Teach An EFL Teacher To Fish: Classroom Activities For Teaching Proverbs

226873yegd_w1.jpgKill two birds…, an eye for an eye.., you can lead a horse to water..,

You know how these end and what they mean; do your students?

I recently had an opportunity to learn some similar proverbs in Slovak and as I was showing off to some students, one commented that maybe it wasn’t so useful for me to be able to say “A stitch in time saves nine” in their language.

In a sense, she was right. I think part of the reason for incorporating these sayings into my Slovak lesson was just for variety, but there is another very practical way in which these phrases help me: I can remember examples, say, for cases – instead of memorizing rules.

In English, which of course doesn’t have cases in the same complex form Slavic languages do, this can still apply. For example, students can use “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink” to remember an example of verb patterns: can + infinitive (without “to”) and make + object + infinitive (without “to”). Plenty of students like to memorize rules, but I think it’s clear even from this that it’s just easier to remember the proverb.

Many proverbs are useful to know as well because we use them!

A couple of simple activities for proverbs:

write ten proverbs on ten slips of paper and then cut each on in half. Students have to match the beginning of each to the end.

After students have learned several proverbs or as revision, each pair chooses two or three and makes up a situation where we might use the proverb. They explain the situation without saying the proverb and the other groups have to guess it. (“I keep telling my son that if he does his homework regularly he won’t flunk his tests, but he still skips it all the time” = “You can lead a horse to water…”)

And finally, proverb pictionary: make sure you choose proverbs that can be illustrated in some way.