Teaching Idioms is a Piece of Cake!

Figurative language is one of my FAVORITE things to teach! Working at a predominatly hispanic school, I have been exposed to tons of new idioms from so many different cultures. It's pretty hard to keep up! Just like I sometimes find myself having a hard time understanding idioms from other cultures, ELL learners usually demonstrate the most difficulty with figurative language activities. How can I possibly lend you my ear?... 

"That test was a piece of cake!" "It's clean as a whistle!" --Idioms, well-known words or phrases that have figurative meanings different from their literal ones, can be found everywhere from the books we read to our everyday conversations. This fun, hands-on activity provided by Education.com is perfect for kinesthetic learners in our classrooms. 

Using modeling clay, students will represent the literal meaning of an idiom which can then be compared to how we use the phrase when we talk or write. Kiddos can brainstorm all the idioms they knows and think creatively about how to represent their favorite one using clay. They can also pick idiom strips from a box. This is a great way to expose them to new idioms they haven't heard of before!


Students will work together to write down as many idioms as they can think of. They can use the internet to search for ideas or pick an idiom strip prepared by the teacher. Keep in mind that the idioms that will work best are the ones that involve people or things. For example, “hold your horses,” “don’t let the cat out of the bag,” “all in the same boat,” “pick up your ears,” “bite your tongue,” “when pigs fly,” and “you are what you eat” would all be easy to make into a clay model.


Click HERE to grab some free idiom strips!

Have students brainstorm how they will design their piece of art. Have them draw it out before getting started on the clay. For example, if they're making “a piece of cake,” what color clay will be used; will it be sitting on a plate or standing alone?


Now for the fun part! Students will create their idiom using the modeling clay. When finished, depending on the type of clay that is used, you may be able to heat the clay in the oven or sit it out to dry in order to get a finished piece. While the clay is baking or drying, use the time to discuss what each child made. Can they think of examples of how “a piece of cake” (or whichever phrase they each chose) is used in everyday language? How is that different from the actual clay piece of cake that was made?
Once all of the pieces are done, you may decide to have an 'Gallery Walk' around the classroom. Students can set up their models around the room. Students will walk around and interpret each design. What idiom do they think each model represents? What does the idiom really mean?

Prior to starting any activity, you may want to show your kiddos this silly video on idioms and what happens when their meanings are taken 'literal'. 



Hope your kiddos love it!

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