A Super Cool Way to Teach Idioms to Teens and Adults

Idioms are an important part of nearly all languages and we use a few idioms, probably without thinking about it, at least a few times each week. 

Being able to use idioms accurately, in a second language, gives students a sense of achievement and will push their language to the next level. It also seriously impresses the person they are speaking to! 

Teaching English idioms to your teen and adult students in China is fun for both you and the student and is also very important for them. Here is one amazing way for you to teach English idioms in class, with good speaking practice.


Kick the bucket...

Kick the bucket...

A piece of cake...

A piece of cake...

A face like a bulldog chewing a wasp...

A face like a bulldog chewing a wasp...

STEP ONE: pick your idioms

Before your class, choose eight idioms you'd like to teach your students. Try to choose eight idioms which your students might commonly hear in English speaking situations. Here are eight below as an example:

  1. Let the cat out of the bag

  2. Break a leg

  3. Hit the nail on the head

  4. When pigs fly

  5. Piece of cake

  6. To cut corners

  7. Speak of the devil

  8. Once in a blue moon


STEP TWO: print off pictures

Find a picture to represent each idiom. The picture should have no text, for example, a photo of a nail. Print off all eight pictures, in colour and A4 is best. Laminate photos if you want to do this class again.

Hit the nail on the head...

Hit the nail on the head...

In big letters, print off the name of the idiom e.g "Hit the nail on the head"

Separately, print off in big letters, the meaning of the idiom


STEP THREE: stick on walls

Before class starts, take your pictures and text to your classroom. On one wall, stick up your photos. Don't put them in any order.

On a second wall, stick up the names of the idioms, again in random order.

On a third wall, stick up the meanings of the idioms. Make sure that you use large text. You should easily be able to read the text from 3-4m away.

TEFLlemon Tip: Buy some Blu-Tack for sticking up stuff on walls, all schools should get some and you can buy it on Taobao.


STEP FOUR: lead in

Ask your students if they know any English idioms. What do they mean? Where did they first hear these? When can you use them? Do they know any Chinese idioms they can teach you, the teacher?

Don't rush this stage, it's good language practice and will set the stage for your lesson very well.


STEP FIVE: matching activity

Tell your students that on the wall, you have pictures representing eight English idioms. Walk with them and ask them if they can guess any of the idioms from the pictures. 

Now tell them that they need to a) match the name of the idiom with the picture and b) the meaning. They should walk around the classroom reading the text and then physcially take the text off the wall and stick it under the right picture. Give them a few mins to do this and go through the answers after.


STEP SIX: role-play

Divide your students into small groups, and then ask each group to pick one photo randomly. This is now 'their' idiom.

They have 10-15 minutes to prepare a short dialogue or roleplay, which must include their chosen idiom. The teacher should move around the room lending help and support where needed. 


STEP SEVEN: performance

Now choose teams to come to the centre to perform their role-play. Watching students should say at the end what the idiom was. Finish off by asking students which idiom they liked the most.

TEFLlemon Tip: groups will continue to practice their dialogue, totally ignoring other groups' performances, if left together. Just before the performances start, move students around so that groups aren't sat together. This will make it impossible for them to keep practicing, so they actually listen and watch other groups.

Stuart Allen 200a.jpg

   by Stuart Allen