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Each pair stands before their classmates and acts out the conversation they wrote. This way they not only practise using the idioms phrases, they hear other examples from classmates, other ways in which these idioms may be included in conversation.

Each pair stands before their classmates and acts out the conversation they wrote. This way they not only practise using the idioms phrases, they hear other examples from classmates, other ways in which these idioms may be included in conversation.

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Teaching tips: Provide the sample image and have the students guess what

they think the idiom means. Ask the students if they’ve ever given someone the

cold shoulder. Or, if they’ve ever received the cold shoulder. Practice below


Sample dialogue:

Sarah: I ran into Sallie yesterday and we had a nice conversation at the

coffee shop, catching up with each other.

Sam: Oh, really? Last time I saw her, she gave me the cold shoulder. I

couldn’t figure out what I had done to make her angry.

Sarah: Well, it probably doesn’t help that you are dating her best friend.

- (to be) Head over heels (in love)

Figure 6: Head over heels (in love)

Meaning: to be really or completely in love with someone

Teaching tips: Show this image explaining the idiom. Talk to the students

about being in love. Ask which students are currently in love (guaranteed to

elicit a few giggles from your students!). Practice the below dialogue.

Sample dialogue:

Sarah: Sam, what are you writing?

Sam: I’m writing a letter to my new girlfriend.

Sarah: Ooh, really? You just wrote to her yesterday. You must be head

over heels!

Sam: I really am. I want to marry her. Dividing Idioms into Categories

Dividing idioms into thematic categories will make them easier to learn,

for the students can study them as groups composed of elements that have

common features rather than as lists of unrelated expressions to be memorized.


Figure 7: Weather idioms Teaching idioms with worksheets

This worksheet provides help in understanding 5 different idioms related

to body parts. Included idioms are: a sweet tooth, to pull one’s leg, to cost an

eye, to have something at your fingertips, to rack your brain.

Body Parts Idioms

* Guess what they mean. Choose the best answer.

1.Mary has got a sweet tooth.

a) One of Mary’s tooth has a cavity

b) Mary has got a liking for cakes and sweets

c) Mary is a really cute girl

2. Bob is pulling your leg.

a) Bob wants you to believe in his lie.

b) Bob wants to catch your attention.

c) Bob is a chiropractor


3. A new car would cost me an eye.

a) I cannot afford a new car. They are too expensive.

b) I cannot drive new cars because of bad eyesight.

c) I think new cars are really beautiful.

4. She’s well-trained and has the figures about the performance of her

business at her fingertips.

a) She has attended lots of business classes and is a good businesswoman.

b) She knows all the figures very well and can refer to them quickly

c) She is a good performer.

5. They asked me for fresh ideas, but I had none. I racked my brain, but

couldn’t come up with anything.

a) I made a mental list of different solutions.

b) I stopped thinking

c) I tried hard to think and find something to say. Using stories

Telling a story can help students understand and remember the meaning

behind the words. “you are pulling my legs,” for example, lends itself well to a

simple story. You can then have your kids discuss the meaning of the phrase,

and come up with other ways that they could understand the idiom. Following is

an example:

Hector and Andy looked at the floor of their bedroom. It was littered with

clothes, shoes, papers, snack wrappers, and sports equipment. ‘I want this all

picked up before you go to the softball game’, declared their father.

Hector groaned but Andy waited until their father was out of sight, then

whispered, ‘ He said to pick it up. He didn’t say to put it away! Let’s throw it all

in the closet!’. The boys got busy, and five minutes later they shouted, ‘Papa,

we’ve finished’

‘You’re pulling my leg!’ their father called back.


Figure 8: Pull somebody’s leg







7. Using board game - Balderdash

The original Balderdash is a board game in which obscure words are

read aloud, and players have to first propose a meaning, then have to guess

the true meaning. You can take the concept and apply your own expressions

- idioms, in this case.

Here's how it works:

The teacher reads aloud an idiom, one that the students haven't heard


Without discussing it, each of the students writes down a possible

definition (it doesn't have to sound like it came from a dictionary; casual

language is just fine) on a note card. Students should aim for something

plausible, as it increases their chances of earning points.

Simultaneously, the teacher writes down the real definition on a note

card (ideally using casual language that matches the students').

The teacher collects all answers, shuffles them, and reads them aloud.

Each student selects which answer they believe to be the correct one.

The teacher adds up the scores:

- 1 point goes to a player for every other student who incorrectly

guessed their definition.

- 2 points go to a player for guessing the correct definition.

- 3 points go to a player for writing a definition that's very similar to the

true one.

Repeat with more idioms. The student with the most points at the end



If multiple answers are similar, you can combine them into the same

definition when you read them aloud (and all players who wrote those

similar ones receive equal points when others guess theirs). Also, you might

choose to allow some discussion leading into step 5; students can voice

which answers they like and which they don't, and they can try to cleverly

convince others that their false answer is the correct one

Balderdash is not only fun because of how silly it can get, but also it

helps students remember the definitions later. They might remember it

because it surprised them, or they might remember it because they'll also

remember the ridiculous false definitions as well. Other Games:

* Drama Queen!

Create a list of ten idioms which students have recently met. Cut them up

and give one idiom to each pair of students in your class. Ensure your students

know the vocabulary; it’s not necessary at this stage for them to understand the

meaning of the idiom. They just need to be able to act it out!

In turn, each pair of students act out their idiom for the other students.

You can award points to pairs who guess the idiom correctly. This is a great way

to review idioms and so much fun. Students tend to remember them more easily

when they can relate it to a visual action.

Idioms which work well for this task:

1. to cry over spilt milk

2. to put your foot in your mouth

3. All in the same boat

4. to let the cat out of the bag

5. to speak of the devil

6. to see eye to eye

7. to cost an arm and a leg

8. to feel under the weather

9. to cut corners

10.to judge a book by its cover

* Work it Out!


Prepare enough idioms for half the students in your class (i.e for 16

students, prepare 8 idioms). You will also need to prepare a definition for each

of these idioms. Give half the students in your class an idiom each and give the

other half a detailed definition. Now students have to mingle and find one other

student who has the idiom/definition match.

You can use these ideas or prepare your own based on what you have

covered in your class during the week.

Best of Both Worlds

to enjoy two different experiences/things at the

same time

Break a Leg

Good luck!

Hit the Nail on the Head

to describe exactly what is causing a problem or


Give Someone a Hand

to help someone

Keep an Eye on Someone

to take care of

Once students find their new partners, give them an extra task. Now they

have to think of an idiom they have learned that is not here and do the same

thing! Create two pieces of paper, one with the idiom and one with a detailed

definition and they get to play again!

* On Cloud Nine!

Organise your students in small groups of 3 or 4. Each group is given an

idiom such as ‘On Cloud Nine’ and must now work together to put this idiom

into an ‘asking for advice’ letter. See example below.

Dear Agony Aunt,

I need your help. My 7 year old daughter is so happy at the moment.

Everything is going well for her in her personal life, in school, at home.


She’s on cloud nine. Unfortunately I have some bad news to tell her – her dog

died! How should I do it?

Now, have students pass their letters to the next group to write a response

using another idiom they have learned such as:

Dear Reader, It’s always very sad when a family pet dies. Hopefully your

daughter will see that your dog had a happy life but I can understand why you

want to tiptoe around the situation as this is difficult for any child to

understand. It will take time and she will need time to grieve so just be there to

support her.

This can be great fun and if you have students who have vivid imaginations,

they will come up with very creative problems and advice

* Bend the Truth!

Each pair of students present one idiom to the class and their teacher on

the board. This is a great way to review idioms already met and ones which

students are comfortable with.

For example, the first pair go to the board and write ‘to pull the wool over

someone’s eyes.’ and give a very detailed definition of its meaning such as ‘to

protect someone from danger’. The students must also give the class this idiom

in a sentence for context such as ‘There was a gang of boys outside the house so

I called my friend and told her not to come to pull the wool over her eyes.’ [This

is obviously not correct] but will the other students realize?

The aim of this task is for each pair to convince the other students that

their definition is a real one. If they succeed, they win the points but if a clever

pair of students realize it’s not real and can give the real definition, that pair win

the points.

This can be so much fun and very competitive!


2.4. Reached results

After applying the methods as described above to teach English for

students in three classes: 12T, 12F, 12H (with 105 students) for nearly a year, I

am really amazed by the improvements made by students from 3 classes when

they learn idioms with innovative methods of teaching and leaning. Students

seems to be more positive and they can recognize the presence of figurative

idioms and fixed phrases in authentic materials. When they understand and

experience the importance of these phrases they can have the focus of idiomatic

phrases in their further learning. In the past, we ignore this significant feature

of language.

The majority of the teachers believe that students enjoy the idiomlearning activities and are motivated to learn idioms. As the teachers in detail

describe it in their responses, students actively involve in the idiom activities.

Not only in class but also outside class, they attempt to use idioms to

communicate with their friends. Students in fact feel like learning idioms. They

feel excited when they can express their thoughts with idiomatic phrases.

Thanks to such techniques of teaching idioms, students have become

autonomous learners.The positive attitudes of students toward idiom learning

have improved their English skills as well as their undertanding of numerous

idioms. Moreover, their achievements are remarkable in the IELTS Official Test

and the National Examination.

The result is as follows.

Before being applied

(2016 - 2017)


- No one got IELTS overall

Official Test band score 8.0

- Two students got IELTS

overall band score 7.5

- Three students got IELTS

overall band score 7.0

- Four students got IELTS

overall band score 6.5

After being applied

( 2017 – 2018)

- One student got IELTS overall

band score 8.0

- Five students got IELTS

overall band score 7.5

- Six students got IELTS overall

band score 7.0

- Nine students got IELTS

overall band score 6.5




- Six students got mark ≥ 9

- Thirteen students got mark

≥ 8.5

- Two students got mark ≥ 9

- Seven students got mark

≥ 8.5



3.1. Conclusion:

This paper analyses some techniques of teaching idioms as well as giving

some useful activities for teachers and learners in obtaining English idiom

expression. It demonstrates that students at Lam Son gifted school achieved

effectiveness in idiom learning. Both teachers and students believe that students

are motivated, feel relaxed and confident and actively participated in idioms

learning activities in this foreign language context. The findings also reveal that

students have demonstrated the process in idiom comprehension as well as in

idiom production though the evidence in the comprehension of idiomatic

phrases are more evitable.

These positive learning achievements in idiom learning are the result of

the creative use of idiom-related teaching activities that are designed in

integrated skill tasks. Idioms are contextualized in listening or reading activities

and then practice with speaking and writing focus. The learning tasks are varied

from idiom sharing, matching, role-play to theater playing with idioms.

The results also show that idioms teaching should focus more on idioms

practice in activities. Idioms teaching would be more effective if the students

have more chance to participate in numerous authentic video clips and games in

their process of idiom learning.Therefore, idioms should receive more attention

in language teaching to assist students in acquiring English in a foreign language

context. This filling may help EFL learners profoundly explore the target

language and then purposefully communicate in English.

Limitations and mistakes are unavoidable. Therefore, all comments and

feedbacks of the fellow are highly welcome and appreciated. The final goal is to

improve and perfect the materials the teaching community has owned and will

create. In the first place, it has a great meaning to the students learning English,

but at a higher level, it is also an absolute invaluable job for teachers in the

process of self training and studying.

3.2. Recommendations:

It is necessary to the English teachers to make their students motivated in

learning and use different techniques to increase the students’ motivation in

learning English idioms. It helps the students to involve their target language

like native speakers more effectively.

It is necessary to the English teacher to observe and follow the

students’development in class intensively. Moreover, we also recommend that

idioms should be taught to students of lower level of English as supplementary

tasks so that students are more familiar with idiomatic expressions. They then

can study on their own and gradually build up their idiomatic expression list.


There is a need for further research into this field in a larger scale and a

longer period of time so that the effects of innovative techniques on the students

in terms of teaching and learning idioms at high schools in Vietnam will be

reflected more clearly.



Thanh Hóa, ngày 20 tháng 5 năm 2019

Tôi xin cam đoan đây là SKKN của mình

Viết, khơng sao chép nội dung của người khác

Bùi Thị Bạch Tuyết



Abel, B. (2003). English idioms in the first language and second language

lexicon: a dual representation approach. Second Language Research, 19(4), 329358. http://dx.doi.org/10.1191/0267658303sr226oa

Block, D. (1991). Some thoughts on DIY materials design. ELT Journal,

45(3), 221-217. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/elt/45.3.211

Boers, F., Eyckmans, J., Kappel, J., Stengers, H., & Demecheleer, M.

(2006). Formulaic expressions and perceived oral proficiency: Putting a lexical

approach to the test. Language Teaching Research, 10(3), 245-261.


Buckingham, L. (2006). A multilingual didactic approach to idioms using a

conceptual framework. Language Design, 8, 35-45.

Burke, D. (1988). Without slang and idioms, students are in the dark! ESL

Magazine, 1(5), 20-23.

Burns, A., & De Silva Joyce, H. (1997). Focus on speaking. National

Centre for English Language Teaching and Research.

Bygate, M. (1987). Speaking. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.


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Each pair stands before their classmates and acts out the conversation they wrote. This way they not only practise using the idioms phrases, they hear other examples from classmates, other ways in which these idioms may be included in conversation.

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