What is an idiom? 

An idiom is a commonly used figure of speech in which the meaning does not relate to the literal meaning of its words.  

We often use these expressions without realising it, as they are very natural to us as English speakers. However, to a non-native speaker, idioms may sound peculiar and be quite difficult to grasp.  

Therefore, this week’s blog will be highlighting some of the ways you can teach English idioms to your Breadies. And since it’s the most wonderful time of the year, the idioms will be Christmas themed!  

Christmas comes but once a year 

Since Christmas occurs only once a year, we should treat it as a special time by being grateful and good to others. 

Christmas has come early 

What someone might say when they get a nice surprise they were not expecting

All my Christmases have come together 

To experience an event of extremely good luck or happiness. 

How you can incorporate idioms into your lessons 

Teaching idioms is ultimately about teaching fluency. It introduces Breadies to another aspect of English that they otherwise would not have been exposed to. Therefore, teaching idioms can expand the Breadies knowledge of English, as they are being introduced to new and exciting parts of the language. 

Here are 5 different techniques for teaching idioms: 

1. Sample Conversations

The first way in which you can incorporate idioms into your lessons is by providing sample conversations. So, for example: 

A: I love your shoes. 

B: Thanks! When I bought them, the shop clerk told me that they would last up to six years. 

A: Well, the proof is in the pudding

Providing idioms in context will help the Bready understand their literal and intended meaning, and also how to use them appropriately and effectively. 

2.Say it out loud! 

Apart from teaching idioms in their written form, it is also beneficial to your Bready if you provide idioms in their spoken form as well. This is a good opportunity to explain their meanings, and maybe spark some interesting conversation!  

Having Breadies practice idioms in dialogue will help them to understand some of the conventions of colloquial English. It also highlights the fact that idioms are features of spoken English, more so than written English.  

3. Provide only a small selection 

Moreover, rather than giving Breadies a ridiculously long list of idioms to somehow remember, it is a much better idea to provide a small selection of around five idioms which all follow a similar theme (i.e. Christmas!). This way, the Bready can make links between idioms and are therefore more likely to remember them.  

Here are some festive idioms you can give to your Bready: 

Light up like a Christmas tree 

Something that makes someone very happy. 

Don’t get your tinsel in a tangle 

Don’t get stressed out trying to make Christmas perfect – or anything perfect for that matter! 

 Good things come in small packages 

The size of a gift doesn’t determine what’s inside; valuable things often surprise people. Something good does not have to come in large wrapping to be of great value. 

4. Matching Games 

Once you’ve chosen your sample, you can also provide your Bready with illustrations of the idioms along with the actual idioms themselves. The Bready’s task would then be to match the idioms to their illustrations. If they guess correctly, they earn a point. If they do not guess correctly, the answer will be revealed and explained to them. This game would be a lot of fun to play in group sessions!  

Here are some idioms that would work really well with this activity: 

It’s the thought that counts

it’s the kindness behind an act that matters, however imperfect or insignificant it may be. 

Written in the stars 

Something which is intended to be, destiny.  

Cold turkey 

The sudden and complete withdrawal from an addictive habit. 

5. Books 

Idioms are extremely common in many children’s books. For example, Metuki’s ‘Don’t Cry Over Spilt Milk’. Therefore, it might be a good idea to provide the Bready with a short extract from one of these books. This will allow them to read idioms in various contexts, thus broadening their linguistic repertoire. For older Breadies, you can also show examples of idioms in other media forms, such as poems, newspaper and magazine articles, songs and so on. 

The benefits of teaching idioms 

Teaching Breadies idioms unlocks new, fun and imaginative sides of the English language. It can spark effective and insightful conversation on language, humour and culture, which can, therefore, encourage learning. 

Idioms are specifically fixed phrases, which if slightly deviated, may sound like total nonsense! Therefore, it is unlikely that a Bready will leave the lesson using idioms perfectly and effectively. However, if we choose not to teach them, our Breadies will be missing out on an important cultural element of the language they strive to speak fluently. 

Do you have any more fun tips on how to teach idioms? Can you think of any other Christmas themed idioms?  

Let us know on our Facebook page below. The more the merrier!  


Further Reading: