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How Valentine’s Day became a learning opportunity for Zoni students

Published Korinne Algie on Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Zoni students study English through Valentine's Day friendship mixer

Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. However, few countries give the day of love as much credence as the United States. Unlike in other places, Valentine’s Day in the US is not just about romance. It is a day for being grateful for friends, family, teachers and all the people who make your life a little sweeter. It is not unusual for children to give cards to their classmates, or your grandma to send you card in the mail. Understandably, for many of our students an American Valentine’s Day is something quite different.

At Zoni, we don’t just teach our students English. Culture plays a big part in our curriculum and helps give students context and opportunity to practice what they have learned. As with many cultural events throughout the year, we ask ourselves, ‘how do we make this relevant for our students as well as ensuring it is a learning experience?’.

Valentine’s Day is one of the first cultural holidays of the year. This year we decided to host a Friendship Mixer. At a large campus like Zoni Manhattan students tend to make friends with their classmates. Of course, this is great. However, we like to encourage our students to make as many friends as they can both in and out of class. Valentine’s Day gave us the perfect opportunity to get our students involved in an American cultural activity, practice their English and make new friends.

Classes at our Manhattan campus were split into pairs. Each student drew a conversation starter (topic) or a conversation extender (questions to extend the topic beyond a single statement). Topics covered things from favourite movies right through to which celebrity they would change places with and why. Students had 5 mins to discuss each topic before the bell rang and they switched partners and topics.

Students thoroughly enjoyed the mixer. It was great to see nervous energy being turned into genuine connections and spontaneous use of English. The positive outcomes of this mixer have extended beyond the activity. Students have continued to get to know each other and friendships have been formed that otherwise may not have happened.

Ultimately, our Valentine’s Day mixer was a huge success. We will continue to build learning and social activities around cultural events and encourage our students to use English in a variety of ways.

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