Ideas for Teaching Idioms to English Language Learners

Ideas for Teaching Idioms to English Language Learners

Idioms can be confusing for English Language Learners. An idiom is “an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own” according to Learners Dictionary. Once ELLs understand that some phrases in English are idioms, they can be on the lookout for them and will gain a clearer understanding of the English Language. Here are some ideas for helping them to learn common idioms.

Create original examples of Idioms
Have students come up with their own examples of idioms. A great site for finding idiom definitions in student friendly language is the idioms.

Create a class idiom book
Students can illustrate or write examples of idioms. They can either all create examples for the same idiom or use different idioms.

Read Picture Books about Idioms

Picture books are a great way to introduce idioms to children. The illustrations give visual examples.

Birds of a Feather: A Book of Idioms and Silly Pictures has silly pictures that show the literal meaning of idioms. The book invites readers to guess the real meaning of each idiom and them tells the meaning.
Raining Cats and Dogs: A Collection of Irresistible Idioms and Illustrations to Tickle the Funny Bones of Young People shows an idiom, definition, example, and picture for common idioms.

An Idiom of the Week
This is a great way to casually introduce students to idioms. Even young students enjoy learning about common idioms that they may hear in conversation. Outside of my classroom I hung up the Idiom of the Week Pocket Chart. This has a brightly colored picture, the idiom, and a simple explanation of the idiom.

Idiom of the Week Pocket Chart

Idiom Puzzles
Match idioms with definitions.  Match idioms with pictures of the idiom. Puzzles are a fun way for students to practice learning the meaning of new idioms. Check out these file folder games with idiom puzzles.
Idiom puzzle file folder game

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