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Teaching idioms effectively. Games


Учитель английского языка

МБОУ ООШ № 26 с. Индюк

Келлер Елена Александровна

Что значит «уметь говорить на иностранном языке?»

Уметь говорить на иностранном языке –

означает сегодня не просто усвоить словарные единицы

и формальные правила их соединения в речи,

но и овладеть идиоматикой языка.

Что входит в понятие «идиоматика языка?»

Своеобразие слов, выражений, синтаксических конструкций данного языка, буквально не переводимое на другие языки.

(Толковый словарь иноязычных слов. — 2008)

Idioms Should we or shouldn’t we teach English idioms? ‘Although it is uncommon for ESL students to use them comfortably and effectively, if we choose to not teach them idioms, they’ll be missing an important cultural element of the language. However, it stands to reason that idioms should be taught to upper-intermediate or advanced students, individuals who are ready to take their English fluency to the next level’. Tips for using proverbs and idioms in class:
  • Deal with proverbs and idioms as and when they crop up in their contexts, such as in reading and listening tasks
  • Group the sayings by topic and introduce in conjunction with other activities around the topic.
  • Use visuals and pictures to help learners remember them.
  • Get students to create dialogues or role-play to reinforce the meaning.
  • Explain to students that it may be more useful for them to be able to understand the expressions when they hear them than to be able to produce them. Ask them how they would react if you used this type of expression in their language. Would they find it a bit strange?
  • Don’t overload students with too many at a time. Five is probably a good number for one class.
  • Do some matching activities and games.

Tips from Learn English with the British Council site

Exercises to Help Your Students Learn Idioms 1. Teach idioms with pictures Provide a picture to explain the context. This works best if you show an image that humorously illustrates the literal meaning of the idiom. It will make students laugh, but also help them understand or guess what a phrase means. “You could tell Sophia was angry. She had a face like thunder!”

“I know you want to become a famous pianist, but don’t chase rainbows! It’s very hard”

2. Use small groups to present dialogues Break your class into small groups and have each group look up two idioms. Have students explain the meaning to the rest of the class and use the idiom in a short sample dialogue.

- Nicolas thinks he is going to pass his exams without studying.

- Oh, he’s just got his head in the clouds!

- Did you see Peter win the race?

- Oh yeah! He was lightning fast!

3. Use a theme A great way to teach idioms is to use a theme. For example, you could use all weather-related idioms or food-related idioms. By using a common theme to teach idioms, it’s easier for students to grasp the meanings of the phrases, and see how similar words can mean very different things.

As cool as a cucumber

extremely calm; imperturbable.

“Joan felt nervous, but she acted as cool as a cucumber”.

“The politician kept cool as a cucumber throughout the interview with the aggressive journalist”.

To buy a lemon

To purchase a vehicle that constantly gives problems or stops running after you drive it away.

“You have bought a secondhand car. I think you bought a lemon”.

To be as slow as molasses

in January

Molasses is a very thick liquid and is really slow when you pour it out of a jar. It gets even slower when it is cold.

“C’mon! You’re as slow as molasses in January!”


Whether you're teaching adults or children, games will liven up your lesson and ensure that your students will leave the classroom wanting more.


  • ‘Games are a welcome break from the usual routine of the language class.
  • They are motivating and challenging.
  • Learning a language requires a great deal of effort. Games help students to make and sustain the effort of learning.
  • Games provide language practice in the various skills- speaking, writing, listening and reading.
  • They encourage students to interact and communicate.
  • They create a meaningful context for language use.'
  • From 'Creative Games for the Language Class'

    by Lee Su Kim

    'Forum' Vol. 33 No 1, January - March 1995

How to Choose Games (Tyson, 2000) * A game must be more than just fun. * A game should involve "friendly" competition. * A game should keep all of the students involved and interested. * A game should encourage students to focus on the use of language rather than on the language itself. * A game should give students a chance to learn, practice, or review specific language material. The games that can be used to effectively teach idioms

All sorts of matching games

You see an idiom and an example. Match it with the meaning.

Mark was a sitting duck for a detention slip by skipping class Friday afternoon.

The meaning of the idiom sitting duck is:

  • Something that is easily done with no problems
  • An easy target
  • Eat very little
  • To prepare for a fun and happy party

Jack was supposed to play hockey with me, but he chickened out.

The meaning of the idiom chicken out is:

  • To be stubborn
  • Unaware
  • Back out from fear, or lose one’s nerve
  • For a long time
You see a meaning of the idiom. Match it with the idiom.

The idiom whose meaning is in a straight line, by the shortest route is:

The idiom whose meaning is

the least respected member of a group is:

  • As the crow flies
  • Dead duck
  • Rain cats and dogs
  • Shaggy-dog story
  • Neither fish nor fowl
  • Go whole hog
  • Black sheep
  • Clay pigeon
You see a set of idioms. Match them with their meaning
  • When Harry lost his job, he was really in the soup.
  • I think that man's behaviour is a bit fishy. Call the police, please.
  • When Mark lost his passport, he was in a pickle.
  • People on the evening train are packed like sardines.
  • Sally is so clumsy, she's really a butterfingers!
  • The students at this university are the cream of the crop.
  • Somebody who often drop things
  • To be in a difficult situation and not know what to do
  • The best of all
  • Suspicious
  • To be in trouble
  • To be crowded tightly together in a small space
Rules: - Give every student a bingo card. - Call out the definition, word, phrase or question. Students must then identify the word or picture on their bingo card and cover the space. - If a student has all words or pictures covered diagonally, across a row or vertically in a column, they should call BINGO. - If a student claims they have BINGO and they are incorrect, they are disqualified from that round.

Idioms bingo games

- very ill (sick as a dog - a great situation (hog heaven) - something outstanding (cat’s meow) - silent (quiet as a mouse) - working hard (busy as a beaver) - very hungry, starving (hungry as a bear) - off track/ wrong answer (bark up the wrong tree) - out cast, unliked (black sheep) - clumsy (bull in a china shop) - a short rest/ sleep (cat nap) - someone who does what you do (copy cat) - fakes an emergency (cry wolf) - always arguing (fight like cat and dog) - goof off (horse around) - go crazy (hog wild)

- make a big deal out of a small problem (mountain out of a molehill) - do something because someone else does (monkey see, monkey do) - in trouble (in the dog house) - pouring rain (rain cats and dogs) - tell a secret (let the cat out of the bag) - be very excited (go ape) - don’t be nosy (curiosity killed the cat) - why are you so quiet? (cat got your tongue?)

- think someone is against you (smell a rat)

- # 1 person in charge (top dog)

Call My Bluff / Two Truths and A Lie

The game is excellent for practicing speaking skills, though make sure you save a time for after the game to comment on any mistakes students may have made during the game; also give them time to make their own examples using the idioms they’ve learnt

Why use it? Speaking skills, listening comprehension, writing skills, team work;

Who it's best for: best with older groups

Rules: - Below are three idioms. Choose one of them to describe to the rest of the teams in the class. Think up two other ‘incorrect’ descriptions for the idiom you choose, including a key sentence and, if possible, where the word comes from. - When everyone is ready, you will take it in turns to read out your descriptions of an idiom. The other teams listen to all three definitions, then GUESS which one is correct. Do this by holding up a card - A, B or C. If correct, you gain ten points. - The team with the highest score wins. ‘Dutch courage’

A: forcing your way against all odds

B: an unexpected act of bravery shown by an extremely timid individual

C: a kind of courage one gets from drinking alcohol

‘To have a kip’

A: To get a free bed and dinner for the 1st night out of 10 days’ stay in a hotel

B. To get a pack of letters in the mail

C. To have a short nap

‘A picture is worth a thousand words’

Let’s play!

‘To fly off the handle’

to react in a very angry way to something someone says or does;

to lose one’s temper

‘To be on the blink’

to be on the verge of breaking

‘To have a whip-round’

to collect money by a group of people that is then given to a particular person

or used to buy a present for them

‘To be in stitches’

laughing so much that it is difficult

to control yourself

‘To hit the sack’

to get into bed, to go to sleep

‘To cook the books’

to record false information in the accounts of an organization, especially in order to steal money

‘To mind your Ps and Qs’

to make an effort to be especially polite in a particular situation

‘To have a screw loose’

to be slightly mad

‘To send someone to Coventry’

refuse to speak to somebody,

in order to punish them

Now make up your own sentences using the idioms you’ve just learnt! Спасибо за игру и внимание! http://heardinspeech.weebly.com/blog/figurative-language-bingo-animal-idioms http://www.iup.edu/teachingexcellence/reflective-practice/past-events/2008-09/sample-games-to-be-used-in-the-classroom/instructions-for-bingo/ http://busyteacher.org/11225-food-idioms.html http://heardinspeech.weebly.com/blog/figurative-language-bingo-animal-idioms http://edubakery.com/Bingo-Cards/Idiom-Bingo-v1-Bingo-Cards http://www.childrensuniversity.manchester.ac.uk/interactives/languages/words/idioms/ http://www.funbrain.com/idioms/ https://www.gooverseas.com/blog/10-best-games-esl-teachers http://www.teflgames.com/why.html http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/ http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/

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