As Valentine’s Day approaches, half the staffroom groans in agony while the other half enthusiastically go about planning their Valentine’s Day lessons. The first half whinges about how cheesy and commercially-driven this most unnecessary forced-celebration of love is, while the other half skips around the staffroom whistling the Carpenter’s Close to You as they photocopy lessons featuring idioms about love and phrasal verbs describing the chronological order of relationships.
Alright, I might be exaggerating when I say half the staffroom. It’s probably more like a 80/20 split – 80% grumblers and 20% loved-up dreamers.
However, just because you are a grumbler does not mean that you can’t partake in the Valentine-themed lessons and allow your students a chance to escape the syllabus and join the celebrations.
Here are some Valentine-themed lesson ideas that I hope might add some variety to the similarly-themed lessons available out there.
- Re-write the ending scene of a famous romantic stories or films e.g. Titanic, Romeo & Juliet, Beauty and the Beast, Notting Hill, Pretty Woman, Ghost, etc. Have students write on the dialogue of the final scene and even act it out.
- Write a scathing movie review of a romantic film that you hate.
- Write a puzzling Haiku or a funny Limerick about love.
- Write a poem about love that has to contain a newly-learnt grammar point (e.g. the present perfect + ever; should have + past participle; the passive voice, etc.) in every line.
- In groups of two or three, write a love letter in the genre of a laboratory report. Exchange letters with a different group and now have the new group change the report back to the genre of a love letter.
- In groups of three or four, re-write the lyrics of a popular love song.
- Make a literal music video by re-writing the lyrics and then singing to the music video of a popular love song. For examples, see the literal music video of James Blunt’s You’re Beautiful here and the literal music video of Total Eclipse of the Heart here.
- In teams of three to five students, write a Valentine’s Day business proposal that would make maximum profits for a restaurant. In your proposal, suggest a Valentine’s Day menu, door gifts, table decorations and any other promotional ideas that you think will help sell the restaurant to couples looking to splurge on this special occasion.
Present your proposal to the class. When every group has presented, the class will vote for the best proposal.
Technology & MLearning
- Find a photo online that best describes love.
As homework, take a photo of something you see (at the bus stop, in the shops, at home) that symbolizes love.
Describe the photo to your partner without showing them the photo. Explain why you chose this photo.
- The teacher should divide students into groups of three or four and assign them different countries to research e.g. Japan, America, Taiwan, etc.
The teams should write a class quiz about how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the country they have been assigned.
- In groups of three, search the internet and find your top 5 favourite cheesy pick-up lines and present them to the class. Talk about how you can make them work for you.
- As a class or in groups of five to ten, make a short film about love: this task will take time but with the video-recording capabilities of smart phones and the array of simple video-editing apps and programmes available today, this task is a lot more doable than you might expect.
- The teacher should put the students in pairs, and within each pair, have one student facing the screen and the other facing away. Have the half of the class facing the screen watch this short video clip ‘Misery Bear Goes on a Date’ and while watching it, describe what is happening to their partner who has their back turned. This could easily lead into a discussion on nightmare dates and dates that have gone awfully wrong.
- Make use of the short clips of the ‘Man Stroke Woman’ available on Youtube. You can show students the first half of a video clip and get them to predict what happens next. Here is a popular one called ‘The Breakup’ to get you started. This video would naturally lead to a discussion on phrases that people often use when breaking up with someone.
- In groups of two or three, conduct some research online and find the most sellable and profitable Valentine’s Day gift that will then be presented to a team of ‘potential investors’. Group members should convince the team that their product is the one that will make them the most money.
This team of ‘potential investors’ should consist of about five to ten students from different groups (to avoid any obvious bias towards one’s own group).
Discussions & Debate
Divide the class into two teams : male versus female.
If you have a large class, consider having several male teams and several female teams with about five students in each team.
Ask them any of the following questions and give them time to discuss their answers.
Compare the different answers in open class feedback.
- What are the top ten things that a man/woman would look for in a partner.
- Pick your top 5 romantic gestures. (It might be amusing to note that men in the UK picked ‘giving their partners the remote’ as one of their top three!)
- What do you think is the secret to a happy marriage/relationship
And here are some generic discussion questions for the whole class:
- Does your language have different words for different types of love? How do you think we can express the different types of love in English?
- What colours do you think symbolize ‘love’? Why?
- Does your country celebrate Valentine’s Day? What do men and women do on this day?
If not, do you celebrate love on a special day? What about anniversaries?
- What are weddings like in your country?
- What traditional rituals are there?
- Who usually pays for the wedding?
- Are there any parties or celebrations that take place before the wedding?
- How many people are usually invited?
- What do the bride and groom wear?
- What presents are given to the bride and groom? Are the guests given anything in return?
- What kind of food is normally served?
- Aside from eating, what else happens during the celebrations? Is there dancing? Games? Rituals?
- How long do weddings last?
And some questions bound to spark a debate:
- Do you think women and men have different roles in a partnership/marriage?
What do you think of ‘stay-at-home mums’? What about ‘working mums’?
What do you think of ‘stay-at-home dads’? What about ‘working dads’?
- What do you think of online dating?
- Which couple is likely to face bigger obstacles to their relationship? A couple that is made up of two people from completely different cultural backgrounds or a couple that are in a long distance relationship?
I hope these lesson ideas would convince even the Ebenezer Scrooges of Valentine’s Day that we could possibly take part in the February festivities without comprising our no-cheese stance.
But sometimes, it’s nice to not fight the cheese and feel loved-up even if it’s just for a day.
Chia Suan Chong is a General English and Business English teacher and teacher trainer, with a degree in Communication Studies (Broadcast and Electronic Media) and an MA in Applied Linguistics and English Language Teaching from King’s College London.
Fascinated by the interplay between culture, language and thought, Chia is also an intercultural skills trainer and materials developer, and is now based in York.
She is also the voice of @ETprofessional on Twitter. You can find out more about her on her blogsite www.chiasuanchong.com