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You spill coffee on your shirt getting ready in the morning. You miss your bus and then realize you have forgotten your lesson plans when you finally get to school. Not only that, it is class picture day and your hair refuses to behave. Sounds like you may have hit a spell of bad luck.
However, whether it is because you walked under a ladder or just woke up on the wrong side of the bed, your day can still turn around. Try these activities based on the idea of luck and see if you and your students turn out to have a luck day after all by the time you go to sleep!
How to Teach Superstitions in Your ESL CLassroom
You Know What They Say
Start the lesson with a class discussion about superstition. Ask if anyone in your class is familiar with that word and, if so, ask them to share what they know. If not, offer them an example of a superstition, for example, that carrying a rabbit’s foot will bring good luck or hanging a horseshoe over your doorway will bring good luck. Ask them if they think these superstitions are true or untrue, and make sure you encourage your students to share the reasons behind their responses. Once your class is thinking about superstitions, give them the following list of superstations that are supposed to bring bad luck.
Breaking a mirror
Walking under a ladder
Opening an umbrella inside the house
Having a black cat cross your path
Friday the 13th
In groups of three or four students each, give your students some time to discuss each of these superstitions. Where do they think the phrases could have originated? Why might they bring bad luck? Do your students agree that these might be true? Once your students have examined each of these American superstitions, challenge them to think of superstitions from their native cultures which foretell bad luck. Are there any similarities between the superstitions they have grown up with and these in English? What do students from other cultures think about their classmates’ superstitions?
What Do You Think?
People fall at every point along a spectrum when it comes to superstitions. Some believe whole-heartedly and follow the advice these phrases have to give as much as possible. Still others disregard the whole idea of luck, whether good or bad. Ask your students to think of a time in their lives when they think luck played a part in a success or a failure. If your students not to believe in luck, ask them to think of a time that luck should have played a part in a situation but did not. Have each person write their narrative using chronological order and giving as many details as possible. Encourage each person to include a paragraph at the end of their piece explaining why they do or do not believe in luck. Then post the stories on a bulletin board titled “Do You Feel Lucky?” To add visual impact to the board, divide it into two sections with a strip of paper or wide tape and define one side for those who believe in luck, one side for those who do not. Post each person’s story on the side for which he argues in his piece.
An Unlucky Day
In Judith Viorst’s book “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” she tells the story of Alexander who has a series of bad things happen to him on school picture day. Share the book with your students, and then point out the type of organization Viorst uses in the book. She starts with the beginning of the day when Alexander gets out of bed and finishes the story at night when he goes to bed, that is she organizes by time. Organization by time is called chronological, so explain this word and concept to your students to make sure they know what it means. In addition to chronological organization, Viorst repeats two phrases throughout the story to add to its structure. The title of the story and Alexander’s sentiment that he might move to Australia. Share the story with your students a second time and ask them to raise their hands when they hear either of the repeated phrases.
After reading the book a second time, ask if any of your students remembers having a school picture day. What was that day like? What did they have to do? Was there anything bad that happened to them on that day? Working in small groups, have your students brainstorm a list of all the bad things that could happen to someone on school picture day. Let them know that they can include the troubles Alexander ran into, but challenge your students to be creative and think of other events that could happen. If anyone has tales of things that did happen to them or someone they knew on a school picture day, include those too. Then come back together as a class and share your answers. Your students will get a kick out of the creativity their classmates display in their lists of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad events.
Will You Press Your Luck?
Some people seem to have good luck when it comes to games and gambling, but do your students? The simple dice game Farkle is a fun, risk taking game that tests just how far its players will press their luck. Provide groups of four or five students with the rules for this game, and have your students read them and discuss in their groups until they are clear on how to play the game. Each group will need six dice to play, and you can purchase these quite inexpensively at a drug store or dollar store. Now let your class play and see just how far they will press their luck. If you like, arrange a tournament where, for each group of four players, the two winners move up and the two losers move down until the best of the best have played and determined the ultimate winner.
What is the question for today? Do you feel lucky?
Some of your students may answer yes and others no, but either way they will have fun with these lessons that challenge their idea of luck and get them talking about how it has, or hasn’t, played a role in their lives!
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