Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity for educators to develop students’ social and emotional skills by assigning activities that build empathy, strengthen interpersonal relationships, and help students understand their own emotions.
Classroom discussions are ideal activities for practicing key social-emotional competencies as outlined in the CASEL framework. By discussing issues related to emotions and relationships within an inclusive, respectful environment, students can develop self-awareness, social awareness, and responsible decision-making.
With all that in mind, we’ve compiled this list of ready-to-go discussion resources from our Topic Library to help you cultivate social-emotional learning skills with your students!
Debate topics on celebrating Valentine’s Day
These discussion activities encourage students to critically engage with the celebration of Valentine’s Day. They could serve as quick warm-up activities to boost motivation or progress into deeper conversations about cultural norms and values.
Should we celebrate Valentine’s Day in school?
Engage students in a conversation about the potential benefits or challenges of celebrating Valentine’s Day in schools with this discussion activity. Students can consider the emotional impact that school-wide celebrations might have on those who don’t enjoy the holiday, weighing that against Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to discuss peer pressure, healthy relationships, and even school policy!
Should we celebrate Valentine’s Day?
Your students might all agree on whether Valentine’s Day should or shouldn’t be celebrated in school — but what about whether it should be celebrated at all?
This discussion prompts students to think about the cultural institution of Valentine’s Day and how it relates to wider society. Does the holiday emphasize romantic relationships over friendship? Or is it simply a fun celebration of love in all its forms? You could extend this activity to further develop students’ cultural competency by having them research different romantic holiday traditions around the world.
Debate topics on cultivating positive relationships with others
Relationship skills are a central component of students’ social-emotional development — and Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to focus on these skills! Dig into key themes around interpersonal relationships with these discussion topics.
Do people need friends to be happy?
Explore the role of friendship in fostering emotional well-being with this discussion on whether people need friends to be happy. Students can consider the benefits and challenges of friendship and the importance of maintaining healthy relationships.
You could extend this with a writing activity about how an experience with friendship impacted students’ happiness — positively or negatively — in the past.
Should we always forgive others?
Put the question of whether we should always forgive others to students and encourage them to think of anecdotes and examples that shed light on the consequences and complexities of forgiving someone. This discussion topic might seem straightforward, but it has the potential to turn your classroom into a philosophical symposium!
Emphasize the role that forgiveness can play in resolving conflicts constructively. You could pair this with a creative exercise in which students craft skits, make comic strips, or even produce short videos illustrating how forgiveness can work to repair relationships.
Parents, teachers, and experts are likely to have strong opinions about how social media is influencing how young people socialize. But students themselves are sure to have something to say about it too!
Explore the important topic of the impact of social media with students by discussing whether it is making all of us less social. This activity prompts students to think about how they can make responsible decisions around their own use of technology, as well as encompassing wider social questions about the influence of large corporations on our behavior.
What is the best way to break up with somebody?
Effective communication is a core component of building healthy relationships. This discussion asks students to compare different ways of breaking up with somebody.
Cultivate empathy skills by encouraging students to consider both their own and another person’s emotions in this situation. If you’d rather not discuss a hypothetical romantic situation with your students, you could edit this Topic Template so that students can debate the best way of delivering a different form of difficult news: For example, one friend informing another that they can’t attend their birthday party.
Debate topics to develop awareness of and empathy for different identities, experiences, and perspectives
The popular aesthetic surrounding Valentine’s Day can sometimes reinforce stereotypical social norms around gender, love, and relationships. Why not use the holiday as an opportunity to explore a more inclusive understanding of people’s diverse experiences and identities with these discussion activities?
Should stores separate toys by gender?
Guide students to think about how social norms influence gender identity with this discussion on whether toys should be separated by gender. Students can examine their own preconceptions around which toys are considered “boys’ toys” and which are “girls’ toys.” You can also extend this activity into a discussion about the role of large companies in shaping our preferences by discussing whether advertising should even be allowed to target children at all.
Should there be single-gender schools?
Students can further explore the ways people might have different experiences growing up by debating the advantages and disadvantages of single-gender schools. To demonstrate students’ collaborative abilities, why not organize them into groups and have them craft arguments either for or against the central thesis?
Is it good to make your beliefs a part of your identity?
Adolescence is a time when students are navigating their own identities, deciding who they are and what they believe. This discussion asks students to consider whether making their beliefs a part of their identity is a good idea, or whether it is preferable to ground our identity in personal qualities and experiences.
This activity focuses on students’ self-awareness by encouraging them to think about how their personal and social identities differ. You can also use it to help foster metacognition and a growth mindset, by having students reflect on times when their beliefs have changed in the past.
Debate topics to demonstrate an understanding of our own emotions by analyzing relationships in literature
Literature can both help us understand our own emotions and cultivate our sense of empathy towards others, by encouraging comparison and identification with events on the page. These literature discussion topics encourage students to consider different perspectives to deepen their understanding of both themselves and the world.
Are fairy tales good for children?
Celebrations of Valentine’s Day often paint a picture of romantic love that resembles a fairy tale! Fairy tales spark the imagination, but they also often contain stereotypical characters and unrealistic depictions of relationships. This discussion asks students to debate whether fairy tales are good for children.
Students of all ages can use this discussion to explore how the stories they grew up with have influenced them. Younger students can develop self-awareness by relating their own lives to the experiences of fairy tale characters. For older students, task them with critically examining the social messages embedded in fairy tales — as an extension, have them come up with alternative versions that are more in line with their values.
Were Romeo and Juliet really in love?
Romeo and Juliet are perhaps the most famous romantic couple in Western literature — and their story will be many students’ introduction to the works of William Shakespeare. Make this sometimes challenging tale of star-crossed lovers more relatable to students by having them compare it to their own teenage experiences: Discuss whether Romeo and Juliet were really in love.
Is Jane Eyre a feminist novel?
There is little doubt that all three Brontë sisters broke new ground for women in the world of fiction. But should Charlotte Brontë Gothic masterpiece Jane Eyre be considered a feminist novel?
Encourage students to consider how literature both reflects and shapes societal views of gender roles with this discussion.
You can hold a similar discussion on if Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God advances a feminist worldview. Identity in Hurston’s book is even more complex, dealing as it does with the intersection of gender, race, and class in the Jim Crow South — making this a great resource for Black History Month!
Is John Donne’s “The Flea” a misogynist poem?
This discussion is suitable for older literature students. John Donne’s extended metaphor for romantic intimacy in “The Flea” is certainly inventive, but does it reinforce sexist stereotypes — or subtly undermine them?
Students can analyze the poem in light of contemporary ideas about gender dynamics, sexuality, and consent. Consider extending this activity by having students write a response from the perspective of the speaker’s lover in the poem.
We hope you’ve found some Valentine’s Day inspiration in this list of discussion topics. We’ve got loads more discussion activities on the theme of social-emotional learning over at our Topic Library for you to choose from — or feel free to create your own! If you have any questions, suggestions, or Valentine’s Day messages, reach out to us at email@example.com or on social media. Happy Valentine’s Day!