History of Valentine’s Day


History of Valentine’s Day is a high-interest reading comprehension lesson that allows students to practice grade-appropriate reading comprehension, foundational reading, and reading fluency skills. These reading comprehension lessons are designed to be completed in one or two class settings.

Each lesson discusses a subject that students want to read about and that teachers will want to incorporate into their reading instruction. The lesson is appropriate as a whole-class, stand-alone lesson or as an independent small-group activity. Be sure to watch the Learn Bright video that goes with this lesson!

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What our History of Valentine’s Day lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: History of Valentine’s Day is a high-interest reading comprehension lesson plan. As such, students will practice various close reading and comprehension skills. In addition, they will discover the origins of this popular holiday. This lesson is for students in 3rd grade, 4th grade, and 5th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand.

Teacher Notes

The paragraph on this page gives you a little more information on the lesson overall and describes what you may want to focus your teaching on. It explains that you can teach this lesson in a whole-class setting or as an independent, small-group activity. The blank lines are available for you to write out any thoughts or ideas you have as you prepare.


Saint Valentine

The History of Valentine’s Day lesson plan contains three content pages. Which holiday is celebrated every February 14th and includes candy-shaped hearts and decorative cards? It’s Valentine’s Day, of course! In the past, you have probably celebrated this great holiday before and given or gotten a valentine. Maybe your best friend shared candy-shaped hearts, cupcakes, and chocolates with you. Maybe your class had a party to celebrate! But have you ever wondered how Valentine’s Day started?

There is a lot of mystery surrounding Valentine’s Day. Historians think it began over 4,000 years ago in ancient Rome at the end of the fifth century BCE. That’s a long time ago! The first mystery involves who the holiday is named for—who was St. Valentine? There were a lot of people back then with Valentine as their last name. Luckily, historians have narrowed it down to a few possibilities.

One legend is that the holiday is named after a priest in third-century Rome. At the time, Roman Emperor Claudius II decided that married men with families should not serve in the Roman military. So, he made doing so against the law. The priest thought this was unfair.

In protest of the law, Valentine performed secret wedding ceremonies for young single soldiers who wanted to get married. When Claudius found out, he had Valentine arrested and then beheaded for not following his order. Around the same time, Claudius beheaded a Catholic bishop, Saint Valentine of Terni, for doing the same thing—performing illegal weddings. But it is still not clear which Valentine the holiday is named after.

Other Legends

Another legend is that a man named Valentine was killed for helping Christian prisoners in Roman jails. Romans were not huge fans of Christians because they thought they were trying to overthrow the government and stir up trouble. Roman soldiers rounded up suspected Christians, threw them into dark and dank prisons, and tortured or killed them for their beliefs.

In this legend, Valentine was imprisoned along with the Christians. While awaiting judgment, he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter, who was helping out around the prison. The legend says that Valentine sent messages to her. Before his death, he signed his last letter, “From your Valentine.” Nearly all valentines these days have that written on them! At the end of the fifth century, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day in his honor.

People continued to celebrate Valentine’s Day during the Middle Ages, but its beginnings were still murky. This is when the holiday became associated with love, which was a big change from earlier times. In fourteenth-century France and England, February 14 was seen as the beginning of the birds’ mating season. In 1375, English poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote, “For this was sent on Saint Valentine’s Day when every fowl come here to choose his mate,” in a poem. Some historians credit Chaucer with starting the tradition of Valentine’s Day as a romantic holiday.

Valentine’s greetings were part of the popular culture of the 1400s. Like the other legends surrounding the holiday, historians debate about the origin of the first written valentine. In 1415, a Frenchman named Charles, Duke of Orléans, was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was held as a war prisoner in England for 25 years. At some point during that time, he wrote a love poem to his wife, not knowing whether he would be executed or freed. However, some evidence suggests he wrote this poem after he was released, not while he was there.

Popularity of Valentine’s Day

In the 1700s and 1800s, Americans communicated with hand-delivered or mailed letters. It’s easy to imagine how sending notes became part of the Valentine’s tradition. It became common for friends to exchange tokens of friendship or love in handwritten notes on February 14. The invention of the printing press allowed people to use printed cards instead of writing them by hand. The first mass-produced printed cards appeared in 1840.

An artist named Esther Howland saw an opportunity to sell valentines and started a company to produce them. She began the small company in her family home, employing young girls to help glue lace to her hand-designed creations. Howland became known as the “Mother of the American Valentine.” In 1882, she sold her company to the Whitney Company, making it the world’s largest manufacturer of Valentine’s Day cards at that time.

Valentine’s Day has grown in popularity since its earliest beginnings. Today, it is one of the most popular holidays in the world. Companies sell more than 145 million valentines annually. Along with cards, candy is a very popular gift. Cadbury Company created the first heart-shaped chocolates in 1861. More than 36 million boxes of chocolate heart-shaped candy are sold each year! Do you like those candy-shaped hearts with messages on them? Conversation hearts were first produced in 1866. Today, companies around the world make 8 billion candies yearly. Flowers are popular as well. Rose farmers grow around 250 million roses every year for people to give away!

Over the centuries, Valentine’s Day has meant different things to different people. For some, it started as a religious tradition celebrating the life of Saint Valentine. For others, the holiday is used to express their love for someone. And some see the holiday as a gimmick to spend more money. What hasn’t changed is the core message of spreading love and appreciation for the people in your life. While we may not know much about the origins of how Valentine’s Day started, we do know how to celebrate it!


The History of Valentine’s Day lesson plan includes two worksheets: an activity worksheet and a practice worksheet. Each one will help students solidify their grasp of the material they learned throughout the lesson. You can refer to the classroom procedure guidelines to know when to hand out each worksheet.


For the activity, students will create an acrostic poem using the letters from the word VALENTINE. The worksheet provides an example of what an acrostic poem looks like for reference. You are welcome to have students work in pairs or groups instead of independently if you prefer.


The practice worksheet lists 10 questions based on the content. These questions all relate to the content pages, so students will need to refer to them often for the answers. In addition, each question provides which reading tool the question corresponds to, such as text feature, vocabulary, or comprehension.

Worksheet Answer Keys

At the end of the lesson plan document is an answer key for the practice worksheet. The correct answers are all in red to make it easier for you to compare them with students’ responses. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade


Social Studies, High-Interest Reading

State Educational Standards


Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.