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Teaching Global Unity Through
Proverbs, Metaphors, and Storytelling

by Vivan Chu
- 3

Extension Activities:

Discovering Intuitive Connections in Metaphors
Form small “intercultural groups.” Explore words that have metaphorical meaning for different cultures, and have learners brainstorm ideas related to the words.

Examples : earth, sun, moon, star, comet, mountain, labyrinth, heart, rainbow, hourglass, rose, tree, dove, unicorn, dragon, butterfly, door, window.

Writing Haiku Poems
Introduce the structure of Haiku poems – 17 syllables in three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables. Show a few samples, and guide learners into creating some Haiku poems using the language generated from the metaphorical words in the previous activity.

Collaborative Story Telling
Pairs of learners are given four proverbs. They chose one and create a story that illustrates the essence of the proverb, and tell the story collaboratively. Others are shown the four proverbs and they will guess the correct proverb the story is based on. For lower level learners, offer ‘story props’ which give a setting for a story, a number of characters, and some nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs to be used in the story.

Create a Unified World

Organize learners into four teams. Each team will create one of the four countries in a unified world. Each country will be embodied with a metaphorical symbol and conceptualized with proverbs that express values on:

  • Government
  • Education
  • Environmental Policy
  • Social Responsibility
  • Justice System
  • Human Rights

A UNIFIED WORLD - Proverbs to Live By



Environmental Policy

Social Support

Justice System

Power can achieve more by gentle means than by violence.

If you wish to learn the highest truth, you must begin with the alphabet.

When you drink water, remember the source.

In the forest, tree leans on tree; in a nation, man on man.

Though the sword of justice be sharp, it will not slay the innocent.

There must be peace in the district to have law and order in the country.

Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

One cannot help many, but many can help one.

Justice knows no friendship.

Where the water rules, the land submits.

He who has imagination without learning has wings but no feet.

Better a good keeper than a good winner.

When numerous fishermen come together, multitudes of fish are caught.

Truth is not uttered from behind masks.

Much power makes many enemies.

Learning is weightless, a treasure you can always carry.

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

Communities begin by building their kitchen.

Do not judge until you have heard both sides of the argument.

Government is best which governs least.

Knowledge is madness, if good sense does not direct it.

He that has some land must have some labor.

Charity begins at home.

To spare the ravenous leopard is an act of injustice to the sheep.

Convert great quarrels into small ones, and small ones into nothing.

Education is light; lack of it is darkness.

Nature is the true law.

If several join in an enterprise, then there is no disgrace should they fail.

A fox should not be on the jury at a goose’s trial.

Equality breeds no war.

Never let schooling interfere with education.

Prudence does no harm.

Learn to handle a writing brush and you will never handle a begging bowl.

If it is thought that justice is with us, it will give birth to courage.

The people’s government, made by the people, is answerable to the people.

With all your knowledge, know thyself.

Suffer the consequences of your deeds.

Do your duty and be afraid of none.

Who refuses to submit to justice must not complain of oppression.

Cut a large poster into a circle, section it into four pieces, and cut out the pieces.

Each team will:

  • Work on creating one of the four countries in a unified world.
  • Choose a name for their country and draw a metaphor that symbolizes the values of its people.
  • Collaborate and draft their country’s constitution based on the wisdom contained in proverbs on the above subject areas.
  • Illustrate some geographical features in their country.
  • Convey some customs and describe some national holidays.
  • Present their country, and discuss foreseeable conflicts and clashing values.
  • Negotiate changes that may be needed to each country’s constitution, customs, and values so that the unified world can co-exist and evolve peacefully.
  • Join the four countries back into a circle.

This article is based on workshops given for the Global Issues SIG Track at the 38 th International Annual IATEFL Conference in Liverpool, 2004, and at The A.S. Hornby Educational Trust Latin American Regional School, “ELT and Citizenship,” in Bogota, Colombia, June 21 – July 2, 2004. The language activities are from the teachers’ resource book, Teaching Global Unity through Proverbs, Metaphors, and Storytelling by Vivian Chu,


De Ley, Gerd (1998) International Dictionary of Proverbs. Hippocrene Books, Inc.

Gleanson, Norma (1995) Proverbs from Around the World. Carol Publishing Group.

LeBaron, Michelle (2002) Bridging Troubled Waters. Jossey-Bass.

Pickering, David (1997) Dictionary of Proverbs. Wellington House.

Rosenzweig, Paul (1965) The Book of Proverbs. Philosophical Library Inc.


Vivian Chu (B.A. English, RSA CELTA), teaches English to international students and immigrants in Vancouver, Canada. She is also a TESOL Instructor and curriculum developer, with interests in peace education, intercultural communication, and teacher development. Email:

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