With a little luck, you should have no trouble engaging students in activities related to Friday the 13th. Students will find it entertaining to research the folklore of this inauspicious day in the United States and around the world. Alternatively, you could develop a thematic lesson plan focusing on the number 13, such as assigning 13 math problems using the number 13. Teach these lessons on Friday the 13th to pique student interest.
Explore the Origins
Instruct the class to research the theories about when, where and why Friday the 13th and the number 13 became associated with bad luck. Compare the possible origins of Friday 13th with the origins of other superstitions. Examine how other cultures around the world view Friday the 13th. Assign students the task of writing and performing a little skit from Norse mythology that may explain how people came to fear the number 13. Inform your students that Loki, a trouble maker, became the 13th guest when he crashed Odin's dinner party in heaven. Loki then enlisted Hoder, the god of darkness, to shoot Balder, the god of joy, which plunged the world into darkness that day. End the skit with the narrator reading a list of interesting facts compiled by the class pertaining to Friday the 13th.
Conduct Student Survey
Show children how to design a survey instrument that can be used to research student perceptions of Friday the 13th. Suggest questions related to beliefs about it being an unlucky day. The survey might also explore whether students have personally experienced bad luck on Friday the 13th. Disseminate the survey to everyone in the class and ask for volunteers to tally the results. Discuss the findings and note anything unusual, such as whether more boys than girls are superstitious. Depending on the grade level, you could demonstrate use of statistics, such as a chi-square test, to determine if the gender difference was statistically significant or coincidental.
Study Cultural Manifestations
Instruct students to research the ways in which beliefs about the number 13 have permeated modern culture, such as the "Friday the 13th" horror movies and superstitions surrounding the Apollo 13 failed moon mission. Next, ask students if they know of any buildings around town, such as hospitals, office buildings or high-rise hotels, that don't have a 13th floor. Read and discuss studies that have explored a possible correlation between Friday the 13th and misfortune, such as traffic accidents, emergency room admissions and plummeting stock market prices. If a study did find a correlation, debate other possible explanations, stressing that correlation is not causation.
Master 13 Fitness Challenges
Friday the 13th would be a fitting time to plan an obstacle course with 13 activity stations. At each stop, children could be instructed to perform a task involving 13 repetitions of an activity, such as jumping jacks, pushups, situps, jump rope, twirling a hula hoop, dribbling a ball, tossing a ball and catching it and lifting small weights. Another option would be to plan four activities, each lasting 13 minutes. For instance, students might begin by spending 13 minutes running around the track followed by 13 minutes of dancing. Afterward, ask students if they think 13 is a lucky or unlucky number.
- International Business Times: Friday the 13th: History, Origins, Myths and Superstitions of the Unlucky Day
- British Medical Journal: Is Friday the 13th Bad for Your Health?; T J Scanlon, et. al.
- National Geographic: Friday the 13th Phobia Rooted in Ancient History
- American Psychiatric Association: Phobias
- World Wide Words: Triskaidekaphobia
- Thrillist: 13 Wild Superstitions From Around The World
- Teachnet: Friday the 13th: That (un)Lucky Day
- The Washington Times: For the Fearful, this Friday Has Their Number
- Dmitry Kim/Hemera/Getty Images