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Activity

Unveiling Idioms: A Game of Concentration

 

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Unveiling Idioms: A Game of Concentration

Grades 4 – 8
Activity Time 1 hour to design game (with additional time for play and optional writing/drawing activities; fewer than 4 players may take longer due to more drawing time).
Activity Author

Jaime R. Wood

Jaime R. Wood

Portland, Oregon

 
Publisher National Council of Teachers of English
 

What You Need

Here's What To Do

More Ideas To Try

Glossary

 

What You Need

  • 2-8 children to play the game
  • Access to the internet or a group of friends/family
  • Pack of blank 3X5 index cards
  • Paper for list
  • Writing and drawing utensils for everyone (colored pencils, pencils, crayons, etc.)
  • Scissors, glue/paste for cutting and pasting
  • Magazine(s) (optional)
  • English Idioms and Idiomatic Expressions website
  • Example Idiom Cards

 

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Here's What To Do

  1. Start by explaining what an idiom is, particularly in terms of figurative language—the use of “word pictures” to illustrate a point.  Discuss some examples and their meanings, such as “The straw that broke the camel’s back,” or “You are what you eat,” or give a demonstration using the Eye on Idioms interactive.
  2. Ask what idioms the children have heard and make a list of them.  The list should include 4 idioms per player (for fewer than 4 players, try 6-8 idioms per player).  This is a great activity to do at a gathering of family or friends, where children have the opportunity to quiz a large group of folks for sayings—especially funny or confusing ones, such as Benjamin Franklin’s observation, “Hunger is the best pickle.”  Huh?  If you have trouble compiling a sufficient list, try these websites:
  3. Assign each child 4 idioms (again, 6-8 idioms for fewer than 4 players).
  4. Have each child create 4 pairs of idiom cards by:
    • drawing a picture of each idiom on its own 3X5 card (Use the IdiomsByKids.com website for examples
    • writing each idiom on a separate card, thereby making 4 corresponding pairs per child.

    The drawings can be very simple, even using stick-figures if the children are timid about their drawing skills.  As an alternative, consider having them cut and paste pictures from a magazine.  The pictures should represent the literal meaning of the idiom, such as a man tugging on another man’s leg for “He’s pulling your leg.”  When each player has finished making his/her idiom cards, they have a starter set and are ready to play the game.

  5. Basic game play follows the rules of “Concentration,” or “Memory.”  Shuffle the set of cards and arrange them, face down, in a simple pattern, such as a square or a circle.  For example, a 4-player starter set might be laid out in a rectangle of 4 rows of 8 cards.
  6. One player starts the game by turning over two cards.  If they match—that is, if a written idiom is turned over along with its pictorial twin—the player “wins” that idiom pair--but not quite.  This is where the game deviates from “Concentration.” In this game, the player must “prove” the win by explaining the basic meaning of the idiom.  This encourages the children to consider how figurative language and metaphor is used to communicate an idea. (During game play, an adult “judge” can help the children settle any disputes over the definitions, as some definitions won’t be exact or absolute, or children can check the English Idioms and Idiomatic Expressions website on their own for definitions.)
  7. If the two revealed cards don’t match or if the player doesn’t properly describe the meaning of the idiom, the cards are turned back over and game play moves clockwise to the next player’s turn.
  8. The game ends when all the pairs are won and removed from the field of play.  The winner is the player with the most pairs won.

 

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More Ideas To Try

  • Children can continue to collect idioms—from friends, family, movies, television, etc.—and add new cards to the set.
  • The game is infinitely expandable; encourage children to invent their own idioms, applying their creative energies to the use of figurative language, and building on their set of idiom cards.
  • Have children (perhaps older ones, grades 6-8) investigate the origins of idioms they find particularly odd or amusing.
  • Have children pick an idiom to invent an origin myth about.  For example, how might the idiom “He’s pulling your leg” have come about?  The child could write a short tale, depicting a setting, characters, and comic circumstance leading to its creation.
  • Encourage children to ask people from diverse cultures and backgrounds to share their idioms. Have children make a list of them in order to create an international idiom game.  This might be fun and helpful in an ESL/ELL setting.
  • Check out the Eye on Idioms interactive where students can view the literal representations of idioms and then examine the metaphorical meanings of the idioms.

 

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Glossary

Metaphor

 

A figure of speech where one thing is compared to something completely different to suggest a resemblance.

Figurative Language

 

Language that alters or exaggerates the literal definitions of its component words.

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