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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



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From Theory to Practice



"Don't store all your data on one disk" is a contemporary update of the traditional proverb "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." Such traditional proverbs, meant to convey cultural knowledge and wisdom, are often closely tied to a culture's values and everyday experience. As a result, their meanings are not always readily apparent to us today. This lesson challenges students to craft more apparent meanings for traditional maxims. They first search for proverbs from around the world and select several they like. They then update the proverbs to be more contemporary. Finally, they write new proverbs of their own.

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Common Proverbs: This handout contains a list of proverbs that are common in America.

Proverbs from around the World: The proverbs on this handout come from various countries all over the world.

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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."

Further Reading

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

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