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Lesson Plan

Proverbs: An Introduction

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Proverbs: An Introduction

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

John Paul Walter

John Paul Walter

Washington, Washington DC


National Council of Teachers of English



From Theory to Practice



Out of the frying pan and into the fire! A stitch in time saves nine! Look before you leap! Traditional proverbs like these, meant to convey cultural knowledge and wisdom, are often closely tied to a culture's values and everyday experience, and their meanings are not always readily apparent to us today. In this lesson, students learn about proverbs: how they work, how they differ from clichés, how to interpret them, and how they can be culturally and personally significant. They begin by talking about proverbs that they already know and the differences between proverbs and clichés. Next, they interview family and friends to find proverbs that were not discussed in class. Then they try to figure out the meaning of these proverbs and talk about why they think some of the proverbs were difficult to understand. Finally, students create a new definition of proverbs based on what they've learned.

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Cruz and Duff  argue that working with proverbs in the classroom can improve students' learning experiences, their language skills, and their understanding of themselves and the world. Among several advantages they mention, they maintain that working with proverbs "acknowledges the learner as an expert...(and) lightheartedly and often humorously exposes common beliefs and traditions among a diverse set of learners," "encourages respect for oneself, for each other, and for shared values of the community," "provides learners with the opportunity for insight," "creates the transition from home culture to school culture," and "enriches thinking and writing skills." This lesson taps into those benefits by introducing students to proverbs.

Further Reading

Cruz, Mary Carmen, and Ogle Burks Duff. "Rainbow Teachers/Rainbow Students: New Worlds, Old Wisdom." English Journal 85.7 (November 1996): 116-118.

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