Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Idioms aren't always a piece of cake...

I've developed a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Common Core. I LOVE that most states are using the same standards now because it makes finding high-quality teaching materials that much easier. I also LOVE that the standards are set up in a way that makes it easy to see how a skill is supposed to progress from one grade level to the next. I hate, however, that I feel like I'm constantly second-guessing myself. Is this text rigorous enough? Did this student compare and contrast these texts at the level that the CCSS expects? Have I taught this skill as thoroughly as I need to? The questions go on and on, and I know that time and experience will eventually answer those questions for me.

This last term, my school's pacing guide said that I was supposed to teach L5b. Recognize and explain the meanings of common idioms, adages, and proverbs. When I introduced my lesson, I was surprised by how many idioms my students already knew. Hands were raising left and right to share expressions they'd heard before, and I was thrilled by the amount of background knowledge they had. I thought for sure that this would be an easy topic. I gave them some activities from an idioms book I'd had for a while, including one where the students were supposed to think about what the idiom meant based on the context, and then they would match it to a another idiom that had a similar meaning.

To say that this activity was a disaster would be an understatement.

As I quickly realized, just because a student has heard an idiom used before doesn't mean he or she has the slightest clue what it means. That was mistake #1. And making the connections between idioms with a similar meaning is actually pretty challenging work -- especially if the meaning is unclear. So I quickly scrapped the lesson and went back to the drawing board. (Like how I inserted that idiom there?)

There are 100s of idioms, adages, and proverbs, and I knew I needed something more to not only teach students the meanings of the words but to see how they can also be used in context. When I couldn't find anything else that I really liked, I made something myself.

I wanted an easy weekly routine to teach idioms, adages, and proverbs. So this is what I came up with.

On Mondays, students are introduced to 10 idioms, adages, and proverbs that they'll study for the week. The idioms have a common theme like school and learning or cats so that I could organize the idioms better.

I created a phrase card with a QR code that has the meaning of each idiom we'll be studying, and I display these in the room where students can access them. They also have a page where they're able to write down the meaning and try to use it in a sentence. 

I put QR codes on these pages as well since I have 1:1 iPads in my classroom, but I also made a version of the page that doesn't have the QR codes on it.

Throughout the week, students work on completing the meanings and sentences, and they also try to look for examples of the phrase used in context. In addition, I've created a center activity that students can do to help them learn the meanings of the words. It's a matching game where students match the idiom to its correct meaning.

Finally, on Fridays, students take a quiz on the idioms where they match the idiom to its meaning, and then fill-in the blank in a sentence by choosing the appropriate idiom for the context.

So far, I've put together 6 weeks worth of idiom, adage, and proverb study, and it has been going really well. I feel like my students are learning more of these phrases, and it has definitely helped my English Language Learners who tend to struggle more with understanding idioms. The first 6 week unit is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, and I'm planning to add more units to cover an entire year of idiom study. It's been an easy routine to introduce and use with my students, so I'd like to keep it going throughout the year to expose them to more idioms, adages, and proverbs.

If you're interested in set #1, please click the image below to get to my TpT store. It's on sale for 20% off through Saturday.

So while my original idioms lesson was a failure, every cloud has a silver lining. I was able to put together this unit, and it's one that I'm very proud of. With over 60 pages of materials, you'll definitely get a lot of bang for your buck. And before I use any more idioms, I'm going to sign off.

Have a fabulous Wednesday!


  1. Thanks for sharing! I have an idiom unit coming up. Most of my students speak English as their second language, which can make idioms very confusing for them. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  2. Your use of technology is really amazing! We are your newest follower!

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  4. We would be able to form more of the positive ideas which are needed to be made with some positive objects, furthermore there is every possible sentence to be discussed.


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