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Valentine’s Day Teaching Resources

Flowers, candy, and cards decorated with hearts are used by many to express love to that special someone.  The day offers many fun and creative ways to teach about friendships, poetry and prose, marriage, and relationships.

History of Valentine’s Day

Despite flowers being the number one gift given on Valentine’s Day, the holiday’s origin is not so rosy. 

The real Valentine

The most noted theory about how Valentine’s Day began, is rooted in Ancient Rome.  In the third century CE, the Roman emperor Claudius II wanted to develop a fierce team of young men to be soldiers in his legions.  It was his belief that when young men are in love, this makes them weak.  Naturally, a man with a wife and children tended to be more cautious in how he fought on the battlefield.  So, Claudius outlawed marriage for young men serving in the Roman armies.

Well, not everyone or everything can be commanded by an emperor.  As Claudius found out, he could outlaw love, but he could not stop it.  Young men and women still fell in love and wanted to marry.  A brave Christian priest named Valentine, who thought the law was horribly unjust, risked his life to perform the banned wedding ceremonies in secret.

News of Valentine’s clandestine ceremonies made its way back to the emperor.  The cleric was arrested, and while in prison, Valentine sent a love letter to a young woman — possibly his jailor’s daughter — who visited him during his imprisonment.  He allegedly signed it “From your Valentine”, hence the expression.  He was executed soon afterward.  Centuries later, when the Roman Catholic Church made the kindly priest a saint, St. Valentine’s feast day — February 14 — was chosen because it was the day he was put to death.

Literature of love

It wasn’t until almost 1,000 years later that the first known Valentine’s Day poem was written.  It also was penned by a prisoner, and was sent from the Tower of London to the prisoner’s wife in 1415.

My very gentle Valentine,

Since for me you were born too soon,

And I for you was born too late.

God forgives him who has estranged

Me from you for the whole year.

I am already sick of love,

My very gentle Valentine.

Well, not the most remarkable of poems, but it’s good for a first effort.

Everyone is familiar with Shakespeare’s love sonnets, most notably number 18 which starts out famously: 

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

And there’s Scotland’s remarkable bard Robert Burns: 

O my Luve is like a red, red rose

   That’s newly sprung in June;

O my Luve is like the melody

   That’s sweetly played in tune.

So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,

   So deep in luve am I;

And I will luve thee still, my dear,

   Till a’ the seas gang dry.

And then there are the first love poems written by school kids:

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Faces like yours

Belong in the zoo

The economics of true love

In the 21st century, greeting card companies each year produce over a billion cards of love and affection just for St. Valentine’s Day.  The impact that Valentine’s Day has on the U.S. economy is stunning.  In 2019, more than $20.7 billion was spent on the holiday.  It’s thought the most expensive Valentine’s Day gift ever purchased is a heart shaped 1001 Nights Diamond Purse.  Decorated with over 4500 yellow, pink and transparent diamonds totalling 38,192 carats, the retail value of the gift is a gobsmacking $3.8 million.

Valentine’s Day symbols

  • Red Roses: the most popular flower of Valentine’s Day, this enduring symbol of passion, beauty, and love has the power to impress anyone when a dozen of the long-stemmed variety are wrapped in a large bouquet.  An ancient Roman legend has it that a beautiful maiden, Rodanthe, locked herself indoors while being pursued by overzealous suitors. When they eventually broke down her door, an enraged goddess Diana changed Rodanthe into a beautiful red rose and turned the suitors into thorns.
  • Cupid: He was the son of Venus (goddess of love) and Mercury (the winged messenger of the gods).  This mischievous little god carried around a quiver of arrows tipped with love potion.  Anyone struck by one of Cupid’s arrows would fall in love with the first person they saw.
  • Chocolates: Since ancient times, chocolates have been associated with sensuality and fertility.  This is perhaps because when eaten, chocolate stimulates the production of a hormone that is similar to the chemical produced when a person is in love.

Valentine’s Day Around the World

Although Valentine’s Day started as a Catholic feast day, the saint’s death and the tradition of love that he exemplified is celebrated worldwide by people of many faiths.  People send cards, flowers, and candy in many countries.

  • In the Philippines, Valentine’s Day is the time when many young couples marry in an event sponsored by the government as a form of public service
  • In Ghana, February 14 is celebrated as “National Chocolate Day”.  The Ghana government established this day in 2007 to increase tourism in the country, as Ghana is among the largest cocoa-producing countries in the world.
  • In Bulgaria on February 14, the “day of winemakers” (San Trifon Zartan) is celebrated.  Young and old couples celebrate their love with a glass of local wine.
  • In Denmark, Valentine’s Day is not limited to roses and chocolates. Friends and lovers exchange handmade cards with pressed white flowers that are called snowdrops
  • In Estonia, February 14 is celebrated as a friendship day known as Sobrapaev. This festival includes everyone, from couples to singles
  • In Japan on February 14, women buy gifts and chocolates for their male companions.  Men can’t return gifts until March 14, which is called the “white day”.
  • In England on Valentine’s Day, women used to place five bay leaves on their pillows.  It was believed this would bring them dreams of their future husbands.

In Slovenia, St. Valentine is a patron saint of spring.  It’s thought that on February 14, plants start to regenerate.  This day marks the first day of working in the fields for the New Year.  Slovenians also believe that birds ‘propose’ to each other on this day, and to witness this occasion, one must walk barefoot through the frozen fields.

Resources for Teaching about and around Valentine’s Day

Help Teaching has many fun educational resources which use the holiday to teach math and English.

Worksheets

 KidsKonnect.com has Valentine’s Day Facts and Worksheets, and check out these free resources from BusyTeacher.org:

Lesson plans

Videos

Image source

Black History Month Reading List – 30 Titles for Grades K-12

Black History Month Reading List - 30 Titles for Grades K-12
While African-American authors hold their own in the literary world, Black History Month gives you a chance to highlight some of the most celebrated African-American authors and their literary achievements. While some of their works highlight the rich history and achievements of African-Americans, others simply bring a new perspective to common themes and story lines. To help you determine what books to include in your classroom, we’ve compiled a list of some great works and accompanying worksheets to share with students during Black History Month.

Kindergarten – 2nd grade

At this level, focus on poems and picture books. It’s never too early to introduce children to the poetry of one of the most well-known African-American poets, Langston Hughes, or newer poets such as Nikki Giovanni. Start with a few of these texts:

  • April Rain Song by Langton Hughes (worksheet)
  • Covers by Nikki Giovanni (worksheet)
  • Laughing Boy by Richard Wright (worksheet)
  • The Flower Garden by Eve Bunting (worksheet)
  • The Hat that Wore Clara B. by Melanie Turner-Denstaedt (worksheet)
  • Ruby and the Booker Boys by Derrick Barnes (worksheet)

3rd grade – 5th grade

Kids in upper elementary school can start to read short biographies of famous African-Americans. They will also appreciate short stories and novels that focus on African-American history and start to subtly tackle controversial issues. Consider some of the following pieces:

  • Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (worksheet)
  • Hip Hop Speaks to Children by Nikki Giovanni
  • Mariah Keeps Cool by Mildred Walter (worksheet)
  • Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe (worksheet)
  • The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles (worksheet)
  • Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs Series by Sharon Draper (worksheet)

6th grade – 8th grade

In middle school, as kids begin to work out their own identities, they begin to resonate with the stories of others seeking to find themselves. At this stage, introduce them to novels, poems and informational texts that feature issues they can relate to and that help expand their worldview. Great works to begin with include:

  • The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton (worksheet)
  • Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson (worksheet)
  • Fast Sam, Cool Clyde and Stuff by Walter Dean Myers (worksheet)
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred D. Taylor (worksheet)
  • Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis (worksheet)
  • Hoops by Walter Dean Myers (worksheet)

9th grade – 10th grade

At this level, students still want texts they can relate to, but they can also begin to understand deeper stories of race and identity. Introduce them to a variety of texts, including:

  • I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr. (worksheet)
  • I, Too, Sing America by Langston Hughes (worksheet)
  • Hazelwood High Trilogy by Sharon Draper (worksheet)
  • Romiette and Julio by Sharon Draper (worksheet)
  • Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers (worksheet)
  • Ain’t I a Woman by Sojourner Truth (worksheet)

11th grade – 12th grade

In the upper-levels of high school, teens can start to tackle major historical movements and controversial issues such as racism. This is the time to introduce them to poems, novels and informational texts with deep messages about African-American history and the overall African-American experience. A few selections include:

  • The Color of Water by James McBride (worksheet)
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (worksheet)
  • Native Son by Richard Wright (worksheet)
  • Roots by Alex Haley (worksheet)
  • A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (worksheet)
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley and Malcolm X (worksheet)

Of course, our selections only represent a small group of the wonderful books out there. Check out some of these resources to find more books to read during Black History Month.

Consider using the works above or any works by African-American authors as part of an African American Read-In. Members of the National Council of Teachers of English’s Black Caucus have encouraged educators to hold a special read-in to highlight works of African-American authors during Black History Month. Enjoy a read-in with your class or get the whole school, and even students’ parents, involved.

Have a favorite book, poem, or other African-American text of your own? Share it in the comments below!

What’s New at HelpTeaching.com for Fall 2016

What's New at HelpTeaching.com for Fall 2016
This summer, while you were on vacation, spending time with your kids, and prepping for the new school year, our content creators at HelpTeaching.com were busy creating exciting new resources in all of the major subject areas. Our new offerings range from NGSS-aligned reading passages for grades K-2 to self-paced math and science lessons for higher grades. Read on to discover some of the new features on our site.

English/Language Arts

Grade-Level Spelling Lists

We’ve added grade-level spelling lists from grades K-5. Each grade features 30 individual spelling lists with 10 words each (5 words each for kindergarten). The lists were compiled using Dolch sight words, Fry words, Tier II words, and Marzano’s subject-area words for each grade-level. Each list is accompanied by a word search and 1-2 additional worksheets.

Writing Prompts and Worksheets

Our writing page has been expanded to include writing prompts for all grade-levels through grades K-12. Prompts are organized by grade-level (grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12) and type of essay (opinion/persuasive, informative/explanatory, and narrative).

Also, on the writing page, you’ll find weekly writing worksheets for grades K-2 and grades 3-5. Each worksheet features 5 short writing prompts related to a common theme (for example, students may write about the town they live in) for the week. You can use these prompts as bell ringers, short journal prompts, or homework assignments to encourage students to write every day.

For something a little more fun, you can also check out our collection of “Would You Rather?” prompts for students. These prompts feature funny scenarios that encourage students spark discussion, inspire creative thinking, and give students something fun to write about about. Some questions include:

  • Would you rather only eat pizza for the rest of your life or never eat pizza again?
  • Would you rather wear socks without shoes or wear swim flippers everywhere?
  • Would you rather use an old-fashioned phone or never talk on the phone again?

Prefix and Suffix Lessons

On our vocabulary page, you’ll find worksheets that cover the most-common prefixes and suffixes in the English language. You can also find short self-paced lessons related to each of the worksheets.

New Grammar Resources

If you’re looking for ways to help students boost their grammar skills, look no further than our daily grammar worksheets. These worksheets are designed to help students in upper-elementary and middle school learn to identify and correct common errors related to grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Worksheets are labeled by passage topic. You’ll find worksheets about celebrities, historical events, sports, and other high-interest topics. For example, check out this daily grammar activity related to the former capital of the U.S.

We’ve also re-organized our grammar page by part of speech and skill to make it easier to find the content that you need. Worksheets are also organized by grade-level within each part of speech or skill.

NGSS-Aligned Reading Passages

Our ELA and science areas have come together to develop NGSS-aligned reading passages. This summer, we added a set of kindergarten reading passages and questions. Teachers can read these passages aloud in the classroom and ask students the questions or send them home with students to help reinforce NGSS content outside of the classroom. Keep watching our site throughout the fall and winter for NGSS passages for other grade-levels.

Coming Soon!

The work started on our ELA content this summer is far from over. Stay-tuned this fall and winter as we add:

  • Research worksheets
  • More daily grammar worksheets
  • Phonics worksheets
  • Self-paced writing lessons
  • Worksheets related to popular books

Math

Self-Paced Math Lessons

We’ve grown our library of high school algebra lessons this summer! Each lesson includes a topic overview, Help Teaching original video lesson, and practice questions. Use these self-paced, online lessons with your classroom math curriculum or supplement your child’s math instruction at home. With Test Room, assigning lessons and tracking student progress couldn’t be easier! Get started with our new lessons on Solving for Variables or Polynomials 101.

Daily Math Practice Worksheets

Supplement your lower elementary curriculum and reinforce essential math skills with our new daily math practice worksheets. Each week features a two-page worksheet designed for front-to-back printing while providing space for student work. Use the four days of math problems for morning work or weeknight homework. Separate fifth day quizzes are included for optional progress monitoring. Worksheets are Common Core aligned and offer spiral review of previously covered standards. Try Week 1 for kindergarten or grade 1 and check our elementary math page frequently as more weeks are coming this fall!

Science

Self-Paced Science Lessons

New physics and chemistry video lessons are here! We have updated many of our high school science lessons with Help Teaching original videos and added entirely new lessons. Whether you are a teacher looking for high-quality content to supplement your science instruction or a high school student looking to learn more on a topic, our self-directed lessons can help. Check out our lessons on Kinetic Molecular Theory and Resistance and Ohm’s Law as a starting point, then visit our science lesson page for more!

NGSS-Aligned Content

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) provide a progression of crosscutting concepts, practices, and core ideas for today’s science students. Here at Help Teaching, we have begun adding NGSS aligned content including lessons, worksheets, and assessment questions. If you are looking to supplement your science curriculum with NGSS aligned content, then check our lessons, including:  Why Does the Sun Look So Bright?, Introduction to Biogeology, and Wave Speed. NGSS worksheets like Sorting Materials By Properties,  Push and Pull Reading Passage, and Earth Event Timescales are noted with (NGSS) in their link names and standard alignment is provided. Search for NGSS questions to see all content available and to create your own custom assessments. Look for more new NGSS content at HelpTeaching.com during the upcoming school year!

Subscribe to the Help Teaching newsletter on our homepage to stay up-to-date with all new lessons, worksheets, articles, and features. Be sure to use our seasons worksheets for back-to-school and fall to help kickoff this new school year!

How to Design a Good Test

Putting together a challenging yet fair test for your students is a difficult task for even the most experienced teacher. So many variables go into choosing the format, creating the questions, and locating the appropriate maps, charts, passages, and documents that some very basic, but very important, factors often go forgotten. Until now…

1)    Give the students confidence right away.

The first question of your test should be relatively easy. The students with test anxiety and those who are unsure of their knowledge will feel their confidence buoyed from getting the first question correct.

2)    Mix it up…

Each test can and should have a mixture of question types. Earlier grades should have a mixture of multiple choice, true/false, and others. Upper grades should blend multiple choice questions, questions with documents, and short answer questions. You can utilize our Free Test Maker to come up with questions for all K-12 subjects.

3)    …But the format within those question types should remain consistent.

For example, all of the multiple choice questions on your test should have the same amount of choices.

4)    Be chrono-logical.

Students will often recall your lessons and classwork while taking the test. Putting your test questions in the order in which you taught the unit will allow them to cycle through the unit in their mind and hopefully jog their memory.

5)    Search to the ends of the earth for a good question.

Whatever your state assessments may be, there are past tests out there for you to peruse and use.  Find similar assessments from around the country and use their questions. Have a skill that you would like to reinforce on your test? Do an image search for the perfect picture, graph, or chart and create a question around the document. Websites such as HelpTeaching.com give you the ability to create tests from user created content from teachers just like you.

6)    Timing is everything.

It’s better to have your weakest student finish early than to have them not finish at all. Don’t try to pack too many questions into one class period. If there is just too much information to limit the amount of questions, spread out your test over two days, or change your assessment to an essay. Written assignments allow you to assess greater amount of content in one overriding question instead of 25 smaller questions. If you are afraid your higher level students will finish too early or will not be sufficiently challenged, prepare a secondary assignment those who finish early can complete in class and those who do not can finish at home.

Test or quiz creation can be a difficult task. A poorly created test can make an well prepared unit finish with a crushing thud, forcing you wait a whole year to rectify those mistakes. Follow the tips above for a smoother testing period. Good luck!

My next post will focus on customizing your tests using the features on HelpTeaching.com.

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