A Dozen Better Ways to Explore the Question “What is Love” in a Lesson

Okay so my first blog post mentioned I could think of a dozen better ways to explore the question “what is love?” than the Family Education Trust Leaflet so better put my money where my mouth is and here are some of the ways off the top of my head:

1. Show a huge range of pictures of people (eg. couples, families, models, famous people etc) and ask them “are they in love?”  Ask them how to they know?  Discuss as a class.  (Works well on a powerpoint- ensure your picture range is diverse and inclusive.)

2.  Give each student a piece of paper and ask them to come up with a definition of what love is.  Get them to share with their tables and agree a table definition of what love is.  Get each table to share their definition and agree a class definition of what love is. Students can create their own wallet cards of what love is to take home with them.

3.  Show a range of the “love is” cartoons.  Ask students to come up with their own list.  Then ask them to come up with a list of “love isn’t…”.  As a class decide the best senstences and create a class poster of what “love is and love isn’t”

4. Read out a range of scenarios and ask the class to discuss in pairs whether it is love or not.  (Eg. Boy wants girlfriend to have sex to show they love each other”,  Wife wants husband to make the dinner as she has a cold, etc etc.  Explore whether you would need more information to make the decision about whether its love or not.

5. Give the students the role of agony aunts/uncles.  Cut out a few letters sent into magazines eg “how will I know if he loves me” and get students to answer.

6.  Give students a copy of the many multichoice “is it love” questions This one is good and see if they can identify what the “right” answers are.  Discuss as a class.

7. Ask students to complete a “draw and write” activity of what love is- they can draw/write anything they know think feel about what love is.  Share as a class.

8. The love continuum- give students a list of words such as love at first sight, Friendship, Flirting, sexual attraction, infatuation, “in love”, Romance, obsession, nurturance, immature love, mature love, intimacy, attachment, passion, “true love” , lust and ask them to rate them in different orders such as “important to not important”.   Or in a linear fashion as love progresses. You can also explore the definitions.

9. Get students to brainstorm aspects of love- eg. commitment, trust, honesty etc. and get them to role play some of these with the class trying to guess which aspect of love it is.

10. Ask students to create a 10 point checklist of “what is love”.

11. Ask students to create a list of things they would look for in their ideal partner- ie. someone they are in love with.  In pairs compare lists.  Discuss as a class do whether the lists would be different based on your gender or sexual orientation? How? Why?  Ask students to share their lists (if they want to- the lists can remain personal if they prefer). As a class agree a list of the top ten things to look for in an ideal partner.  Individually students then need to put that list in order of importance for them and identify the top three most important things for them they will look for in an ideal partner.  Discuss whether this list will change as they get older.

12. Use examples from popular culture eg. soap operas/celebrities to analyse some relationships  and discuss whether they  are in love.  Ask students to come up with good role models for “loving relationships”.

And there you go- there are a dozen ways you could explore the question “What is Love” in a lesson without resorting to a dry dull leaflet that alienates most of your learners and you only have 1 of between the hundreds of students you teach :).   I am sure there are many other even better ways to explore the question “what is love” with students so if you have any good ones please share!

And now I really must go and eat as my husband has just brought me a lovely homecooked lunch at my desk. Now that is love. 😀

Why the “Path to Misery” Leaflet Will Never Get Far in Schools

Apparently a leaflet has been sent into schools telling students “sex before marriage” is a “path to misery”:


Here is my response as a teacher:

Dear Family Education Trust,

I hear you have sent a pamphlet for teens into “EVERY SCHOOL IN THE COUNTRY” (according to the Independent headline).  Just one?  For each school?  Now I am assuming you didn’t send it to primary schools?  I mean it mentions lust and sex and all sorts of stuff!  So lets assume you sent it to secondary schools my googling reveals that that there are  3,225 maintained secondary schools in England with with 3,146,080 pupils. This means your single leaflet needs to be shared between 976 pupils on average! (Now I didn’t include the 223 maintained secondary schools in Northern Ireland, the 376 publicly funded secondary schools in Scotland and the 223 maintained secondary schools in Wales, because I didn’t have time to get the pupil numbers too but you get the idea!)   So this leaflet “for teens” isn’t actually going to get to the teens, is it!?  Oh and by the way that was an example of using FACTS/EVIDENCE to support what am saying.  You should try it sometime. (My sources were here, here, here and here)

Now who did you send the leaflet to in this “every school in the country?”

Did you send it to the headteacher?  If you are lucky it will be delegated down and down and down until it most likely reaches the bin (but a few more people may see it this way).  If you sent it direct to the PSHE co-ordinator it will probably be quickly reviewed during the cursory scan of a overstuffed pigeon hole on a quick coffee dash to the staffroom and then probably binned, as teachers get a whole lot of crap sent to them everyday.

Possibly, if you are incredibly lucky a particular teacher may chance upon it and think- “oooh wonder if I can somehow use it in a lesson, I am always looking for new ideas”.

But then this raises further questions:  “I only have one- I really need a class set of 30- or at least 1 between 2”. Now do you expect the schools to order more of copies of this free leaflet having seen how “amazing” it is?  This “What is Love?” pamphlet isn’t yet available on your website although your previous pamphlet “Too Much Too Soon” costs £50 for 25.  Yet there are the fabulous FPA, Brook, and Bish leaflets amongst others which all offer us much much better value for money.  They cost around £6 for 50 copies of a decent evidence-based peer-reviewed leaflet and often we can get these leaflets for FREE in schools from our local contacts.  So how much would you expect us to pay for a class set of this leaflet?

Also, as a teacher, I need to carefully consider whether this is a suitable pamphlet to share with all my students?  Hmmm lets explore this one further:

Is it inclusive?  Does it meet the needs of all my learners?

NO – it doesn’t appreciate that many of my learners come from single parent families or unmarried families.  It also doesn’t recognise gay relationships or mention civil partnerships.  This would anger and upset many of my students who would feel I was giving them a resource not relevant to them.

Is it written in a way my learners can understand?

Not really.  Not to dumb down to my students but there is an awful lot of text in there- knowing my lot half of them will have switched off before the end of the first paragraph especially as the language isn’t student friendly.  And as for the pictures- Cheeseorama- my lot would be happier drawing moustaches on them!  I could also go on further about the language used in the pamphlet but that has been covered far more eloquently than I ever could by  Education for Choice,  tessakendall and sreproject so I will leave that, other than to say telling my learners:  “where a sexual relationship is pursued to express passing feelings and emotions, it is ugly and destructive and will lead to misery and regret” is definitely NOT going to engage with my students some of whom maybe sexually active and quite happy about it.  Do you have an evidence base for this statement?

Does it include material I can easily adapt into a lesson?

Nope – there are no thought-provoking questions other than the leaflet title “What is Love?” and to be honest I don’t really feel that the leaflet answers the complexity of “what is love?” other than to rant about what it isn’t.  I can think of a dozen better ways to explore “what is love” within a lesson (in fact I did so here) .   A teacher would need to do a lot of work if they wanted to even think about using this “resource” with one of the 976 pupils it was aimed for and to be quite honest we simply don’t have the time.

The thing is I think you find that most teachers of sex and relationships education do address relationships and the benefits of a stable relationship for a healthy sex life, we also probably cover love, physical attraction, infatuation, lust, commitment, faithfulness, and maybe even patience and perseverance.  All of which your leaflet covers.  However as experienced teachers with years of working with young people, we probably do it in a much better way that engages rather than alienates them.

For teachers of sex and relationships education if you want proper resources related to sex and relationships education, I strongly recommend you use The Sex Education Forum as a starting point: http://www.ncb.org.uk/sef/home.aspx . Their curriculum design section is fab http://www.ncb.org.uk/sef/resources/curriculum_design.aspx.  I also recommend you join the PSHE Association for further resources and support.

Now I really must dash away from my first ever blogpost (be kind!) as I am supposed to be writing a scheme of work on preventing Sexual Bullying- now that really is the path to misery for some teenagers.