Understanding the use and metaphorical translations of idioms (expressions that cannot be understood from the meanings of their separate words, but that have separate meanings of their own) is a vitally important skill for good readers to master. It enhances reading enjoyment and brings added pleasure to the experience. It is also an important component of Common Core curriculum. Idioms bring color to our speech and often humor to our texts. Since idioms really don’t mean what they say, they can confuse not only novice readers, but also even native English speakers.
This engaging activity is designed to help students identify a selection of common idioms as they tag along with Detective Dimwit to a meeting with his boss, Lou Tenant. “Detective Dimwit Gets Called on the Carpet,” a short, humorous original piece written by me will keep students engaged and entertained as they work to hone their skills by identifying 40 different examples of idioms in the story. Two different activities are included for the purpose of scaffolding: one in which the examples of imagery are identified by blank lines directly after each occurrence for the students to fill in meanings, and the other which does not offer this advantage (perhaps affording the chance for students to see how many examples they can locate without help). Teachers have several options for implementation of the lesson: entire class presentation by projecting onto a screen or individual student use by printing a paper copy. For an additional activity, teachers can assign students different idioms for research in order to discover the origins. For example, ‘giving someone the cold shoulder’ originates from Medieval times. During the Middle Ages, nobles were often faced with the common problem of getting rid of unwanted or obnoxious guests at feasts. To remedy the situation, these unwelcome guests were served a cold shoulder of meat - the toughest and most undesirable part of the roast. This tactic usually resulted in giving the guests enough of a hint that they had over-stayed their welcome.
Note: This activity is best suited for advanced students in grades 4 and 5; for on-grade-level students in grades 6 and 7; and for struggling readers in grades 8 and above. This is a general guideline, however, as some idioms included in the activity could be unfamiliar to even more advanced students.
The zip file includes Microsoft Word and PDF formats.