the board. Give students 5 minutes to see how many words of three letters or more they can make from the word. This is an activity that you can do with any word, but ‘valentine’ is a particularly good one for more advanced students as the letter combinations can be used to generate quite interesting words (elvan, alien, innate, venal, etc.) – there is even the full nine letter anagram, Levantine!
Slightly Longer Classroom Activities
- Have students create a short online dating profile for themselves. Stick these around the walls and have the class guess which profile belongs to which of their classmates. If you don’t think this will work with your particular group of students, have them write a dating profile for someone famous instead.
- The grammar of love. Write on the board a series of sentences about love, using different tenses and aspects. Try to make them as varied as possible. For each, ask students to discuss how long you think the person has been in love and what point in the relationship they are at. How do they know? There is not necessarily one right or wrong answer, the idea is to get them to think about the language. Examples:
- I think I love you.
- I knew I loved you the minute I saw you.
- I have never stopped loving you.
- I will always love you.
- I loved you then and I still love you.
- This one needs a bit of prep, but if you don’t have time, and students are allowed to use their smartphones, you can get them to search online for their own examples. Write a selection of terrible chat-up lines on the board and have students discuss them in groups. The object is to give an award for the worst chat-up line – and it’s a good opportunity to introduce the word cringeworthy into their vocabulary! Here’s a few examples to start you off:
- “Do I know you? Because you look exactly like my next girlfriend.”
- “Hi, I’m Mr Right. Someone said you were looking for me.”
- “When God made you, he was showing off.”
- “Nice shirt. Is it made of boyfriend material?”
- “Well, here I am. Now, what are your other two wishes?
Creative EFL Activities and Projects
- Ask students to create a Valentine’s Day photo-story. You don’t need to have them print stories out if you don’t want to. They can just put them together on PowerPoint slides using photos, speech bubbles and captions, and present them electronically.
- Print out the lyrics to half a dozen love songs. Make enough copies so that, if you divide your class into groups of four, there is enough for each group to have a set. The groups must now create their own love song, using any of the words and phrases from the printed lyrics. To encourage the students to be creative, tell them they must use some of the text from every one of the songs and that they can’t use strings of more than three consecutive words; if they wish, they can also use up to six words of their own that don’t appear in any of the lyrics. Once completed, the groups read out or sing their songs.
- In pairs or groups, have students plan the perfect romantic Valentine’s day – money no object! They should think about travel, places, activities and how they will dress for the occasion. Ask them to pitch their idea to the rest of the class and vote on which group has come up with the most appealing couple’s day out.
Online EFL and ESOL resources
A quick search online will provide you with plenty of ready-to-print and use EFL and ESOL resources: vocabulary lists, worksheets, word searches and crosswords, you can add one of these into your lesson plan to mix things up – or use for early-finishers. If you want a wordsearch or crossword tailored to specific vocabulary, there are a host of online wordsearch and crossword generators. These resources are also great if you are an EAL teacher or teaching assistant in a mainstream school.
Finally, don’t forget the old favourites, like having students design their own Valentine’s day card – including a message and an optional rhyme or poem. They can do it ‘old school’, as a craft activity, with card, scissors and crayons – or they can do an electronic version.
Or you can put together a gap-fill text based on a favourite love song. A quick search will get you the lyrics online. Replace an appropriate selection of words with lined gaps for students fill in as they listen. Find the song on YouTube or Spotify and you’re good to go!
You can also use online clips from your favourite romantic movies. Mute the sound and have the students speak or write the dialogue; or pause the video and ask comprehension questions about what they have just seen.
So now you see why I love Valentine’s Day?
I hope you have fun with some of the ideas – and remember, if there is another teacher in your life who special, why not treat them to a Valentine’s Day gift from our online shop? Only for the very special ones!
Good luck – I’d love to hear how you get on, or if you have any ideas of your own, you’d like to share.
Written by Mike Turner