3 ESL Valentine’s Day Activities (Compare/Contrast Focus)

Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is a part of American culture. If you’re teaching ESL in America, your students will want to learn about it.

At the moment, I’m teaching compare/contrast essays in my writing class, so the following activities combine information about Valentine’s Day with language for compare/contrast. However, you can adapt most of these ideas for different units and subject areas.

1. Compare Valentine’s Day with White Day (or other holidays)

White Day is a holiday celebrated in some East Asian countries, including Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. I found a nice comparison article on the two holidays at Diffen. (You might want to modify it for your class since the grammar/vocabulary is difficult in places.)

One key skill for compare/contrast writing is finding and choosing the points of comparison between the two subjects. So for this article, you can ask students to find the points of comparison that the author of the article chose.

Some potential answers:

  • date
  • origin
  • countries where it’s celebrated
  • gift givers
  • customs

2. Read Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130

Shakespeare can seem daunting even for native speakers of English, but Sonnet 130 is short and fairly simple. With a little help, an intermediate ESL class can get through it (and then brag to their friends and family that they read Shakespeare!).

Sonnet 130 is great for compare/contrast. In fact, that’s what Shakespeare is doing throughout the entire poem. I made a worksheet that has the poem with some vocabulary defined, as well as instructions to get the students to notice this language. Go over the language then help students to understand the point of the poem (making exaggerated comparisons isn’t as important as truly loving someone). If your class needs another challenge, you could ask them to memorize and recite it!

If you want more, another comparison love sonnet is number 18, although I think it’s a little bit more difficult to get the gist of.

3. Make Valentines

Remember trying to pick the right bit of colored cardboard for the right person in your elementary school class?Most adult ESL students never got to do that! So give them the chance.

I got the three boxes of Valentines above for $3 at Dollar General. If you’ve got time and a crafty class, you can let them make their own.

Explain the concept of giving Valentines if they don’t already know. Stress that this is a custom in American schools and you can give these kinds of Valentines to people you’re not necessarily in love with, like classmates and teachers. It helps that most of the store-bought Valentines have pretty neutral messages on them.

Even this can be made into a compare/contrast exercise. Tell your class that they have to write a Valentine to someone using a comparative adjective or a comparison phrase. Give them some examples:

  • You’re cooler than the refrigerator!
  • You’re more intelligent than Albert Einstein!
  • You are as sweet as sugar!

Valentines are usually tiny, so they can’t write a lot. If you want them to write more, give them 3 or 4!

Happy Valentines Day!

I hope everyone enjoys today with their classes. Below are two more resources if you’re still looking for something:

Thanks for reading.


Featured Image Credit: Swallowtail Garden Seeds

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