I love holiday lessons.
The kids also love holiday lessons. Whenever I stand in front of the students and ask, “What holiday is it tomorrow/today” at the beginning of class. The kids all perk up because they know they are going to have a relaxed lesson full of fun.
Last year I started using a really fun and simple Valentines Day lesson that I wanted to share with you. Valentines Day is a tricky one when teaching in Japan because the kids get really really shy about love in front of their peers. However, this lesson is fun, silly, and gets the students writing “love letters” in a risk free way.
Depending on how much time I have for the lesson I omit certain activities, add others, and alter objectives. The lesson I will describe below is for a 50 minute class where I teach around 35 high school students. When I teach, I also have a Japanese Teacher of English in the room with me to assist with anything if needed.
I pass out half a heart to each student. Each half of a heart has half of a sentence on it. I tell the kids to stand up and find the other half of their broken heart. The students will know when they find their match because their heart will form a complete sentence.
I use this activity as a way to create the student “teams” for the day. If I want 6 teams of 6 students, I will have 3 students with the same left side of the heart and 3 students with the same right side of the heart. The six of them should find each other during this activity. When they have found all their team members the students sit down together. Here are some examples of the “broken hearts” below.
If I do not have a full 50 minute class I skip this activity as it takes some time and doesn’t get the students using much English.
Next I tell the students I will be showing them a short movie about love made by Disney. The students get excited (at least the girls do…). I always show “The Paperman,” which can be found and downloaded from youtube.
Next I start my powerpoint presentation that introduces Valentines Day around the world and English language love expressions. I try to make it as fun and silly as possible by making them repeat after me in exaggerated intonation and acting. The class clowns get a real kick out of it! Depending on the level of the students my JTE, Japanese Teacher of English, might help me explain the expressions in the students’ native language.
For the students’ activity I have 2 different options that I switch between depending on the type of students I have in my classes.
The first option is for a class that is super genki and not shy. I have them write a love letter using the English expressions from my powerpoint presentation. They can write the love letter from the paperman to his girlfriend or they can write a love letter from themselves to anything of their choice. For example they can write a love letter to their favorite pen or a favorite celebrity.
The second activity option is for classes that are too shy to write a love letter (It’s amazing what 17 year old Japanese students can be shy about!). Rather than teach these students love expressions in English during the powerpoint presentation, I teach them the basics of a “roses are red, violets are blue poem” and show them some easy to understand examples.
For the activity, I have the students write their own poem. If you are worried about the students being able to rhyme words with blue you can provide them with a list of words. For the more advanced classes you can have the kids think of the words themselves.
Whether I use the first activity or the second one, I usually don’t let the students take more than 10-15 minutes to write their letter or poem. I don’t expect the next great shakespearian sonnet, just something simple that gets them using something that they learned from the presentation.
For the last activity/game, I have the teams they formed in the beginning of class compete in a quiz style game. You can use any type of quiz game format that you want (Jeopardy, MarioKart etc..) and ask any type of question you want. You can ask questions about Valentines Day that you covered in your presentation or ask them questions about the grammar they are currently covering in class, whatever works for you.
I personally prefer to ask a mixture of both Valentines Day and general English grammar questions. My favorite style of quiz game for this lesson is Grudge Ball (click the link for the rules), however, I give the game a “Paperman style” twist. When they answer a question correctly, I tell the students to turn their love letter/poem into a paper airplane and throw it at a picture of the female character that I draw on the board at the front of the room. This makes the quiz game more connected to “The Paperman” theme of the class.
The kids really enjoy getting to play with paper airplanes in class. It can get quite loud and active in the classroom!
This Valentines Day lesson is always a hit with my students and JTE’s. I love using Disney and Pixar shorts in class whenever I can because they are fun for the students to watch and easy to understand. If you use any piece of this lesson, let me know how it went in the comments.
Happy Valentines Day!