Provide idioms in context
, so students can fully understand the meaning. Be sure to provide a sample conversation
around it. For example, take the following dialogue featuring the idiom "to be a chicken" when at a local amusement park.Jack:
Ooh, wow. Look at that roller coaster, Jane! It goes upside-down!Jane:
My stomach aches just looking at it. I will not ride that.Jack:
Ah, come on. Don't be a chicken!Teach idioms in spoken form
, not written, and explain to students how they are conversational, rather than formal. Have students practice the idioms in dialogue to help them understand they're used in spoken colloquial English.Be sure to explain how the individual words have different meanings
from the whole idiom phrase. For example, how much does an arm and a leg actually cost? Who knows?Don't just hand out a long list of idioms.
Be sure to provide a small selection of 5-10 idioms (or less!) and explain each one. If you provide too many examples, it'll simply turn into an introduction of what an idiom is, rather than how to actually remember the meaning and use one effectively in dialogue.
That brings us to just how important it is to help your students understand idiom usage.Exercises to Help Your Students Understand Idioms1. Teach idioms with picturesProvide a picture
to explain the context. This works best if you show an image that humorously illustrates the literal meaning of the idiom. It will make students laugh, but also help them understand or guess what a phrase means. Idioms are full of colorful imagery, perfect for a flashcard or photo. Show the picture to your students and have them guess the meaning of the idiom.
From there, give examples of when you would use it and how the words and the actual meaning of the idiom are different. Looking for a good resource? Check out this website for an example of great images to explain the meaning of idioms
. And for some beautiful images depicting idioms, be sure to check out this site
.2. Use small groups to present dialogues
Break your class into small groups and have each group look up two idioms. Dave's ESL Cafe
has a great collection of idioms and their meanings for student reference.
Before they look them up, have the students make an educated guess on what the idiom means, and then let them search for the real meaning. Have students explain the meaning to the rest of the class and use the idiom in a short sample dialogue.3. Use stories
Telling a story can help students understand and remember the meaning behind the words. "Kill two birds with one stone," for example, lends itself well to a simple story. You can then have your kids discuss the meaning of the phrase, and come up with other ways that they could "kill two birds with one stone."
You can also use stories that contain a lot of idioms, such as the Amelia Bedelia books
. This series is rich in idioms and puns, and with a main character who often completely misinterprets them. Reading and discussing it with your students can be a lot of fun, and a great way to get them thinking about idioms and their meanings.4. Use a theme
A great way to teach idioms is to use a theme. For example, you could use all weather-related idioms (see this great worksheet
!). Or teach sports-related idioms with this helpful worksheet
. By using a common theme to teach idioms, it's easier for students to grasp the meanings of the phrases, and see how similar words can mean very different things.5. Say the idioms regularly in the classroom
Keep track of the idioms that you've taught your students, and make it a point to use them every now and then in class. This will not only help students remember the phrase and its meaning, but will also help them get a feel for how the idiom is used in everyday speech.6. Keep it fun and light
Teaching idioms is about helping the students communicate and understand conversational English. Whatever activities or games you do, keep it low-stress and focus on getting your students comfortable with understanding and using the idioms that they know.7. ResourcesLists of Common Idioms:
A lot of times it can be hard to come up with an idiom off the top of your head—browse through these lists for ideas of common idioms that your students should know.http://examples.yourdictionary.com/idioms-for-kids.htmlhttp://www.smart-words.org/quotes-sayings/idioms-meaning.htmlhttp://www.idiomsite.com/Free Idioms Worksheets:
Check out these free worksheets to help review and teach idioms.http://busyteacher.org/classroom_activities-vocabulary/idioms-worksheets/http://www.k12reader.com/subject/figurative-language-worksheets/idiom/Idiom-Based Games and Lesson Ideas:
If you're drawing a blank when it comes to thinking up fun and interesting ways to introduce new idioms to your students, you'll find these games and lesson ideas helpful.http://www.webenglishteacher.com/idioms.htmlhttp://www.minds-in-bloom.com/2010/03/8-fun-things-to-do-with-idioms.htmlhttp://busyteacher.org/13624-teach-idioms-7-no-prep-activities.html