Proverbs and Adages

Teaching Proverbs and Adages to Upper Elementary Students

Teaching students to understand proverbs and adages improves reading comprehension. These sayings have meanings beyond what can be understood in their individual words.

A proverb is a simple statement of practical wisdom popularly known and repeated. These common-sense statements express some truth often giving advice to the listener. Adages are well-known proverbs that have been used for a long time. Because these two terms are so closely related, the terms are often used interchangeably.

Adages and Proverbs Anchor Chart - This blog post also includes a free printable plus an activity to use with Google Slides.


A Short List of Proverbs and Adages

  • Two wrongs don’t make a right.
  • When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
  • Slow and steady wins the race.
  • The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
  • Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
  • When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words.
  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  • Fortune favors the bold.
  • People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
  • Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
  • There’s no place like home.
  • Better late than never.
  • Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
  • Birds of a feather flock together.
  • Two heads are better than one.
  • Better late than never.
  • The clothes make the man.
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover.
  • If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
  • Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
  • Curiosity killed the cat.
  • Never look a gift horse in the mouth.
  • Actions speak louder than words.
  • The early bird gets the worm.
  • Opposites attract.
  • Too many cooks spoil the broth.

Teaching Proverbs and Adages

Common Core State Standards

Notice the Common Core State Standards do not ask students to sort sayings by their type, but to instead explain their meanings. Adages and proverbs are so closely related that sorting them is nearly impossible. One expert might list a saying a proverb, while another might categorize the same saying is an adage. Because of this, focus students on understanding meanings instead. 

Recognize and explain the meaning of common idioms, adages, and proverbs.

Recognize and explain the meaning of common idioms, adages, and proverbs.

Teaching Ideas

Brainstorming – After providing a few examples of proverbs and adages, ask students to name some they have heard. Write these on the board for all to see. Divide students and the proverb/adage sayings into groups. Have students come up with definitions of the sayings on their list.

Drawing – Most proverbs and adages can be drawn. 

Organizer – This organizer provides space for students to write, illustrate, and define 20 proverbs and adages. Two versions are offered: a printable and Google Drive online form. Both are editable to meet the needs of your students.

You can download the file here

Free Proverb and Adages Organizer - Printable and Google Slides Versions

Gay Miller

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