What is an idiom?
An idiom is a group of words that have a different meaning than what the expression suggests. The interesting thing about idioms is that they are found in all languages around the world. The history for the area, culture, beliefs, etc. all play a role in the development of idioms for that particular language and region.
Even with strong contextual clues, it can be difficult for someone to infer the meaning of an idiom they do not know. Using idiom activities to teach children is a great way to introduce them to commonly used idiomatic phrases in their language.
Examples of English idioms are:
- “He’s cool as a cucumber.
- “That’s a scam.”
- “I’ll try it.”
- “Out of nowhere.”
- “That was a blast.”
Examples of idioms in other languages:
- German – “Only a sausage has two ends.”
- Icelandic- “I took him to the bakery.”
- Arabic – “Give the bread to the baker.”
- French – “Teeth that scrape the floor.”
How to teach idioms
Idioms must be learned individually because there is no tip or trick to understanding idioms as a whole.
Figurative language is taught to older children to improve their writing and reading comprehension skills. One of the best ways to learn figurative language is by reading.
There are so many types of figurative language, not just idioms, that it is difficult to learn without a lot of exposure. If students don’t converse much at home or their parents speak English, it won’t be possible for them to learn without proper homework and practice.
Even if parents are able and willing to help and converse, we as human beings are creatures of habit and students are likely to be repeatedly exposed to the same type of language without the help of books and worksheets by different authors with different voices.
Why do we use figurative language?
Figurative language helps a writer or speaker get their point across more fully and gives them a variety of resources to express their thoughts and feelings. When something like an idiom is well understood, it leaves no room for misunderstanding on the part of the reader. Not only does it create an accurate image, but it adds an element of creativity and often humor to enhance the experience.
Because idioms are inherently fun, it’s easy to make learning idioms fun. There is no excuse for boring idiom lessons! This link has a variety of idiom activities that are great for teaching younger students.
Idiom Costume Activity
An idea not mentioned in this link is to have an idiom dress up day. This is a great way for students to show understanding, express creativity and interact with other students as costumes are explored and identified.
Idiom Charades activity
Fortunately, children generally have fewer inhibitions than adults when it comes to playing games like charades. The advantage of this idiom activity is that the student does not necessarily need a thorough understanding of what the idiom means to play. For example, if the idiom they are asked to play is “hold your horse”, the student may play it without understanding the literal meaning. The class could join in and help with this.
Now you know what idioms are, why we use them, when to use them, how to teach them and how to make learning them fun. If this isn’t a complete guide to idioms, then what is? If you have any other insights about this fun word game, please comment below.
The Ultimate Guide to Idiom Activities