How to Teach Idioms to Teenagers
Using English idioms in everyday speech equips teens with a large and effective vocabulary to sound like a native speaker. Idioms are usually learnt through the course. But sometimes, when students are getting ready for their exams, which consist of a part dedicated to the English idioms, learning idioms becomes more difficult and frustrating. Here you can find some tips and ideas on how to teach and revise idioms with teenagers.
Tips and Tasks to Teach Idioms
- Provide idioms in context, so students can fully understand the meaning. Introduce a simple context with the idiom. For example: «Suddenly the boat started sinking in heavy seas. Everybody was in a panic. And only the crew members kept their heads and led the passengers to the lifeboats. So most passengers were saved.»
Provide a picture that explains the context. This works best if you show an image which illustrates the literal meaning of the idiom. You can use flashcards and show them to your students. They must guess the meaning through the picture. The images may turn to be very funny, but the students will enjoy learning idioms through these silly and cynical pictures. Check out the following websites to print some images of idioms for your teens.
- Teach idioms in spoken form, not written. Explain to your students that idioms are more conversational than formal. Ask your students to practise idioms in dialogues.
- Don’t introduce a long list of idioms. Select some idioms, 3 to 5 would be enough, to teach each lesson. With too many examples your teens will probably confuse their meanings. So do it little by little for more effective result.
Working on the Meaning
Many students remember the form of the idiom by heart but have some difficulties in learning their meanings. In this regard, the following tasks may come in handy.
- Match an idiom and its definition. Matching is always a good idea for checking the meaning of the idioms. Hereby is an example of this task.
- Match the idioms with the pictures. For visual students, it would be a nice idea to match the idioms with more or less appropriate pictures and explain the meaning.
- Sitting duck — 1 —a person or thing with no protection against an attack or other sources of danger.
- Couch potato — 6 — a person who takes little or no exercise and watches a lot of television
- Storm in a teacup — 4- great outrage or excitement about a trivial matter
- Think outside the box — 3 — think in an original or creative way.
- Apple of someone’s eye — 5- the person of whom one is extremely fond, favourite, loving; most favourite person;
- Burning the candle at both ends -2 — work long hours without rest
Working on the Form
For many students, it’s far more difficult to remember the form of the idiom than its meaning. Here you can find some games which will help your teens to concentrate on the form of the idiom with its components.
- Manipulation. To play this game with your teens, you need to:
- Write down idioms on 54 cards. Include idioms with the components of animals, body, colour, food, numbers.
- Hand out 6 cards to each student.
- The first student lays out one of his cards and says which group the idiom belongs to («arm in arm» — body). He can tell the truth or lie.
- The second student says whether he believes him or not.
- If student B announces that he believes, he lays out one of his cards belonging to the body idioms. If he doesn’t believe student A, he can check it and turn the first student’s card.
- If it turns out that student A has lied, he has to collect all other cards on the table. Otherwise, student B collects all the cards, because he was mistaken.
- The winner is the student who doesn’t have any cards left in his hands.
- 5 Second Rule: A popular game “5 Second Rule” may come in handy while learning English idioms. The main rule of the game is to give three answers to the question within 5 seconds.
To make the learning procedure more interesting and interactive, you can ask your students to download applications to learn English idioms on their mobile phones. With these apps for learning English idioms, it will be like playing a game—no more boring vocabulary and grammar exercises.Applications for Android:English Idioms and Phrases by Praveen YuvaAll English Idioms & PhrasesImprove English: Vocabulary, Grammar, Word GamesMemriseApplications for Apple. English Idioms IllustratedLearn English — Idioms PhrasesOxford English Idioms
And of course, YouTube videos may be useful as well. Here is a list of productive ways of learning English idioms.
What tips would you recommend in teaching idioms?