Idioms are expressions that fall in to the category of figurative language, along with metaphor and similes. These expressions cannot be understood by simply knowing what each word in the expression means. For example, the black sheep of the family has nothing to do with sheep. Idioms add richness to the language and are used to describe common situations. When teaching third graders idioms, it is important to teach the ones that they will encounter and use frequently, as this is how they will remember them. Teaching idioms with a lot of animated actions makes the learning a lot more fun and effective.
There are so many idioms that relate to the body and can be used in everyday situations. Bite your tongue is a friendly, playful way to tell a child to be a little quieter. If they are not listening in class, ask them to lend an ear. To work a little harder, they can use a little elbow grease, or to speed up, ask them to shake a leg. Before that big presentation, wish them luck by telling them to break a leg. When getting test results, they can all keep their fingers crossed, hoping for a good grade.
Animals are also a popular way to add a little color to what you want to say. Kids like to exaggerate as much as the rest of us, so instead of saying it's raining really hard, tell them, in an excited voice, that it's raining cats and dogs. On a cold day, as they are dressing up for the cold, tell them they look as snug as a bug in a rug. For the shy ones, ask if the cat's got their tongue. Have you got ants in your pants, for the fidgety ones, is a fun one to get them to act out.
Idioms Describing Feelings
As with all idioms, the ones that describe feelings can lead to some good discussions by asking the kids what they think they mean. Some are easier to guess than others, but you will get some funny responses. If feeling a little sick, they are under the weather, but if they miss school, maybe they are as sick as a dog. Maybe a feeling of sadness has them feeling blue, while happiness has them tickled pink. It's not difficult to get a little angry, or hot under the collar, if the kids are driving you up the wall by yelling or complaining.
Some of the common food idioms are full of wisdom and, when demonstrated, can really drive home the point. Don't put all your eggs in one basket is helpful when it comes to friends or money. The same is true when it comes to trying to do too many things at once; don't bite off more than you can chew. If you have bitten off too much, you can change, but don't cry over spilled milk, as it will not help. Some of the expressions are just fun, like describing something easy as a piece of pie or a piece of cake. If you get yourself into trouble, or into a pickle, don't go bananas, try to stay as cool as a cucumber.
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