Reflecting on Quotes in Class/Life

Learning a foreign language is an emotional roller coaster mixed with amazing highs and frustrating plateaus. Many a times you feel like you’re not making any progress at all. It’s so easy to become discouraged and want to throw in the towel.

Sayings, quotes and aphorisms are great tools we can use to generate interest in the language classroom and start and maintain a conversation as these statements reflect our living/teaching philosophy.

Here are some ideas you can use:

  • creating ‘response questions’ for students to discuss
  • asking students to come up with their own ‘response questions’ to a quote
  • listing (or drawing) associations with the quote
  • researching interesting facts about the author
  • fact-checking (whether or not the author really said that)
  • telling the story of the quote 
  • choosing a quote best describing you in the past 
  • who the quote could describe (a friend, a family member, a teacher, a famous person, etc.)?

Quotes to Improve Comprehension

In addition to using quotes to spark discussion, you can use quotes to improve comprehension skills. Rather than giving students a long piece of text, give them a quote and ask them to tell you what it means. For example, give students the quote "Nothing is impossible. The word itself says, I'm possible" and have them explain what it means. Another activity to improve comprehension and speaking skills is to give students a selection of quotes, ask a question, and have them choose which quote to use to respond to the question.

Quotes to Categorize

You can further improve comprehension by giving students a selection of quotes and having them categorize them based on common themes. For example, students may group some quotes in the "love" category and some quotes in the "friendship" category. This helps students think more deeply about the quotes they're reading and begin to make connections between texts. It's also a good accompaniment to a lesson in theme.

Quotes to Distinguish Between Literal and Figurative Language

Quotes can also introduce students to figurative language. For example, you could share with students the quote "Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud" and have them explain how they can be a rainbow in someone's cloud or draw pictures to compare the literal and figurative meaning of the text. Some may draw pictures of clouds with rainbows in the middle, and then draw pictures of a person smiling or doing a kind thing for someone else.

 Quotes to Teach Grammar

If you're looking for new sentences to help teach concepts such as the use of adjectives, sentence structure, or particular verb tenses, look for quotes. They're often short sentences that can help illustrate key concepts. Share the quotes with students and have them guess the tense or highlight adjectives. For sentence structure, give students a quote and have them write their own quote that mimics the style. For example, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened" could become "Don't cry because you got cheese pizza, smile because you have food to eat."

 Quotes to Teach Vocabulary

Quotes are also a great place to find frequently confused words or common vocabulary words you wish to teach. Goodreads allows you to search for quotes by keyword, right down words like there and their. Pull out a selection of quotes that use a particular word to show your students how the word is used. It's also a great way to show students that words can have different meanings.

Quotes to Teach Source Reliability

Have you ever seen a quote credited to one person when you know it came from someone else? Give students a selection of quotes and have them try to figure out who said them. As students look at different sites, point out the fact that some sites are not as reliable as others and encourage them to find multiple sources to support their answers.

Quotes to Motivate and Encourage

Of course, you can also just pull-out popular quotes to motivate and inspire your students. Print out quotes and place them around the room. Add inspiring quotes to the bottoms of tests and quizzes to give students a boost of energy. Write quotes on index cards and pass them out to students when they need them. Add quotes to your PowerPoint presentations. Sometimes students just need to hear something positive and there are plenty of quotes out there to help.

5–10-minute activities

  • [Teacher or Students] choose/bring 1-2 quotes that work (best/worst) for today’s lesson topic, explain why.
  • Choose one quote from a list you disagree with the most, explain why.
  • Guess the lesson/unit topic from the quotes brought by the teacher 
  • Guessing/Predicting: Who do you think said this? Why did s/he think so? (Similar examples: In your opinion, is/was the author male or female? What was the author’s job? Where did the author live? In what century? etc.)


15-20-minute activities

‘Quotes in your life’ Discussion: answering questions in pairs or groups, e.g. 

Do you (ever)…? (e.g., write quotes down in your journal? (Re-) Share them via social media? Put them up on your desk?)

Quotes Journal is asking students to make notes for a couple of days or so, answering questions such as 


  • “What quotes drew your attention today/this week?”
  • “Why do you think the idea/thought was important for you at that moment?”
  • “What or who did it remind you of?”
  • “What lesson does it teach you?”
  • “What does it tell you about your own values/beliefs/motivation?” etc.


Here are some quotes you can use:

“Personally, I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.” – Winston Churchill

“Failure is a bruise, NOT a tattoo.” – Jon Sinclair

“Your mind is your prison when you focus on your fear.” – Tim Fargo.


If you're ready to teach quotes in the classroom, here are a few sites to get you started:

  • Brainy Quoteoffers a large selection of popular quotes searchable by keyword and author.
  • Wikiquotefeatures a quote of the day and a searchable database.
  • Litquoteshas over 2,000 quotes from literature searchable by title and author.
  • Quotationizelinks quotes to their original sources so you can be sure they're credible.
  • Quotacleallows users to search thousands of lines from movies.