Strategies for Empowering Students


  • To motivate students to read
  • To encourage students to use their inference and critical thinking skills
  • To promote an understanding and appreciation of one's own culture as well as those of others

  • Use knowledge and experiences
  • Use metacognitive skills
  • Integrate listening, thinking, writing, and reading skills
  • Develop a knowledge base of different cultures
Integration of Content/Subject Areas

  • Social Studies
  • Language Arts
  • History
  • Character Development

Students, working in cooperative groups, will select two to four familiar and unfamiliar sayings and phrases from the list below. They are encouraged to make additions to the list.

Each group will discuss what they think the sayings mean. They are to use their inference skills in making good guesses about the meanings. After inferring the meanings, each student will write how the saying or phrase can apply to his or her life and help them become better students or friends, or a better sister or brother.


  • Don't cut off your nose to spite your face.
  • Do to others what you would want others to do to you.
  • All for one and one for all.
  • A friend in need is a friend indeed.
  • It is impossible for a leopard to change its spots.
  • Hitch your wagon to a star.
  • If wishes were horses, then all beggars would ride.
  • Nothing comes of nothing.
  • Rome wasn't built in one day.
  • The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
  • There's more than one way to skin a cat.
  • Truth is stranger than fiction.
  • Don't get your nose out of joint.
  • Watch out for the wolf in sheep's clothing.
  • When digging a ditch for your enemy, dig two.
  • One man's junk is another man's treasure.
  • Be careful not to bite the hand that feeds you.
Old saying: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Interpretation: What you think about people depends on how you view them as persons and how well you know them or things about them. For example, someone might see a person and think that person is cute. But someone else might know that this person is not nice and therefore may not think he or she is cute because of his or her "ugly" ways.

There is also the reverse of this. For example, someone could be unattractive on the outside to a person but beautiful to someone else because of their attributes.

This activity is an excellent way to integrate cultural diversity into the curriculum because many of the sayings and phrases originate from different ethnic, religious, and cultural groups. To involve parents, grandparents, and other family members, have the students to ask relatives to share some old sayings or proverbs and explain how they originated.


  • How well did students exhibit their thinking and inference skills in interpreting the sayings and phrases?

  • How did students demonstrate the use of their knowledge and metacognitive skills in completing this activity?

  • Was cultural information and new knowledge acquired as a result of this activity?

  • How were higher-order thinking skills demonstrated?


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