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Take a Walk with Idioms
Students will be able to determine the meaning of an idiom using contextual clues.
- Give an example of an idiom in the form of a statement or question (e.g. “Wow! It’s raining cats and dogs out there!” or “I forgot my umbrella today. Is anyone else in the same boat?”)
- On scratch paper, have students interpret what you said by drawing a quick sketch. Invite a few students to share with the class. (Note: Some students might draw the figurative meaning while others will draw a literal interpretation. This exercise will serve as a quick pre-assessment.)
- Tell students that an idiom is not meant to be taken literally and provide the meaning of the idiom you used as a hook (e.g. “When I said it was raining cats and dogs I didn’t really mean that cats and dogs are falling from the sky. That is an idiom, which is a figure of speech that means it is raining really hard.”)
Explicit Instruction/Teacher modeling(10 minutes)
- Explain that every language has its own unique collection of sayings that have cultural meaning. These sayings, or idioms, are not meant to be taken literally; they are metaphorical.
- Remind students that sometimes it can be hard to understand an idiom the first time you hear it because it doesn’t mean exactly what it sounds like.
- Read a short book that contains idioms, like Amelia Bedelia’s First Field Trip.
- Have students talk with a partner and come up with two or more examples of idioms they heard in the story. Call on students to share and record their examples on a chart or on the board. Ask them to distinguish between the literal and nonliteral meaning of the phrases and share how the context helps them figure out what the author meant.
Guided Practice(15 minutes)
- Hand out pre-prepared index cards to students so that half of the students in class have a card with an idiom and the other half have a card with the meaning of an idiom.
- Have students walk around the classroom looking for their partner so that by the end, all partners end up with a corresponding idiom and meaning. Guide or support students as needed.
- Have pairs of students share their idiom and meaning with the class. Encourage them to distinguish between the literal and nonliteral meanings of the idiom as they discuss the phrase with their partners.
Independent working time(10 minutes)
- Hand out the Idioms: Picture This! worksheet.
- Circulate the room as students work and provide support as needed.
- When students are finished, review the worksheet as a class and allow a few students to share their drawings. Be sure to have them distinguish between the literal and nonliteral meaning of the phrase, and challenge students to come up with contexts in which the literal and nonliteral meanings may be used. (e.g., The phrase "piece of cake" can be used literally when someone is asking for a portion of a cake at a birthday party. The phrase can be used nonliterally when discussing how easy it was to fix a broken bicycle wheel.)
- Provide students with a list of common idioms.
- Color-code the index cards used during the walkabout activity so that the cards with an idiom are written in one color and the cards with a meaning are written in a different color.
- Have students keep a running log of the idioms they find in their reading or create a chart in your classroom for students to record the idioms they find.
- Have students research idioms from other cultures.
- Write several idioms on the board and ask students to choose one to use in a sentence.
- Use the Idioms in Context worksheet as a formative assessment.
- Collect finished independent practice worksheet and check for understanding.
- Use observations from guided and independent practice to identify students who will need additional support distinguishing between literal and nonliteral language.
Review and closing(5 minutes)
- Read sentences from the Idioms: A Figure of Speech worksheet aloud.
- Ask students to turn and discuss with a partner before calling on a volunteer to explain what they think the phrase means.
- Call on students to explain literal and nonliteral language and explain their purpose in the English language.