Experiences of an English Language Teacher

“Old Wife’s Tales”: Lesson Plan

Here is my first lesson plan for 2012 and something related to “Old Wife’s Tales”.  I created this lesson after watching a video on YouTube about Fan Death.  For those that might be unfamiliar, Fan Death is described by Wikipedia:

Fan death is a widely held belief in South Korea that an electric fan left running overnight in a closed room can cause the death of those inside. Fans sold in Korea are equipped with a timer switch that turns them off after a set number of minutes, which users are frequently urged to set when going to sleep with a fan on.

The Korea Consumer Protection Board (KCPB), a South Korean government-funded public agency, issued a consumer safety alert in 2006 warning that “asphyxiation from electric fans and air conditioners” was among South Korea’s five most common seasonal summer accidents or injuries, according to data they collected.

When I first arrived in Korea, I found it very funny that Koreans would not bat an eyelid and tell me off if I kept my air-conditioning on in my closed apartment (especially over the summer months when it was quite hot and humid).  Anyhow, the lesson plan is below:

Aim of Lesson
To learn, discuss and share more about popular UK and additional country’s “Old Wife’s Tales”.

Level of Learner(s)
This lesson is aimed for learners at levels of Intermediate or above (B1+).

Progression of Lesson
1. Start the lesson by writing on the whiteboard: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” and ask learner(s) if they have heard of this saying.  This should activate learners’ schema and provides a good example of an ‘Old Wife’s Tale’.
2. Ask learners if they have a similar saying from their country and transcribe their examples on the whiteboard.
3. Tell students that they will be re-writing sentences and there are eight sentences which need to be reformulated and handout the following below.  Advise students that they must complete the handout individually.
Old Wifes Tales Reformulation(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “http://www.scribd.com/javascripts/embed_code/inject.js”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();
4. Monitor students to see if they are working well.  Once students have finished, start pairing students together and get them to check their reformulation in small groups/pairs.
5. Elicit from learners the sentences and transcribe their answers on to the whiteboard.  Check for errors and encourage self-correction from the learners.
6. Once the correct sentences are on the whiteboard, ask learners which sentence they think is true or false (all are false apart from the last one).  Try to ask learners why they think some are true or false.  Some language may emerge so be flexible for following the class.
7. The next part of the lesson is to show a video about “Fan Death” and a common Old Wife Tale from South Korea.  If there is a learner from South Korea, get them to explain what Fan Death is (but they may not be familiar with this – so a bit of understanding is required).
8. Show the video below:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oms2grI1TC0]
9. Get students to talk about the video and whether they think Fan Death is true or false.  Korean learners may be quite direct in their opinion of fan death so some sensitivity is required but hopefully the video will encourage some debate in the subject.  Some language that may arise from the discussion could include: asphyxiation, vortex, etc.  The best thing about the video is that it is a cartoon and takes quite a funny look at Old Wife’s Tales.
10. Finish off the lesson to talk about funny beliefs and get students to share their country’s beliefs.  Perhaps you could start off by providing an example that British people will not walk under a ladder as it is considered bad luck.

Have fun and enjoy the lesson and I look forward to hearing further ideas about how the YouTube video could be incorporated in lessons.  I am aiming this lesson to share cultural ideas and beliefs in the effort that it improves understanding with the learners in the classroom.


  1. This is quite neat and can easily be adapted. It is sure to get students talking as every culture has them. Thanks.

  2. I totally agree Global English. It is so nice to compare culture in the classroom.

  3. Fan-tastic post, sorry, couldn't resist the awful pun. I did a class with my students (Spanish) a couple of weeks back about a mysterious crocodile tribe in Africa who though that crocodiles ruled the world. My students loved it and I think they'll like this Fan lesson too. Did you actually do this lesson with South Korean students? Thanks.

  4. Barry, I did actually try this lesson with my 1-2-1 Korean learner and she did like the video. She did describe in detail what happens if a fan is on in a room and a vortex is created and the air will leave the room.

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