Lesson plan

Idiom Pictionary and Charades

Idioms can be a pain in the neck to understand! Help your students become acquainted with many of the English language's funny and confusing idioms in this lesson that has them using their creativity to act out or illustrate idioms.
Grade Subject View aligned standards
  • Students will be able to identify and explain common idioms, and use them correctly in a sentence.
(5 minutes)
  • Inform your students that today they will learn about idioms.
  • Tell them that idioms are phrases that have a figurative meaning different from the literal meaning. Idioms are cultural phrases used in all languages around the world; there are different idioms used in different languages and cultures. Idioms are often a fun and creative way to get your point across, both when speaking or writing. The ones in this lesson are English idioms.
(10 minutes)
  • Write the following idioms on a piece of chart paper, without the meanings in parenthesis at first.
    • Get your head out of the clouds. (stop daydreaming)
    • Butterflies in your stomach. (to feel nervous)
    • Give a hand. (help someone)
    • Keep an eye out. (look and see)
    • Play it by ear. (do something without planning ahead)
  • Ask the students if they know the figurative meaning of these idioms. As students respond, write their answers adjacent to the idiom. If there are any they do not know, write the meaning next to it.
  • Tell students that you are going to play charades with them. Explain that charades is a game in which you act out a phrase without speaking or making any noise, only with gestures and movements, so that others may guess the phrase. Tell them that you will act out one of the idioms from the chart paper, and they must guess which it is.
  • Act out "butterflies in my stomach" by making a pretend flying butterfly with your hands and pointing to your stomach. Call on students to guess and when someone guesses it right, they must use the idiom correctly in a sentence.
  • Next, tell the students you will draw the literal meaning of an idiom and they must guess which it is. Tell them this game is also known as pictionary.
  • Draw "get your head out of clouds" by drawing a head amongst clouds with arrows pointing away from the clouds. Once a student guesses it right, have them use the idiom in a sentence.
(20 minutes)
  • Hand out a stack of index cards to each pair of students.
  • Have students work with a partner to spend 5 minutes coming up with as many idioms as they know, writing each one on an index card. Once the time is up, encourage students to share their favorite idioms with the class. Collect the index cards.
  • Add some of the student-generated idioms to the initial list on the chart paper. (Note: try to get a list of about 20 idioms.) Briefly go over the meaning of each one and clarify any misconceptions.
  • Divide the students into two groups and use the index cards to play charades/pictionary.
  • Call on a student from one of the groups to either act out or draw on the board the literal meaning of an idiom. Have the student pick out one of the index cards from the stack. Remind students that they have 45 seconds to act or draw so that their teammates can guess the idiom. If a teammate guesses correctly and is able to use the idiom in a sentence, the team gets a point. Take turns until one of the groups gets 10 points.
(15 minutes)
  • Pass out the Identify the Idiom worksheet to students and have students place the correct idiom in each sentence.
  • Circulate the room to assist any students who need help.
  • Ask students to write a brief paragraph on the back of the worksheet, using as many idioms as possible.


  • Frontload the vocabulary of the lesson ahead of time for students who struggle with figurative language.
  • Ask your ELs to ask their families for some idioms in their home languages to compare to English idioms.
  • Provide visuals for the figurative meaning of the idioms.


  • Encourage students to go on an idiom hunt in the classroom library during reading time. Keep a list of idioms up on wall and invite students to add to it as they come across them.
  • Have your early finishers or advanced learners write a skit using lots of idioms. They could later perform the skit in front of the class.
  • Show a quick YouTube video called "Best Thing Since Sliced Bread" to get students excited about acting out idioms (see related media).
(10 minutes)
  • Give one of the index cards with an idiom on it from earlier in the lesson to each student. (Note: make sure students do not receive a card they wrote themselves.)
  • Tell students that this will be their exit ticket for today's lesson. Students should write the meaning of the idiom and write a sentence with it.
  • Use the exit ticket to assess how well students are able to meet the lesson's objective.
(5 minutes)
  • Engage students in a reflective discussion with the following questions as a guide:
    • Why do idioms exist?
    • What do you a think a world without idioms would be like?
    • Would it be hard to understand an idiom in a language or culture other than your own? Why?

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