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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


Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • learn about proverbs, how they work, and their cultural significance.

  • learn the difference between proverbs and clichés.

  • share, study, and interpret proverbs.

  • find a proverb that rings true for them and explain its significance.

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Session One

  1. Using the Proverb Definitions handout, explain what proverbs are and provide a few examples. Discuss the difference between proverbs and clichés.

  2. Ask the students to write down some proverbs they know and then ask them to share some of them. If necessary or if you wish, you can use the Common Proverbs handout to help class discussion get started.

  3. Ask them where they've learned proverbs, where they hear proverbs used, and why they think proverbs can be important to people.

  4. Distribute the family Proverb Handout and ask students to interview their family and friends for additional proverbs. Encourage them to try to find proverbs that haven't been mentioned in class.

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Session Two

  1. Go back around the room and have each student read out one of their proverbs again, and ask the class to work out the meaning of each.

  2. Discuss the collection of proverbs the class has created. Are there common proverbs, proverbs that much of the class knows? If so, what makes them common? Are there proverbs that only one or two students know? If so, can the class figure out what makes that proverb less well known. (As proverbs contain cultural knowledge and cultural values, commonality will be dependent upon the cultural make-up of the class. The proverbs your students will know will be largely dependent upon their home cultures.)

  3. Ask the students if there were any proverbs which they found to be difficult to interpret. If there were, discuss why they think those proverbs were difficult.

  4. Ask the class to create a new definition of proverbs based upon what they've learned so far.

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  • This lesson can be followed up with the ReadWriteThink lessons Proverbs: At Home and Around the World and Proverbs: Contemporary Proverbs.

  • Exploring Personal Proverbs: Ask the students to use Websites llisted in the Resources section to look for proverbs they like, proverbs that resonate with them. Have each student choose one of those proverbs and write an essay about an occasion in which that proverb rang true or, alternatively, write a fable which illustrates the proverb.

  • Proverbs in Literature: Connect the study of proverbs to literary works that rely upon or foreground proverbs. Proverbs are common elements in fables and fairy tales. Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and Amy Tan are three authors that make extensive use of proverbs. Some specific works that make extensive use of proverbs include Pudd'nhead Wilson by Mark Twain, Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya, House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, and the Bible.

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  • Observe the students as they present and discuss their proverbs. Are they interested and engaged with the discussion? Do their comments demonstrate a growing understanding of the material?

  • Collect the family Proverb Handouts and check for completeness. Has the student gathered proverbs and explained their significance?

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