Six original topical teaching ideas for February

Photo from Morguefile.comTo help get you through the winter blues and those cold February classes, try one of these ideas this month!

1. Teach your students about Black History Month. Many teachers have probably overdosed on Obamamania with their students already (studying the victory speech, talking about the election etc) but you could use this month to look at other famous black and white people from American history that put Obama’s victory in historical context.  February 4 is the birth anniversary of Rosa Parks. February 12 is Lincoln’s birthday. February 22 is the anniversary of the Montgomery Boycott Arrests.  Any one of these could be a good subject for a reading, as during the Obama presidency people will begin to hear more references to the American Civil Rights movement than before.

2. Talk up the Credit Crunch! The world’s financial woes are the perfect fodder for your lessons on money. It’s beginning to spread to Hollywood too, with a new movie The International that focuses on the big banks as the enemy in a thriller (starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts, looks very ho-hum) . Some ideas for conversation questions about money here. Plus keep an eye out for the February Learning English section of the Guardian Weekly, I’ve got a column there on credit crunch class ideas.

3. Do some drama! It’s Carnival time, so a good excuse to pull out some drama activities. I mentioned in an earlier post  that Ken Wilson has a whole book of these out now. I also find that the following site has lots of potential inspiration for English classes. I really must do a top six favourite drama activities – they are so much fun.

4. Celebrate the Superbowl! For anyone outside the U.S. you may be forgiven for NOT knowing that February 1st is the 43rd Superbowl of American football between the Steelers and the Cardinals. Use this event to talk about sports, to teach sports idioms or expressions relating to football (quarterback, sack, scrimmage etc). Sounds unbearably dull? Remember that during each Superbowl there are premium advertisements, these are usually going to be the best the American advertising industry can muster and are sometimes hilarious. Do a youtube search for top ten superbowl commercials to find them. If you don’t believe me, look at the 2008 ones here

5. Read some Dickens! February 7 is Charles Dickens’ birthday. Find an excerpt from one of his books to do with students. Yeah, you may think that reading and understanding a piece of Great Expectations or Tale of Two Cities sounds boring and old-fashioned but you’d be surprised how many adult students might find it motivating. 

6. Study superstitions! This month has a Friday the 13th. Use this to talk about superstitions in various countries and cultures. I was looking for a good internet page on superstitions but the Wikipedia one seemed disputed. You can try this one for some material but I’m not sure how good it is. A side note: they are rereleasing the film Friday the 13th (the original) this month too. This is what is called a “series reboot” in the film industry and could be the topic of a different class on films.

Of course, the big language class favourite this month will undoubtedly be Valentine’s Day. I leave that for others to “do” on the web… plus I get the feeling that most teachers have their own tried (tired?) and true activities for this special day. 

Have a good month! The school year is half-over and spring is here soon!

Published in: on January 31, 2009 at 3:24 pm  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hey Lindsay!

    It’s been a while since my last comment. Been really busy lately working on other projects.
    I have a couple of ideas that you might find useful to teach.
    * Feb 4th – World Cancer Day

    * Feb 21st – International Mother Language Day (Great idea to promote multiculturalism and celebrate one’s own language)

    and the last one is not exactly a holiday but I believe it is a superb topic for teaching in class – the Oscar (feb 22nd)


    • Thanks! You’ve got some good addition ideas there. Of course the Oscars always provide good fodder for classes. They may deserve a six all of their own closer to the date!

  2. To go with item 2, for teachers teaching with technology, supportive presentations you can download:


  3. I’ve seen some really good Dickens stuff on CD/DVD – a sort of combined graded reader and interactive worksheet thingy. It’s great stuff if you have a projector (NOT an OHP – a modern one!) in your classroom, ás there are some fine graphics too.

    I only wish I could remember the neame of the publisher, though…!

  4. Dickens – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” – the lesson is obvious, but extend it to “My best time, My worst time.”
    Oscar speeches – 0h my God! – and how they can be improved. And the links – how to introduce and hand over to another speaker – great for BE.
    Oscar interviews – what would YOU ask – please not, “And how do you feel right now?” Alternatively, how to ANSWER that question in the most original way. Practise in pairs and record! Grand!

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