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Let's talk about love: Language and story ideas for your English class

February 11, 2021 by Nóra Wünsch-Nagy

How about some fun language activities and literary challenges for Valentine's Day? Your students may or may not feel comfortable talking about love in class, but talking about it from a language perspective or through fictional characters in love stories is a good way around potential embarrassment.

Here are some activities you can do on Valentine's Day, or on any other day of the year when you feel your reading class needs some romance.

The language of love

How to say I love you

How many different ways can you think of to say "I love you"?

  • First, look for synonyms first. For example, I adore you - I'm in love with you - I'm into you
  • Then, introduce the idea of understatements. For example, I've got a thing for you - I have feelings for you - I feel something for you
  • Finally, collect some fun phrases. For example, I've got a crush on you - I'm under your spell - I'm crazy about you

Different types of love

Love comes in many different shapes and we have the language to express them. First, brainstorm some ideas with your students. Simply ask them "What types of love can you think of?" Then, talk about some of the categories on this list:

  1. romantic
  2. brotherly/sisterly
  3. maternal/paternal
  4. unconditional
  5. unfulfilled/unrequited
  6. narcissistic
  7. tough
  8. puppy
  9. compassionate
  10. cupboard

Sayings about love

Collect some popular sayings about love and talk about what they mean.

  • Love makes the world go round.
  • All you need is love.
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
  • Opposites attract.
  • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
  • Love conquers all.
  • Love is blind.
  • Love will find a way.
  • Love thyself.
  • All is fair in love and war.

Love songs

Create a Top 10 (or 20) list of love songs. This can become part of a class playlist project. Learning new phrases through songs can be a fun way to engage students. Tell your students to keep adding love songs to the playlist. And ask them to pick one song, find its lyrics, and look for some interesting phrases in them.


Stories of love

Book Lists

Have a discussion about your students' favourite romantic characters, books and films. Here are some topics you can explore. Then, write your Top 5 list based on each collection.

  1. The coolest couples in classic and/or young adult literature.
  2. The most tragic couples in classic and/or young adult literature.
  3. The strangest couples in classic and/or young adult literature.
  4. The best film adaptations of romances (classic and young adult).

Literary Couples

Here are our favourite fictional couples from the Helbling Readers series. How many of them do your students know? Choose one book to read in this term and talk about what love means in the story. 

  1. Emma Woodhouse and George Knightley in Emma by Jane Austen
  2. Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  3. Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars; Marianne Dashwood and Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  4. Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  5. Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  6. Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  7. Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe in Anne of Green Gables - Anne Arrives by L. M. Montgomery

Literary Love Quiz

Do our quiz to see how well you remember the classics, and you might feel inspired to revisit some of these fictional couples. Or, use it in your Book Club with well-read students.

  • Age and level: we recommend this quiz for young adult and adult readers at intermediate and upper-intermediate levels.
  • Download the quiz here: Literary Love Quiz.

Creative task

What makes a good love story? What are the most typical character types in them? What are the most common plot elements? Talk about the common features of love stories with their typical plot twists and character traits. Ask your students to think about the most surprising and most shocking love stories they have read/seen. 

Then, brainstorm some ideas for a love story. Talk about the setting, the time, the characters and the main plot elements

What about you? Do you have a favourite love story? And what are your students favourite romances?

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