Celebrating Valentine's Day with a History of Chocolate

Bring rigor to your Valentine’s Day lessons with a mini-unit on the history of chocolate.

Incorporate meaningful and engaging teaching resources during school holidays through thematic nonfiction units that teach important reading skills while students learn about the history of a holiday. 

Teaching around any holiday is always tricky in the classroom. You struggle with the balance between celebrating the day and accomplishing meaningful work. Especially when your students are of elementary age.

In my classroom, we had plenty of fiction stories and crafty-type activities to keep us busy, but nothing that covered non-fiction topics or left students with an understanding of the holiday itself.

So I created a resource to fill that gap.

When planning a nonfiction mini unit to teach during Valentine's Week, what better topic than chocolate? 

I've only met a handful of students in my career who didn't like chocolate and not a single teacher who has ever turned it down. It's a subject that interests most people and can be revisited easily day after day. 

This unit contains an original passage written on three levels and includes several text features such as headings, bold words, maps, photos, captions, and a word bank. In the article, students learn about cacao trees, the history of chocolate, and how it is used today. 


To accompany the passage, there are three close reading practices. Each practice focuses on a different subset of the Common Core State Standards for Informational Text.

Practice one focuses on standards 1 - 3, which fall under "Key Ideas and Details" in a passage. These three standards ask students what the text is saying, the main idea and details, and how key events, ideas, or procedures work together. 

Practice two is aligned to standards 4 - 6 in the category of "Craft and Structure." This practice asks students to examine the author's words and use of text structure to learn more about the topic. 

The last practice utilizes standards 7 - 9, which is the "Integration of Knowledge and Ideas." Students are asked to consider how the author feels about the topic and write a reading response comparing their own experiences with chocolate to those mentioned in the text. 

All of the practices require students to annotate their text and cite text evidence in their answers. Each question lists the appropriate standard(s) making grading and future planning easier for you. The Speaking and Listening standards also are incorporated into partner discussions and reflections. 

Also included are writing response activities, Valentine's Day themed writing papers, vocabulary booklet, and more.

This mini-unit is perfect to have ready as an emergency sub plan for those days when you are out unexpectedly. It contains four days worth of meaningful practices that are self-explanatory and can be used whole group or independently. 

Simply print, copy student pages into packets, and leave the teacher notes and answer keys for your substitute. In my building, we were required to have at least three days of emergency plans ready to go. This is one of those go-to resources that was simple to copy and easy to have ready. 


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