Teaching idioms might seem intimidating, especially if your students have never heard any of them before. Idioms are a common part of speech, though. Getting your students familiar with them early on can help them communicate more naturally and give them a deeper understanding of the English language.
It doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult to teach idioms. With these tips and resources, teaching idioms to your students will be a piece of cake.
Only introduce a few idioms at a time
Don’t overwhelm students by throwing lists of phrases at them. Even if they are all common, useful idioms, students aren’t going to remember a few dozen things from one lesson. Instead, introduce a few idioms at a time. It can also help to keep them all related to a theme. For example, focus one lesson on a few animal-related idioms, such as “work like a dog,” “dog days,” “raining cats and dogs,” and “the cat’s out of the bag.”
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.
Whether it’s pictures or acting something out, visuals are another great way to convey meaning and help students remember what they’ve learned. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, and actions speak louder than words. Drawing or acting out idioms can make a great review game, too. Have students draw or act out an idiom while the other students try to guess it.
Introducing idioms through simple conversations can give students an idea of how the idioms are used in real-life situations. It’s also a good exercise for inferring the meaning of an unfamiliar idiom based on context.
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.
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.
Lists 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.
Free Idioms Worksheets:
Check out these free worksheets to help review and teach idioms.
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.