Skip the Romance: Study the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

Valentine’s Day in the secondary classroom is a far cry from candy and card exchanges. The emphasis on romance can put a lot of pressure on students– students in relationships may feel pressure to make the day special and students not in relationships may feel left out or irritated. The romantic aspects can certainly be a distraction.

It can take a powerfully engaging activity to get the attention off romance and on school work. The St. Valentine’s Massacre does a good job of getting students attention– bonus, it fits the holiday theme!

Some activities for the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre:

Read the historic New York Times Article about the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre from February 1929. It’s a lengthy article, but fully of good information about the massacre and Capone. Good for informational text reading and can be used with reading questions or graphic organizers.

Evaluate arguments in passages or web pages about Al Capone. An interesting topic can make it easier to engage students in the process of analyzing. The evaluation task is similar to the task seen on standardized tests. I’ve written some Al Capone Informational Text Analysis Activity that include one passage that is slanted towards untrue claims– that can help students practice disagreeing with the author’s argument– and one that is slanted towards generally recognized claims, to help students analyze arguments with an interesting topic.

Complete a web scavenger hunt or research activity. Students look up information about Al Capone and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre using reliable websites. Can be paired with the New York Times Article or can stand-alone. When searching pictures, students can be taught how to cite images (and not just “Google images”.)

Have students make a Wanted Poster for Al Capone. Fill in details about Capone from the New York Times Article or internet search. Students can also create their own wanted poster– works well as a get-to-know you activity for new terms, too.

Have students create their own mob as a tie-in. Students can create a criminal or positive group, with a variety of real-life writing, including public relations, group history, and a poster board. Can be restricted to positive groups if necessary for school climate. Glorification of illegal activity is prohibited in the assignment (mentioning it as fact is different and may be acceptable.)

Complete a Villainous Terms Word search puzzle. Free, fun activity that can go with any bad-guy, or work around assemblies and other activities.  Includes a variety of 39 villainous words from bad to malefactor.

I prefer to keep the romantic stuff in with poetry, anyway, so I that’s a bonus, too.  Not that I particularly like poetry. 

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