For young children, hearing idioms for the first time can be a pretty confusing experience. How is a child supposed to understand that someone being “too big for his britches” doesn’t have anything to do with growing out of their pants? What does it mean when someone says not to “judge a book by its cover” when you weren’t talking about books at all? These turns of phrase seem like a natural part of conversation to adults, and don’t often consider them when creating language curriculum. To help your students develop a rich understanding not just of grammar but also the cultural and conversational elements of language, include some of these fun idiom activities in your classroom’s reading curriculum.
1.Student Illustrated Idiom Posters
For a language activity and fun arts activity in one, have your students help create special idiom posters. Create any number of blank posters in 11″ x 17″ with an idiom written on them, such as “getting your ducks in a row” or “spill the beans.” Students can then draw two illustrations on the poster – one of a literal interpretation of the idiom, and one of the idiom’s metaphorical meaning. At the end, you’ll have a beautiful new student-created classroom decoration that doubles as an instructional aid that your students can reference as needed while reading!
2. Idiom Scavenger Hunt
Creating an idiom scavenger hunt is a great way to incorporate idiom activities into another area of education. Provide students with a certain source text. It may be something related to their current topic in science or social studies, or it may just be a selection of the classroom’s favorite books. Students can then work either independently or in small groups to identify as many idioms as possible. It’s helpful to pick a selection of text that has a broad diversity of idioms to find! Students can track the idioms they find on a recording page. Then the class can come together and discuss which idioms they found and their meanings. You can even incentivize the activity with a special prize for the student or group who finds the most idioms!
3. Idiom Charades
For a fun, physically engaging activity that gets students thinking creatively, try Idiom Charades! Setup for this activity is super simple – just write idioms onto slips of paper, fold them in half, and place them all into a big bowl. Students can volunteer to come to the front of the class and pick a slip of paper out of the bowl. Once they’ve received their slip of paper, they have to act out the idiom without using any words and only communicating with movement and gestures. Students can act out either the literal or figurative meaning of the idiom, but the rest of the class has to be able to guess what it is!
While idioms can be difficult for elementary students to grasp right away, using a few simple activities to help familiarize them with these silly linguistic phrases can help them build strong conversational skills, and have a lot of fun in the process!