There are several ways to incorporate Valentine’s Day in your secondary ELA classroom, from teaching love poems to speed dating books. The best part? These tips and activities are meaningful and engaging ways to embrace all the love in the air.
Looking for ways to incorporate Valentine’s Day in Secondary ELA? You’ve come to the right place, my teacher friend.
I’m all for finding fun yet effective ways to weave holidays into the secondary ELA classroom. And, yes, that includes mushy gushy Valentine’s Day. Besides, what better way to brighten up the short, dark winter days than with a little love?
I know. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that acknowledging holidays in the classroom is exclusive to the elementary level. Who says secondary students (and teachers) can’t have a little fun, too? We might not have space in the curriculum for making valentines and throwing parties, but we can find meaningful ways to incorporate Valentine’s Day into the secondary ELA classroom.
Whether you’re looking for something cheesy, romantic, or cynical, you will find some inspiration below.
Poems for Teaching About Love
What’s more classic cupid than a love poem? Teaching love poems is the perfect way to incorporate Valentine’s Day into your classroom. Not only does it provide an opportunity to review various literary devices, but you can also find ways to tie in any poetry-related standards or competencies.
Here are some of my favorite love poems to use with secondary students.
1. “Sonnet 18” by William Shakespeare
Of course, I had to kick off the list with a classic. What’s more classic than Shakespeare’s opening question, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” I love using this sonnet since it’s far more straightforward than other classic poems. While students unpack the speaker’s comparison of their love to the summer season, it’s the perfect opportunity to teach poetic structure and elements such as iamb, repetition, and anaphora.
2. “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe
Your students will be surprised to hear the words Poe and love in the same sentence, making this poem all the more fun to read. Of course, the poem has a rather somber tone in classic Poe fashion. The speaker, still distraught in the wake of his lover’s death years after she is gone, speaks to the eternal nature of love. With that, it’s always fun to ask students if they think this is a beautiful or tragic love poem. Additionally, this poem is a great chance to teach rhyme scheme, hyperbole, imagery, personification, and symbolism.
3. “To My Dear and Loving Husband” by Anne Bradstreet
Despite being published in 1678, Bradstreet’s classic love poem is reasonably accessible to students. And, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, that can’t be said for all classic love poems. Despite using “old language,” as my students call it, Bradstreet conveys her feelings of eternal love and desire clearly in this 12-line poem. Challenging students to translate this poem into modern-day language is always fun. too.
4. “Ode to My Socks” by Pablo Neruda
This is not your average love poem, and perhaps that’s why students always get a kick out of it. It is, in fact, a man’s profession of love for his socks. Neruda’s ode is full of hyperbole, imagery, metaphors, and all sorts of well-crafted figurative language. Your students will have fun unpacking this obnoxious “love letter” to a pair of wool socks. For extra fun, have students follow up by writing a silly and hyperbole-filled ode of their own! Inspire them with a few ideas, like a cell phone, air pods, coffee, or TikTok, and watch the poetry-writing floodgates open.
5. “Scaffolding” by Seamus Heaney
I love this poem for its simple yet powerful message of what it takes to build a strong relationship that stands the test of time. Heaney’s poem is an excellent example of an extended metaphor as he compares a successful relationship to constructing a building. “Scaffolding” beautifully relays a rather straightforward message, showcasing that poetry doesn’t have to be as convoluted and complicated as many students believe.
More Poems About Love
- “Sonnet 130” by William Shakespeare
- “How Do I Love Thee” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
- “I Am Not Yours” by Sara Teasdale
- “Red, Red Rose” by Robert Burns
- “Heart to Heart” by Rita Dove
- “Love and Friendship” by Emily Brontë
Other Ways to Incorporate Valentine’s Day
Looking to expand your nod to Valentine’s Day study beyond one lesson? Or perhaps you’re looking for something less predictable than a love poem?
Here is a list of my favorite ways to engage students with meaningful activities on or around Valentine’s Day.
- Analyze a Short Story. You know I’m a sucker for a good short story. There are plenty of short stories out there with the theme of love that make for the perfect read in a secondary classroom. After reading, have students analyze the love-related theme through a creative one-pager project!
- Create Blackout Poetry. Challenge students to find the love poems hidden in the preexisting text. Find everything you need to teach Blackout Poetry here.
- Channel Your Inner-Cupid. After or instead of reading and discussing love poems, have students write ones of their own! Not quite feeling the love in the air? They can always play around with writing anti-love poems instead, revealing just how powerful tone and diction are.
- Take on a Character. Instead of writing just any old love poem, challenge students to write a love poem from a character’s perspective. Gatsby to Daisy? Romeo to Juliet? Alternatively, step await from literature and let them choose a couple from movies, TV, or pop culture.
- Write a Silly Ode. This activity is inspired by Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to My Socks.” Students will get a kick out of writing a love poem to something over someone.
- Get Emotional. Love can be a hard emotion to describe. That’s where metaphors, similes, and other figurative language comes into play. Challenge students to describe an emotion of their choice using figurative language.
- Host a Book Speed-Dating Day. This activity is similar to holding a book talk or hosting a book tasting. All you need is a handful of high-interest books and a timer! This activity is especially useful if you incorporate independent reading in your classroom.
- Analyze a Love Song. The best part of this activity? It’s a way to get students thinking about poetic language without all the moans and groans the mere mention of poetry usually brings. After all, songs are just poems put to a melody, right?
A Final Word on Incorporating Valentine’s Day In The Classroom
Rather than shying away from holidays in the secondary classroom, I’m all for embracing them in meaningful and engaging ways. I hope this post can inspire you to have a little fun with your students without sacrificing valuable time or learning opportunities.
Here’s to inspiring your students with the power of love! (And perhaps even a new love and appreciation for English class.)