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Things to Do with Idioms

"Teaching Idioms? I know I’m preaching to the choir when I say that idioms are more fun than a barrel of monkeys. There is a boatload of idioms at GoEnglish. Beyond going over the literal meaning of such phrases as, “It’s raining cats and dogs,” there are many other out-of-this-world things to try. They are the cat’s pajamas, so give them a whirl!

Check out this post about eight fun things to do with idioms and other figurative language elements. Your students will love playing with figurative language!

1) Draw them
The picture above shows how much fun this can be. Here are some others that might be fun to draw:
Give me a hand
Hit the books
Keep an eye on you
You’re pulling my leg
Cat’s got your tongue
Zip your lip
Cold turkey
Wear your heart on your sleeve
In the doghouse
When pigs fly
Put your foot in your mouth
On pins and needles
I’ll be there with bells on
Bite off more than you can chew
Toss your cookies
Act them out

2) This is probably easiest to do in small groups. Assign each group an idiom and have them act it out for the rest of the class to guess. Some that will probably work well include:

All in the same boat
Barking up the wrong tree
Birds of a feather flock together
Crying over spilt milk
Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched
It takes two to tango
Let the cat out of the bag
Out of the frying pan and into the fire
Out on a limb
Preaching to the choir
Rub salt in your wound
The straw that broke the camel’s back

3) Use them as writing prompts
A phrase such as, “a fool and his money are soon parted” could inspire a great story. “Every cloud has a silver lining” could inspire an essay on finding something good in an otherwise bad situation. “In the heat of the moment” could be the theme behind a story about doing something foolish – or perhaps brave.

4) Use them as discussion starters
“You can’t judge a book by it’s cover” could be the start of a discussion about false first impressions, unfairly judging, or racism. “Rome wasn’t built in a day” could start a discussion about persistence. You could have all kinds of interesting discussions around “the ends justify the means.”

5) Write an idiom story
Challenge your students to write a story using as many idioms as they can. They will probably want to use a lot of dialogue, so this is a great way to practice using quotations properly. It would probably help to have a large list of common idioms available.

6) Create an idiom challenge
Over a period of days, see how many idioms your class can come up with related to a specific subject. Students could write them on a large piece of butcher paper on the wall as they come up with them throughout the week. Some ideas are:

animal idioms
food idioms
weather idioms
location idioms
idioms that mention parts of the body

7) Go a little deeper
Where exactly did the idiom “to cry wolf” come from? Do your students know the story of The Boy who Cried Wolf? How about “curiosity killed the cat?” Why a cat instead of some other animal? “Raising Cain” must have biblical roots. An idiom could be the start of a great research project!

8) Create your own
What else, besides cats and dogs, could it be raining? Fish and chips? Lizards and snakes? Water balloons and superballs? That’s the way the…cookie crumbles, ball bounces, soda bubbles? Leaves fall? Carrot crunches? It’ll cost you…an arm and a leg, a finger and four toes? An ear and a bad haircut?"