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Page history last edited by Sendaiben 13 years, 7 months ago



Brian Thomas


GRADE LEVEL: SHS (All Years, All Levels)
SKILLS: Speaking, Listening, Reading, Writing
TIME: 45 minutes



Worksheets, Flashcards

Optional: group prizes, superstitious props



1. To practice reading, writing, and speaking new vocabulary words related to superstitions.

2. To practice using and understanding the new vocabulary words in sentences.

3. To learn about some of the common superstitions in a foreign culture.



1. Beforehand, prepare a list of cultural superstitions, such as objects or actions that are considered good luck or bad luck. For example, finding a four leaf clover is good luck.


2. Next, prepare flashcards of each object associated with the superstition (i.e. clover). The vocabulary may be new to your students, in which case you may need to provide them with a list of the vocabulary words. However, they will be guessing from this list, so you may want to add some extra null words.


3. Warm Up (10 Minutes): Divide the class into 2 to 4 teams and play Pictionary. For each group, students take turns drawing pictures based on the flashcards you show them, while group members try to guess the word. (You may need to reveal the Japanese word to the person doing the drawing.) Students can draw on the blackboard or poster paper at a group desk. Make sure each group has different words. Have them choose from the vocabulary list you made if the words are otherwise too difficult. Don’t let students erase pictures after they have been guessed. Award groups points based on how many words they guessed, or how quickly they finished.


4. Vocabulary Review (5 Minutes): If the groups used poster paper, tape them to the board at the front so everyone can see them. Have the students repeat each object after you. I prefer not to label the objects; my students listen better when they are not reading, and they have the words on the vocabulary list anyway.


5. Fill-in-the-Blank Worksheet (15 Minutes): Hand out a list of superstition questions where students have to guess and write the object of the question. Answers will come from the vocabulary words they drew and practiced. Sample question: It is good luck if you find one of these with four leaves. (Answer: clover.) Read each question; have groups compete for points by trying to answer the question orally. Make sure students complete their answer sheets. Total points from warm-up and oral questions, and award winning group with a prize.


6. Q&A (12 Minutes): Have students put away their Fill-in-the-Blank Worksheets and get into pairs. Hand out 2 sets of questions with answers, one for Student A of each pair and one for Student B of each pair. Have students take turns quizzing each other on the questions. Questions could be of the form of ‘is it good luck or bad luck if…?’


7. Conclusion (3 Minutes): Review a few of the easier Q&A questions orally. Optionally, reward the students who scored highest on the Q&A, or, if time allows, have them compete in the Q&A orally. Finish by wishing everyone good luck.



  • Superstitions vary from culture to culture, even among different regions and age groups. You can research superstitions, or just provide some that you remember from your own experience. Here are some sample American superstition questions with answers. For the Q&A section, just reword them so that the object is included and students have to guess whether it is good luck or bad luck.


1. It is good luck to spit on a new one before you use it. (baseball bat)

2. It is bad luck if this animal crosses your path. (black cat)

3. It is good luck if you find one with four leaves. (clover)

4. It is good luck if you find one with heads facing up. (coin)

5. It is bad luck if you find one with tails facing up. (coin)

6. It is good luck if this insect is in your house. (cricket)

7. It is good luck if this animal follows your ship. (dolphin)

8. It is good luck if you cross these. (fingers)

9. It is good luck if you hang this above your door. (horseshoe)

10. It is bad luck if you walk under this. (ladder)

11. It is good luck if this insect lands on you. (ladybug)

12. It is bad luck if you break this. (mirror)

13. It is bad luck if you see a new moon through this. (mirror)

14. It is bad luck if you see your reflection in this by candle light. (mirror)

15. It is good luck if you use the same one on a test that you used to study for the test. (pencil)

16. This animal's foot is good luck. (rabbit)

17. It is bad luck if this animal crows at night. (rooster)

18. It is bad luck if you spill this at the table. (salt)

19. It is good luck if you take a pinch of this and throw it over your shoulder. (salt)

20. It is bad luck if you open this indoors. (umbrella)

21. It is good luck to knock on this. (wood)


  • You can focus on or include other aspects of superstitions as well. In one class I explained the origins of some of the superstitions. In another class I included a ‘wishful thinking’ list, or circumstances where people might make a wish. Examples:


1. Find the wishbone in a turkey. Make a wish. Pull on one side, while your friend pulls on the other side. When it breaks, if you have the larger piece then your wish will come true.

2. Make a wish before you blow out the candles on your birthday cake. If you blow them all out in one breath, your wish will come true.

3. Make a wish if your eyelash falls out. Put it on the back of your hand and blow once. If it comes off on the first try, your wish will come true.

4. Make a wish if you see the first robin of spring. If you finish before the bird flies away, your wish will come true.

5. Make a wish and throw a coin in a fountain.

6. Make a wish if you see a shooting star.

7. Make a wish if you meet a chimney sweep.


  • For the Q&A section, I included questions related to the wishful thinking list interspersed with the others. Students had to guess ‘Good Luck’, ‘Bad Luck,’ or ‘Make a Wish’.


  • Other ideas: focus on a particular theme, such as Halloween, Christmas, weddings, animals, sports, etc. Or else expand on a particular superstition. Example: provide an explanation of why 7 is considered a lucky number in so many cultures; or make a list of places in western culture where the number 13 is omitted (room numbers, aisles, floors, etc.)


  • If you are truly ambitious, you can provide the objects in the lesson, and demonstrate each action that is good luck, bad luck, etc. Alternately, students could demonstrate the actions during the Q&A section.


  • Ask students about Japanese superstitions.


  • My students enjoyed this topic more than the standard textbook dialogues, so I could afford to review the material several times during class without losing their attention. I could also get away with using slightly more difficult English than usual.

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