Celebrate romantic love with these 9 texts for middle and high school students.
Nothing creates drama and excitement quite like the ups and downs of love and heartbreak, so it is no surprise that tales of love are so common. Popular narratives depict a fantasy in which two strangers are struck by love at first sight, they fall for each other, and they live happily ever after. As satisfying as these stories are, however, they leave a lot about romantic love unexplored.
This set of nine multi-genre texts for grades 6–12 explores love in its multitudes: from the importance of the teenage crush, to the unlikely places one can find romance and beauty, to the reasons true love transcends fairytale endings.
“I Am Offering This Poem” by Jimmy Santiago Baca (6th Grade)
In this poem, the speaker does not have much to give the person they love, but they do extend this poem as a token of their affection. The speaker compares their love to the warmth of wool socks, a full stomach in winter, and the comfort of a fire to show that some of the best gifts are the ones that cannot be bought. As students read, ask them Discussion Question 1, “In the context of this poem, can money buy happiness? How does having little influence the love and happiness in one’s life?”
“What Love Isn’t” by Yrsa-Daley Ward (7th Grade)
In this poem by Yrsa-Daley Ward, the speaker talks about what love doesn’t feel like to explain what it is. Often in popular culture, love is depicted as a fairytale, full of sunshine and rainbows. The speaker assures us that love isn’t this, but something deeper and more meaningful. As students read, have them pay attention to the imagery used in the poem to describe love. Ask them to think about how describing the feeling of love as a tangible object helps us understand what love is.
“Valentine for Ernest Mann” by Naomi Shihab Nye (7th Grade)
In response to an unusual request, the speaker reflects on the ways poems are made. They assert that poems aren’t formed, but found amongst the minutiae of life. The speaker gives the example of a man who gave his wife two skunks as a valentine in an effort to show that beauty exists everywhere. As students read, have them use the Annotation Tool to highlight the unlikely places poems are found in the text.
“Heart to Heart” by Rita Dove (7th Grade)
In this poem, the speaker illuminates how the heart is romanticized when we talk about love. The speaker encourages us to look beyond the heart, and that true love means accepting all of another person. After students read, have them watch the Related Media video about the origin of the heart symbol that explains why the heart symbol looks so different from the human heart.
“(Love Song, With Two Goldfish)” by Grace Chua (8th Grade)
In this unconventional poem, the speaker depicts love and loss between two goldfish. Through the use of clever wordplay and unique punctuation, the poem recreates the feeling of separation between two fish as they navigate their courtship. As students read, have them pay attention to how the use of parentheses in the text creates emphasis on different lines. Then, have students use this text as inspiration to write a unique poem of their own about love.
“Adolescence and the Teenage Crush” by Dr. Carl Pickhardt (9th Grade)
In this informational text, Dr. Pickhardt explains the importance of crushes for teenagers. He describes two different kinds of crushes: romantic crushes and identity crushes. Pickhardt acknowledges that crushes can often be short-lived because they are superficial, but they are still important to adolescent development. Consider pairing this text with “Excerpts from Romeo and Juliet” under the “Paired Texts” tab. Using Pickhardt’s definition of a romantic crush, have students debate whether or not Romeo and Juliet are in love using evidence from the text.
“Eraser Tattoo” by Jason Reynolds (10th Grade)
In this short story, Dante and Shay’s love is tested when Shay needs to move out of her home. Dante wants reassurance that their relationship will continue once Shay moves and is willing to let her “tattoo” him to prove how much she means to him. Shay, on the other hand, isn’t so certain. The trials of teen love and the impact of gentrification unite in this tale of loss and longing. As students read, encourage them to focus on how the symbolism of the eraser tattoo develops over the course of the story. Then, ask them what the final lines “He knew the sting wouldn’t last forever. But the scar would” mean in this context.
“Should We Scoff at the Idea of Love at First Sight?” by James Kuzner (10th Grade)
From Shakespeare to The Office, love at first sight is a concept we see again and again in popular culture. But does it really exist? According to survey respondents in this informational text, most people don’t believe in love at first sight. This author argues, however, that we must not look to science for answers, but to literature. After students read this text, screen the Related Media video “The Science Behind Love at First Sight” and have them compare and contrast the competing arguments for or against love at first sight.
“Why Do We Hate Love?” by Robert Firestone, Ph.D. (11th Grade)
In this provocatively titled informational text, the author lists reasons why people may respond negatively to love and affection from those closest to them. Dr. Firestone details how our upbringing as children impacts how we behave in relationships as adults. For example, he argues that being treated with care can sometimes cause sad and painful feelings from the past to reemerge. As students read, have them use the annotation tool to highlight the evidence Firestone gives for why people act the way they do. Then, have students debate whether or not they agree with the author’s point of view.
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