ELA Teacher Resources

Teaching Idioms, Proverbs, and Adages in the Classroom

Common Core brought with it many standards that teachers had little to no resources for. L.4.5b was one of them for me. In the past, I had briefly covered idioms (usually around St. Patrick’s Day) but never proverbs and adages. Honestly, I had no clue what an adage was. Once I familiarized myself with this standard I thought, “Wow, this is going to be really fun!”  

Recognizing and explaining the meaning of common idioms, adages, and proverbs seemed like an easy lesson to teach. Was I ever wrong! While introducing idioms to my 4th graders, I was quickly surprised by how many they actually knew. Hands were going up everywhere, and I was impressed by how many expressions they were able to recall. In the back of my mind, I thought this would be a quick lesson and we could move on. What I didn’t know at the time was that just because they knew of and had heard many of these expressions didn’t mean they understood the meaning behind them. Making connections between similar idioms was a challenge for them – especially when the meaning wasn’t clear. I knew we were nowhere near ready for proverbs and adages.

I went home that night and searched the internet for lesson plans, worksheets, games…any sort of activity that I thought might help me teach this standard. There are tons of websites with lists of idioms, proverbs, and adages – along with their meanings. I found a few online games, but nothing that would help my students practice using these expressions while identifying the meanings behind them.

So, what did I do? I made my own. 

These were actually really fun lessons to make! I loved finding funny idioms, wise proverbs, and old adages. I realized that proverbs and adages are so closely related that it’s actually really hard to tell them apart. This product is aligned to L.4.5b and L.5.5b – Recognize and explain the meaning of common idioms, adages, and proverbs.  As I mentioned before, my first thought at this standard was, “What in the world are adages?”  After a little research, I quickly found that adage is just a fancy word for proverb.  I finally found a small distinguishing factor that helped me separate the two (slightly).  

Proverbs are sayings that reflect common sense that reflects wisdom and truth.

Adages are short sayings (usually quotes) that have been repeated over time – usually as reminders.

I first created an introductory page for students that explained the differences between idioms, proverbs, and adages. We referenced this page often throughout the activities.

I then created two practice pages for idioms. The first page included practice finding the idiom in a sentence and then matching its correct meaning.

The second page asked students to write what they thought the idiom meant. Students used www.idiomsite.com and idiomcorner.com to check their work and search for the meanings of idioms that they weren’t sure about.

I did the same thing for proverbs and adages.

Two practice pages – find the proverb and identify the meaning

Two practice pages – find the adage and identify the meaning

This made teaching idioms, proverbs, and adages so much easier! It really helped me as a teacher better understand the differences between the three. Students were easily able to find and identify the meanings of these expressions after practicing a few times. 

One last note: I teach this unit in the fall, so this product has a “fall” theme to the cover. However, you can use these activities during any time of the year! 

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