How to Teach Idioms to Beginners: Tips and Strategies

Idioms are phrases that are used figuratively, meaning they can’t be understood based on their literal meaning. They can be challenging to learn for beginners, but they are an essential part of English language and culture. In this article, we’ll discuss some tips and strategies for teaching idioms to beginners.

Start with Common Idioms

One of the best ways to introduce idioms to beginners is by starting with the most commonly used ones. These are idioms that are used in everyday conversation and are easily understood by native speakers. Examples of common idioms include “break a leg,” “hit the nail on the head,” and “raining cats and dogs.” By learning these common idioms first, beginners can build a foundation for understanding more complex idioms later on.

Use Contextual Examples

Another effective way to teach idioms is by providing contextual examples. This means using idioms in a sentence that relates to a real-life situation, such as a conversation or story. This approach helps beginners understand the meaning of the idiom and how it’s used in context. For example, the idiom “pulling someone’s leg” means to joke or tease someone. A contextual example of this idiom would be “I’m just pulling your leg when I say that you have a spider on your shoulder.”

Provide Visual Aids

Visual aids such as pictures and diagrams can also be useful for teaching idioms to beginners. These aids help to create a visual representation of the idiom’s meaning, making it easier for learners to remember. For example, the idiom “putting all your eggs in one basket” can be illustrated with a picture of someone carrying a basket full of eggs. This visual aid reinforces the idea that if you put all your effort into one thing, you risk losing everything.

Practice Activities

Practice activities such as games and quizzes are also helpful for teaching idioms. These activities help beginners to apply their knowledge and reinforce what they’ve learned. For example, a game where learners match idioms with their meanings or use them in a sentence can be a fun way to practice idioms.

Encourage Creativity

Encouraging learners to be creative with idioms can also be an effective teaching strategy. This means encouraging them to use idioms in new and creative ways. For example, learners can be challenged to create their own idioms or use existing idioms in a unique context. This approach helps to reinforce the understanding of idioms and encourages learners to think creatively.

Strategies for Teaching Idioms to Beginners

In addition to the tips above, there are some strategies that can be used to teach idioms to beginners.

Use Real-life Scenarios

Using real-life scenarios helps learners to understand how idioms are used in everyday situations. This approach helps learners to see how idioms are used in context and how they can be applied in real-life situations.

Incorporate Technology

Incorporating technology can also be an effective way to teach idioms to beginners. There are many online resources available, such as games and quizzes, that can make learning idioms more engaging and interactive.

Group Activities

Group activities such as role-playing and group discussions can be useful for teaching idioms. These activities provide learners with an opportunity to practice using idioms in a social setting, which can help to reinforce their understanding and make the learning process more enjoyable.


Teaching idioms to beginners can be challenging, but with the right strategies and approaches, it can also be rewarding. By starting with common idioms, using contextual examples, providing visual aids, and encouraging creativity, learners can develop a strong foundation for understanding and using idioms

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Professor Emeritus of Educational Leadership University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at Camford Publishing
Founder of On the Horizon (camford publishing)and The Technology Source, and professor of education at North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Dr. Morrison is author and co-author of over 200 publications focusing on educational planning and using information technology tools.Dr. Morrison has delivered numerous conference presentations and workshops for associations such as EDUCAUSE, AAHE, the College Board and others.He has served as a planning consultant to a number of colleges, universities, university systems, community colleges, educational agencies and public agencies such as the U.S. Department of Labor, and Department of the Army.His consulting activities focus on assisting organizations to integrate information technology tools in teaching and management.

The title of his Speech is “The Future of Distance Learning.” Professor Morrison will describe the driving forces that will affect education and distance learning in this decade and will focus on the implications of these forces for education and distance learning
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