Strategies for Empowering Students


  • To motivate students to use their higher-order thinking skills
  • To motivate students to read
  • To help students develop an appreciation for their culture as well as those of others

  • Use of knowledge
  • Use of metacognitive skills
  • Integration of listening, speaking, writing, thinking, and reading skills
Integration of Content/Subject Areas

  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies
  • Character Development

Students will read and interpret the sayings listed. Students and teachers are encouraged to add to this list. This activity should be done by students working in cooperative teams.

This activity encourages students to concentrate on comprehension skills as they attempt to figure out what the sayings really mean. It also is an excellent avenue to address cultural diversity, because many of the sayings or phrases originate from various racial, religious, and cultural groups. This is an effective way to involve parents, grandparents, and other family members. Have students ask their family members to share some of their traditional sayings or proverbs.

After students have determined what the sayings mean, have them discuss how they can help them improve their lives, behavior, or how they treat others.

Traditional Sayings or Proverbs

  • When it rains, it pours.

  • Two wrongs don't make a right.

  • You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

  • The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

  • Don't count your chickens before they hatch.

  • Birds of a feather flock together.

  • The early bird gets the worm.

  • Half a loaf is better than none.

  • Laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone.

  • The right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing.

  • Do not judge a book by its cover.
Old saying: Little but mighty!

Interpretation: Someone may seem to be small in size or position, but that doesn't mean they are not strong or important.

Statement: I have to remember that everyone is someone important; and that it doesn't matter how small in size the person may be. Therefore, I must respect people for who they are and not for their color or size or where they work.


  • How did students exhibit their ability to interpret the sayings?

  • How effective were the students in using their knowledge and metacognitive skills?

  • Did students exhibit more of an interest in their culture or others' as a result of this activity?

  • Did students exhibit their use of higher-order thinking skills? How?


Excerpted from Beyond Rhetoric and Rainbows: A Journey to the Place Where Learning Lives ©1996 University of Illinois Extension.