Activities to Practise the Use of Idioms

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Teaching Idioms using Web 2.0 Tools

This is a short introduction to teaching idioms and some suggestions for some fun activities to do in class.

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At the end of this session participants will be able to:

  • understand the meaning of a group of idioms
  • teach the idioms
  • use a variety of techniques including the use of Web 2.0 tools to make learning more fun


What is the meaning of an idiom?

  • It is an expression which uses the language in a colourful way
  • It is an expression which refers to a figurative meaning as opposed to a literal meaning.
  • It is something which is embedded in the culture of a particular language.
  • It is something which is difficult to translate into other cultures. For example, "She is full of beans".

Why teach idioms?

  • Idioms are found, seen everywhere and certainly heard in all walks of life. In posters, advertisements, newspapers (printed and online versions), magazines, films and the internet. There is no escaping them! A headline such as "PM sees red" would have no real significance for someone in Vietnam, for example. In fact, it could mean something entirely different.
  • Idioms are a basic and natural part of life. They are an essential feature of effective communication, especially at a higher level of English.
  • They are an indication of a student's proficiency in English.

Personalised Examples

The following sentences will introduce idioms that I commonly use with their meanings.

  • I usually tell my students to "keep their eyes peeled" when they are walking in the street and I encourage them to try hard to look for examples of idioms.
  • If a student is preparing for an exam, he or she may probably "work like a horse" in the final days before the exam. They will work very hard before the exams.
  • A student may "burn the midnight oil" the night before the exam. I certainly studied hard all night before my university final exams!
  • When I taught 50 students how to pass the FCE exam in Greece, I was snowed under with the huge amount of essays I had to correct. I was extremely busy correcting 100 150-word essays every week.
  • I sometimes have to tell a student to work harder, pay more attention in class. I say "You need to pull your socks up!
  • Icebreaking activities are an essential feature on the first day of a new course. It is important to make participants feel more at ease and become familiar with peole's names and backgrounds.

  • I usually have butterflies in my stomach just before taking a major exam or publishing something onto the www. I feel nervous.
  • I studied very hard for my history exam and I learned all the relevant dates by heart. The exam was a piece of cake. It was very easy for me!

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Think about which e-tools would be suitable for use in teaching idioms. How would you exploit such tools?

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This is a matching activity to practise understanding of the components of the selected idioms.

Click here for an Idioms Matching Activity worksheet made from

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Personalised sentences.

Complete the following sentences with the correct idiom and then compare with your partner.

  1. I am usually full of beans in the................................................
  2. I remember I had butterflies in my stomach when ..................................
  3. The last time I saw red was ......................................................
  4. I think ...................................................... is a piece of cake.
  5. My favourite icebreaker is .......................................................

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Unjumble the idioms.

Can you unjumble the idiomatic questions which are inside the 2 Wordles? Answer the questions and then compare with your partner.

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Web resources: Have a look at the following blogs which have got some excellent ideas for using Wordle:

               A clil to Climb blog
               Life Feast blog
               Joe Dale's blog

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Make a comic strip cartoon of an idiom and then get your students to create their own example.

Web resources: Link to Make Belief Comix

Example 1

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Example 2

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NB I love the fun cartoons often presented by the English Blog's Jeffrey Hill. This is a lovely example of the idiom "a fat cat".

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Make a film with Xtranormal My Xtranormal Idioms Film will be coming soon!

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Newspaper Generator. Create your own newspaper article incorporating 2-3 idioms.

Web resources: Link to

My article: Idioms.jpg

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Which of the activities would you like to use in the future?

How can you adapt the Web 2.0 tools to suit your particular classroom context?

I hope you have fun experimenting with some of the lesson ideas.

Please feel free to adapt, edit or add your own favourite ways of teaching idioms with Web 2.0 tools. I would love to hear from you.