Objective: To introduce students to common idiom expressions and have them actively build expressions into sentences for deeper understanding.
To first understand the reason why teaching English Language Learners (ELLs) idioms is important we first have to understand what they are. Idioms are cultural phrases, which cannot be understood by knowing the individual word meanings alone. For example, “raining cats and dogs.” It is understood that the sky cannot literally rain cats and dogs, but what then do cats and dogs have to do with the rain? In the meaning of this idiom they represent large and heavy raindrops. To say, “it is raining cats and dogs” is to mean, “it is raining very heavily.” Idioms pose a challenge for ELLs because often they have not been raised in the culture the idiom is being used in. Not being able to understand the meaning of phrases can lead students to misunderstanding and confusing situations.
When I have taught idioms with my classes I have first developed a definition I feel is appropriate for their level of understanding and then provided them with an Idioms List Handout (see attached). Students can record the definition on the handout and read pages of idiom examples with their meanings. The Idiom List Handout was compiled using idioms from Idiom Site. There are several other good websites for idioms; including Idioms The Free Dictionary and Using English-Idioms.
Once students have had a chance to explore the idioms on their own I introduce the Idiom Activity Handout (see attached) and provide and exemplar, using the idiom “back to the beginning” (see attached). Each student should choose, or be assigned a different idiom to complete the activity. The activity sheets can be displayed in the classroom or put into a book.
This is a basic activity that can be built into expanded lessons or used as filler between units or lessons. Students can also be put into pairs to complete the activity. There are many options…enjoy!!
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