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Teaching Idioms: It’s a Piece of Cake!

The English language is rich in unusual colloquial sayings and expressions.

For example, if someone tells you not to bite off more than you can chew, they are not cautioning you about the size of the morsel of food on your fork. And if something costs you an arm and a leg, it doesn’t mean you have to pay with an actual arm and a leg … thank goodness!

These sayings are called idioms and they’re a piece of cake! (See what I did there? 😊)

What Is an Idiom?

An idiom is a saying that has a meaning that is different from its literal meaning. Idioms are fun expressions that are commonly used to describe things in a colorful way.

Here are a few more common idioms. Do your kids know what they mean?

  • a penny for your thoughts
  • you’re driving me up the wall
  • go back to the drawing board
  • the best thing since sliced bread
  • a dime a dozen
  • barking up the wrong tree
  • when pigs fly

How Do We Teach Idioms?

Because idioms are common in English speech and literature, it’s important for children to become accustomed to hearing them. Learning and understanding idioms will help develop your child’s reading comprehension and build his vocabulary.

Let’s take a look at how we teach this important literary device in the All About Reading program.

Download an idiom activity and story from All About Reading Level 3.

AAR Level 3 Story and Activity

AAR Level 3 introduces twelve idioms in an activity called “When Pigs Fly.” Many of these idioms are encountered in “Chasing Henry” and subsequent stories.

Download Level 3 Activity: “When Pigs Fly”
Download Level 3 Story: “Chasing Henry”

Download an idiom activity and story from All About Reading Level 4.

AAR Level 4 Story and Activity

Children are exposed to more idioms in a Level 4 activity called “The Early Bird Catches the Worm” and in a short story called “The Elephant in the Room.”

Download Level 4 Activity: “The Early Bird Catches the Worm”
Download Level 4 Story: “The Elephant in the Room”

50 Favorite Idioms

Many idioms have to do with animals (a little birdie told me), some have to do with color (tickled pink), and still others have to do with food (apple of my eye). Here’s a great collection of common idioms you can share with your children. Hang the list on the fridge or in your classroom, or discuss them over lunch–or even over a piece of cake!

60 Idioms and their meanings download graphic

How about you? Do you have a favorite idiom? Please share in the comments below!

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Jen Morey

says:

Those look like fun activities and stories in Levels 3 & 4! We look forward to exploring idioms with All About Reading.

Lee Ka

says:

English is not my first language. I don’t know many idioms but I always find them interesting.
Thanks for the great collection. I am going to read them together with my kids. It’d be fun!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

What a great attitude to have when learning with your children, Lee Ka! I hope you have lots and lots of fun with these idioms. 😊

Cassandra M

says:

Thank you for all your articles, they are so helpful, and I really appreciate them!

Justine Rodriguez

says:

Thank you so much for sharing, this is so helpful!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Justine!

Sabrina Coluccio

says:

Love these and so do my kids.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Glad to hear your kids have enjoyed this, Sabrina. Thank you.

Christina

says:

I love this! My daughter is always asking me to explain the idioms I use.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Glad you like it, Christina!

KRISTINA KITAOKA

says:

I love that AAR teaches idioms!

Kristine Malingowski

says:

Thank you for this article. It was fun and interesting to read.

Amanda

says:

Idioms are one of the most interesting things about a language!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I agree, Amanda! 😊

Sue Sandelier

says:

I love teaching idioms–my classes always love them too!

J.Laws

says:

This article is great for wrapping you head around idioms. Thanks for the great information.

Merry

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome! Idioms are a lot of fun!

Mom of 6

says:

What a great download I can wait to use it!!!

Zorah F.

says:

I totally agree that learning and understanding idioms will help develop your child’s reading comprehension and build his vocabulary, an excellent foundation too for writing creatively and effectively. :)

Candace

says:

I love it!! I think being around my grandparents, I learned idioms very early!!!

Terri

says:

Thanks

jenn P

says:

My oldest has always struggled with idioms. I will never forget when I told him to “Hold his horses” and he said “What horse, I do not have a horse, WHERE is the horse”. I enjoyed reading your list some of those I had never heard!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Oh, how cute, Jenn! 😊

Jeannie Miles

says:

The best thing since rooster socks

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Love it, Jeannie! 😄

Mira

says:

As ever, really interesting to read!
English is full of funny idioms that make me laugh!
I love the visuals and overview sheet you provide. Many thanks!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Mira! And you have the best attitude, enjoying the oddities of English instead of bemoaning them.

Mira

says:

Haha! Actually, I’ve always been fascinated with language! Would love our kids to gain that too!

Desirae F

says:

Thank you for the 60 idioms and their meanings!! A very helpful resource for my daughter. My favorite idiom is “take the bull by the horns”

Dawn

says:

Wish I had known about this for an older child who really struggled with idioms.

Snowanna

says:

I had no idea there was a blog filled with support!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad to hear you found our blog helpful, Snowanna! If you ever need support or have questions, please let us know.

Melody

says:

Glad I found this site

Rachel

says:

One of my favorites is, “A horse a piece.”

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I had to look that one up, Rachel! I’ve always been more inclined to use “same difference” for meaning more or less equal. Thanks for helping me learn a new idiom!

Amanda Gustafson

says:

We love using AAS and AAR together!

Danielle

says:

Timely post. My autistic son has a lot of trouble with idioms. We will be trying these activities.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this was timely for you, Danielle. If he continues to have problems, however, please let us know.

Beth

says:

One of my favorites is “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch”! :)

Tessa

says:

The link is not working! Thank you

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Tessa,
I’m so sorry the link isn’t working! Do you mean the link for the 60 Common Idioms download or one of the other links? What kind of device and browser are you using?

Jillian

says:

My daughter and I just had a conversation about idioms. This looks like a fun way to teach them

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Glad this was timely for you, Jillian!

Kara Yates

says:

I am excited to use your curriculum with my daughter who is dyslexic. I have heard so many good things about your program!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Do you have any questions or need help with placement or anything else, Kara? We have a Dyslexia Resources page that I think you may find helpful. Let me know if you need any more information.

J. Davis

says:

Thank you. These activities look great and I’m excited to add them to our homeschool.

Arielle

says:

These activities are great!

Christina Salazar

says:

Great resources!

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