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Lesson Plan

Proverbs: Contemporary Proverbs

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Proverbs: Contemporary Proverbs

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

John Paul Walter

John Paul Walter

Washington, Washington DC


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Sessions One and Two: Updating Proverbs

Session Three: Creating New Proverbs


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • share, study, and interpret proverbs from a variety of cultures.

  • update traditional proverbs for contemporary contexts.

  • create their own, original proverbs.

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Sessions One and Two: Updating Proverbs

  1. After briefly reviewing what has been already learned about proverbs, introduce to the students the idea of updating proverbs. To update a proverb is to rewrite it using contemporary terms for contemporary contexts. For instance, "Don't store all your data on one disk" is an update of "Don't put all your eggs in one basket."

  2. As a class, update a couple of proverbs which you've already discussed.

  3. Ask the students to use the Websites listed in the Resources section to look for proverbs they like and have them write them down, including any additional information they have about them, such as culture or country of origin.

  4. Ask students to choose from the proverbs they've found and, working alone or in groups, update them. If they work in groups, each student should only choose one or two proverbs. If they work alone, they might update three or four.

  5. Ask each student or group to share the updated proverbs and discuss what they've done.

  6. Now that they've worked with proverbs for a while, ask them to think about how proverbs work. (Common elements of proverbs can be found on the Proverb Definition handout.)

    • What makes a good proverb?

    • Does it use metaphor?

    • Does it make general observations about specific events?

    • Does it state an idea directly or does it try to say it indirectly?

    • Does it use striking images? Rhyme? Parallel structure?

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Session Three: Creating New Proverbs

  1. Review with students everything they've learned about proverbs, with an eye towards preparing them to write their own proverbs. Be sure to remind them of the difference between a proverb and a cliché. (See the Proverb Definition handout.)

  2. Ask the students to create their own proverbs either alone or in groups.

  3. When completed, have each student or group share the proverbs they've written.

  4. At the end of the session or for homework, have each student complete the Proverb Self-evaluation sheet.

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  • Proverb Mini-posters
    Using arts and crafts materials or PowerPoint, have each student create a mini-poster with their favorite proverb or a proverb they've updated or written.

  • Proverb Collection
    Drawing from proverbs the students have found, the proverbs they've updated, and the proverbs they've created, have the students create their own proverb collections. They can do this using traditional arts and crafts materials, using PowerPoint, or by making Web pages.

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Sessions One and Two

  • Observe the students as they use the Web to search for proverbs. How comfortable do they seem with navigating the sites and finding proverbs?

  • Observe the students' thinking and involvement as they work alone or in groups to update the proverbs. Are they interested and engaged? Are they making contributions? Working together to help each other learn?

  • Observe the students as they discuss the elements of proverbs. Do their comments reflect a growing understanding of how proverbs work?

Session Three

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