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How to Apply Love Languages in the Classroom

Woman and child smiling and high-fiving each other as the child writes in a workbook with colored pencils

Valentine’s Day usually involves the exchanging of flowers, candy, and gifts between loved ones. It’s a reminder to show appreciation for the important people in our lives, and it’s also a fun reason to have a classroom party in February!

? Looking for Valentine’s Day activities for your celebration? Don’t miss our new activity, Inside My Heart!

But there are lots of ways to show appreciation beyond the gifts and parties we’re used to. According to Dr. Gary Chapman, the author, speaker, and counselor behind The 5 Love Languages, the best way to show people we care is by first understanding what makes them feel most cared for, loved, and valued.

What are the 5 Love Languages?

In his bestselling book, “The 5 Love Languages”, Chapman states that we all give and receive love differently across all of our relationships, whether with our romantic partners, friends, coworkers, or children. Chapman categorizes love languages into five main types: Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, and Physical Touch. He believes that although we may identify in some way with all five types, each of us prefers one type over the others. By understanding our own main love language and identifying the love languages of the people in our lives, we have the capacity to better “communicate love well”.

Love languages for kids at school

As educators, we can of course learn to apply this concept in our personal lives, but what about in our professional lives? How can we learn to appreciate and value our students in their own, individualized ways?

Identifying a student’s love language

We can try to determine our students’ love languages through observation over time or through a guided activity like this one:

  • Ask students to draw or call out some ways parents love their children.
  • Try not to guide their drawings or answers, limit their responses, or require more responses than the student is prepared to give at the time you ask.

Applying love languages in the classroom

Once we understand how our students feel most comfortable receiving love and appreciation, we can try to apply that knowledge in the classroom. For example, when a student does well on a project or assignment we could…

  • Words of affirmation: Say, “I’m really proud of you.”
  • Quality time: Say, “I’d love to sit down and hear more about where the idea behind this project came from!”
  • Physical touch: Give them a high-five or elbow bump. As always, make sure any physical contact is appropriate to use with your students, which may vary based on the student’s age, gender, and/or culture. 
  • Receiving gifts: Reward them with a small token, like a sticker or sweet treat.
  • Acts of service: Offer help or one-on-one time for challenging projects or assignments in the future.

Interested in more examples of what this looks like in the classroom? Cambridge University Press has published a great article with practical tips for applying love languages in the classroom

Although it may feel weird or uncomfortable to initially embrace the idea of love languages in the classroom, when we appreciate students in the way that is most valuable to them, we are simultaneously encouraging both enthusiasm and participation in the classroom. Communicating with students in a way that they best understand can also improve their self-esteem and self-worth.

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Everyday Speech family! 

Everyday Speech is an AMAZING social skills resource. It offers comprehensive, organized lesson ideas with videos, activities, visuals, and games right at your fingertips. They continue to add to the already large collection of skills that are targeted, ranging from play skills to behavior to conversations to hygiene.

– Krista, M.S. CCC-SLP
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