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Sense and Sensibility

May 19, 2020 by s.nagele

Jane Austen's view of relationships and society never ceases to amuse us. Her careful and ironic observations of everyday events and feelings have given us relevant advice as well as entertaining reflections for over two hundred years now. All of her novels are successful already in her time, and through an endless list of adaptations they have become even more popular today.

We would like to give you a chance to celebrate Jane Austen's work in the year which also marks the 200th anniversary of her death. Let's remember her and introduce her work to our students. Some of them might have already read her novels or seen an adaptation. Some of them might have just heard the name but never had opportunity to become more familiar with her work.

What's special about this new edition is that it has a new design with exciting features to support your students' learning of language and culture at the same time.

The reader was adapted by Elspeth Rawstron and illustrated by Sara Menetti.

Explore the novel in class

We offer three ways into this text. We start by recommending online resources to learn more about Jane Austen's life, then recommend some themes to discuss before reading the novel, and then we have some activitiy tips to practise language skills as well.

The topics and activities below are best suited for intermediate level learners (CEFR B1), aged 13 uo to adult. The texts were written in a way to make them immediately accessible to students.

Jane Austen's Life


How much do you know about Jane Austen? You can start learning more about her life in the first pages of the Helbling Readers edition of the novel. Then, when you have a general overview of the major events of her life, we suggest checking out this website.

Click on the 41 OBJECTS tab and explore the objects listed there. Before clicking on each object, choose the ones which are really interesting to you, and then find out more about them. Present your findings to the rest of the class.

The Jane Austen note

This year the 10-pound banknote featuring Jane Austen was introduced in the UK. Why is it interesting? What is special about it? Read the 'Money' fact file in Sense and Sensibility and find as much information as you can on the Internet then share your discoveries with the class.

Here is a link to a BBC article to help you develop your investigation.

Themes to discuss

Love, marriage, social status and etiquette

The themes of love, happiness, marriage, social status and etiquette are important in every Jane Austen novel. How much do you know about the importance of marriage in the 19th century? How important was it back then in your own country? How are these things connected now?

In this novel you will read about very different love stories. Sometimes love, marriage and happiness happen all at the same time, and sometimes these are not too obvious. How and why can it happen?

Sense and sensibility: contrasting ideas

What does Jane Austen mean by 'sense' and 'sensibility'? How are sense and sensibility related in the novel? As you are reading the story, find examples of the two feelings and attitudes. Who represents 'sense' and self-control in the novel? Who is more emotional, impulsive and romantic? What does Jane Austen tell us about these opposite characteristics? Is there a 'right way' to be? Can we find balance between the two extremes?

Tip: Find out more about the role of money in the novel and in the time of Jane Austen. You can find lots of interesting information in the reader.

Activities inspired by the novel

Write letters

Jane Austen wrote the first version of this story in the form of letters . Start a project and write letters about things you can observe in the classroom or in the school for a week. Choose a partner and write letters to each other.

Act it out

The novel is packed with dialogues. Choose a chapter with dialogues you like and act them out in groups.

Organise a picnic or a ball

Whether it is sunny and warm or cooler and more autumnal where you are, you can organise social events inspired by Jane Austen novels. If you are in a warm place and you can go outdoors, organise a picnic inspired by the stories.

If you are in a colder place, and it is more suitable to organise a ball, it is time to start organising one, or at least learning more about them. Ask your teacher to give you more information about the balls in Jane Austen's time. You can also watch scenes in film adaptations of the various Jane Austen novels. Pay attention to detail. What did people wear? What was the social etiquette? Could you talk to your partner? What were the most popular dances?

For the teacher: read this excellent article on the British Library website to learn more about balls.

Do you have a favourite Jane Austen character or novel? Tell us about them.

More about Jane Austen's novels

Project based lesson on Sense and Sensibility

Remember to check out our articles, resources and lesson tips for the two other titles, Emma and Pride and Prejudice.