The Cambridge Dictionary defines an idiom as, “a group of words in a fixed order that has a particular meaning that is different from the meanings of each word on its own.” In your daily life, you must have heard many idioms and wondered what their meanings would be in the context that they are often used. Idioms are figurative in nature, the meaning can be understood by not focusing on the words as individual units but focusing on the phrase as a whole. Along with that, knowing the cultural context is very important without which one cannot understand certain idioms which are very specific to certain cultures and rituals.
To help students learn idioms and know their significance in their appropriate context, activities, and games related to idioms can be very supportive. These activities can help them learn about various idioms in the class itself and remember these idioms for a longer time.
Find below the interactive activities that can help teachers offer a diversified learning experience and boost enthusiasm in the learning process.
Do idioms boost language skills?
Idioms do boost language skills as they have the ability to add spice and color to one’s literary creation. They have the power to fill a mundane sentence with humor, emotion, relatability, cultural validity, and wittiness. Idioms have the power to provide a strong punch that can impress the message being conveyed powerfully in the minds of the readers. Literary and language skills can never be considered mighty and resplendent until one has the artillery of idioms and various other figures of speech in his arsenal.
According to research conducted among teachers, it was found that teaching idioms are important for students. Most teachers believe that teaching idioms promote fluency in language and communication. The majority of teachers also agree that idioms are an important part of the everyday usage of English. It was also found that the concept of idioms is difficult for foreign learners.
Explore engaging and fun activities to teach idioms
Idioms are not only confusing but also challenging for students to understand in the first go. Check out relevant activities that help boost knowledge in idioms thereby creating a happy learning experience for students.
1. Match and Catch the Meaning
Match and Catch the Meaning activity aims to enhance the knowledge related to idioms. As students read a few short different stories, they improve their thinking and active learning abilities.
- To conduct this activity, students have to first identify the idioms from a given list of phrases
- After they have identified the idioms, give them a sheet on which these idioms are written on one side and their meanings on the other
- The challenge here is that the meanings are jumbled up, the students have to read the text in which the idioms were used and try to guess the meaning of the idioms and match it with the correct one
- Discuss the actual meaning of the idioms
Identification of idioms is extremely crucial because students can be confused between normal phrases and idioms. Such activity also boosts their memory and recall capacity.
2. Idiom of the day!
Idioms are meaningful in various aspects of life. When teachers use it as a part of everyday life, it becomes easier for students to recognize and learn the concept.
- Just like the thought of the day, keep an idiom of the day
- Now, to make it interesting, write the names of all students in chits
- Place the bowl in the classroom and the teacher shall pick one chit everyday
- After this, the student whose name is picked is responsible for writing the idiom of the day
- Once written, ask students to explain the meaning in their own words
Idioms, when included in everyday learning, can benefit students. It only increases their knowledge but they visually get to see the idiom every now and then.
3. Situation arises, Idiom voices
Idioms have this unique take on language. They fit anywhere and everywhere, no matter the situation. This activity focuses on teaching how certain idioms can be used in different situations to convey the same message.
- In this activity, give students a set of 2 or three situations that can be simply described by an idiom. For example, Martha is teasing Stuart
- Give this question to the whole class and ask them to write the answer by using appropriate idioms. One of the answers can be Martha is pulling Stuart’s leg
By giving them certain everyday situations like this, students get an opportunity to learn the correct context in which various idioms are used. They also learn to actively listen and put critical thinking into the process.
4. Story Time!
Stories are indeed interesting and to engage students in idioms, story writing is one of the effective ways to do so. This activity focuses on teaching students the correct way to incorporate idioms in stories.
- In this literary activity, students have to construct a story ending with a particular idiom
- Write idioms on paper and put the chit in the bowl
- Now, let students pick a chit for the story writing
- For example, give students an idiom – at the drop of the hat.
- Explain the meaning in the classroom and challenge them to construct a story revolving that ends with this idiom
This exercise will boost the analytical, critical thinking, and comprehension skills of the students and make the activity of writing a story more challenging and interesting.
5. The Mega Replacement!
Mega Replacement activity is all about replacing plain sentences with idioms. It actually helps students understand the real application of idioms in everyday communication.
- In this activity, divide the class into small groups of students
- Each group will be given 3-5 minutes for this activity
- A set of phrases/sentences will be asked one after the other
- The students have to give the correct idioms with reference to the phrases
- For example, if the sentence is – Sharon loves when tea is made with Stevia then the students may reply with the idiom – Stevia is icing on the cake for Sharon’s tea
- The students can pass those phrases whose expression in terms of idioms they are unaware of
- The team which gives the most number of correct answers in the given frame of time wins
Written communication not only helps students improve language skills but also builds fluency in spoken English. With such an activity, it becomes easy to put idioms in the right context.
6. What’s your Sentence?
Learning idioms become even easier when students learn to incorporate them into sentences. Formation of sentences helps them improve written communication in everyday class work.
- In this activity, the students will be given a few sets of idioms
- Now, divide the students into teams of 3 to 4 members each
- Their task is to construct at least five different sentences in which the given idioms will be used appropriately
- They then have to read out these sentences in front of the class and explain why they wrote what they wrote
Such an activity helps boost reading skills while also polishing comprehension skills. As students get an opportunity to explain their sentences, it creates more interest among others to know the reasons behind them.
7. Idioms for Characters!
Don’t we all relate an idiom with someone known? That’s exactly what the activity is. Students get an opportunity to learn about famous personalities as well.
- In this activity, make a list of famous characters which can be real-life characters or fictional characters
- Now, write the names of these characters on flashcards
- Distribute the flashcards among students
- Now, they are supposed to use an idiom that gives insights into the character’s characteristics
- Following are the examples
- Sherlock Holmes can be described as a person having an eagle’s eye
- Some TV character or a person someone knows who sleeps all day and keeps eating food can be described as being a couch-potato
- After this, invite an open discussion to know students’ thoughts
When students learn to allot different idioms to other characters, they also understand different personalities. With the knowledge of idioms, they get to know how to relate idioms with people in an appropriate manner.
Idiom activities encourage students to expand their vocabularies. They also understand the various relevant cultural contexts under which certain idioms were first used and are implemented henceforth. Having the knowledge regarding this naturally enhances the quality of the language that students use while writing as well as speaking. Moreover, teachers and parents can also use different English applications to furnish language skills.
- Maisa, S. (n.d.). http://ajhss.org/pdfs/Idioms%20and%20Importance%20of%20Teaching. . .pdf. Asian Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences (AJHSS). http://ajhss.org/pdfs/Idioms%20and%20Importance%20of%20Teaching. . .pdf
I am Shweta Sharma. I am a final year Masters student of Clinical Psychology and have been working closely in the field of psycho-education and child development. I have served in various organisations and NGOs with the purpose of helping children with disabilities learn and adapt better to both, academic and social challenges. I am keen on writing about learning difficulties, the science behind them and potential strategies to deal with them. My areas of expertise include putting forward the cognitive and behavioural aspects of disabilities for better awareness, as well as efficient intervention. Follow me on LinkedIn