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Writing a Break Up Letter: An Anti-Valentine’s Day Activity for Middle and High ELA

Valentine’s Day is sure to be met with mixed emotions in your classroom. Although some of your students will look forward to February 14, others will celebrate when it’s over—in true Anti-Valentine’s Day fashion. Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate love, kindness, and friendship. Regardless of how you feel personally about the annual day of love, you can make good use of these conflicting sentiments in your classroom. Writing a break-up letter or text is a Valentine’s Day activity that all of your middle or high school ELA students will love. Here are five simple steps to implementing this successfully in your classroom.

1. What Makes a Good Break-Up Letter

To begin the activity, I like to give students this question to brainstorm as a group: What makes for a good break-up letter? You might even get students to reflect on what a good vs. bad break-up looks like in general. Not only is this useful for the assignment, but it’s also an effective way to have students reflect on their own relationships. Though not the intention, you may even find that some students quite literally use this as a real-life writing exercise to end a relationship. Yes, it has happened!

During this discussion, I like to give students the opportunity to come up with their own ideas first. Then, I share with them, in some detail, what I think are important elements to a strong break-up letter or text. Here are the five elements that I focus on at outset of this activity.

  • Be upfront about why you are writing the letter
  • Be specific
  • Try not to play the blame game
  • End on a positive note
  • Be kind

2. Learning About the Couple

If students want to use this as an opportunity to write their own break-up letters, then by all means they can! However, it is likely that most of your students will opt for a different option. To allow them to create some distance between themselves and the potentially uncomfortable task of writing a break-up letter, I tell students they can write one for a fictional couple. There are a few ways they can do this.

  • Imagined couple: For this option, students can use a fictional couple made from their own imagination.
  • Famous couple: This can be a real-life famous celebrity or cartoon couple. One student even had Mickey pen a painful letter breaking up with Minnie Mouse!
  • Couples from texts you are reading: Students can also feel free to choose couples from texts you are currently (or were previously) reading in class. Think Romeo and Juliet or Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy.

You might even decide to let your students write a break-up letter to something not having to do with human relationships. For example, your students’ break-up letters could be to things like breaking up with distance learning or their own bad habits!

Regardless of what they decide, I like to give students graphic organizers with questions that will help them develop their chosen subjects. For this, I get them to answer questions about when they met, how many years they have been together, and what each of their personalities is like. Of course, they will also need to think of the main reason for the break-up as well as who it is that wants out of this relationship!

Writing a Break Up Letter Graphic Organizer

3. Creating an Outline

Next, your students will create an outline of their Valentine’s Day break-up letter. This is where students will give structure to their ideas (i.e. introduction, body paragraph one, body paragraph two, conclusion). They should do this while keeping in mind your previous discussion on what makes for a good break-up letter.

Writing a break-up letter is not just meant to be a fun Valentine’s Day ELA activity, but also one that hopefully develops students’ writing at the same time. I find that getting students to create an outline is an effective way of making sure that they are getting the most out of the activity.

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4. Writing the Letter

Now it is time for your students to write the letter itself. I like to provide students templates for a break-up letter AND text message. Some students will opt for the modern approach, but others will stick with the more nostalgic method of communication. The content of the letter should look similar regardless of which they choose. However, having both options to choose from makes the activity more engaging and promotes student choice.

I suggest getting students to write a rough copy first and then getting them to do peer editing with another student so they can get suggestions for improvement. After these steps, they can write their good copy. Doing it this way ensures a stronger final result!

5. Break-Up Party

Close off the activity by throwing a break-up party! This is where students will have the option to share what they wrote with the rest of the class. Although writing the letter itself will be fun for students, the break-up party is likely to take the cake.

Some of these letters are sure to be quite funny, and there will likely be some students who cannot wait to read theirs out loud. Of course, there will also be some students who do not wish to read their break-up letter in front of everyone. Ask for volunteers. If you want to make this break-up party into an even better party, you can bring in some broken heart cookies for your students to enjoy.

Writing a Break Up Letter or Text

I hope you enjoy doing this fun Valentine’s Day activity with your middle and high school ELA students. If you’re interested, I discuss this and four more Valentine’s Day activities in another blog post. You can grab this ready-to-use activity by clicking here.

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Read what some teachers have had to say about using this in their classrooms:

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