Writing with idioms is a great way to teach students how to use them correctly. After you’ve used the secret sauce to teaching idioms, it’s time for practice! Writing a story with idioms develops three important skills while having fun with language. 

  1. Writing with coherence. This means making sure the writing stays on topic and the idioms are applicable to the story or essay.
  2. Students who write with idioms gain a better understanding of the expression than if they simply draw a picture or review it on a worksheet.
  3. Understanding the culture connected to the idiom. If this sounds a bit vague, this is what I mean.

Each language has its own idioms. Some of these translate, and some do not. Idioms are a reflection of culture, and have come into use based on the common experiences of people in that culture. Therefore, idioms vary across languages. 

For example, in English we often say, “It’s raining cats and dogs.” There is no saying that translates literally to this in Spanish. In Spanish, they might say, “Llueve cántaros,” which translates to “It’s raining buckets.” It has the same meaning, but the idiom isn’t exactly equal.

Another example is “a piece of cake.” It means something is so easy. In Spanish they say, “pan comido.” This idiom means the same thing, something is super easy, but it literally translates as “eaten bread.” If you’re anything like me, eating bread is one of the easiest things to do! 

The point I’m making here is that you can teach writing with idioms in an English class, a French class, a Spanish class or in any language class. It’s a fun way to ingrain the figurative language in a student’s expressive writing and speaking.

Purple, blue, and teal shapes with a picture of a bull and the words bull in a china shop.

Writing with Idioms Lesson Plan

Now that you’ve decided when and how to teach idioms, it’s time to explore writing with idioms. This can be one of the most powerful ways to ingrain idiomatic expressions into a student’s vocabulary and daily writing.

Here are some ideas to get you started with having your students use idiomatic expressions in their writing. Hold on until the end because I have a sweet surprise for you!

Choosing Idioms to Use in Writing

Some idioms lend themselves better to writing than others. Student writers should understand them well and possibly have even heard them before. Therefore, you’ll want to choose from the common, everyday idioms. Pick the “cream of the crop” for your students to practice.[click_to_tweet tweet=”Writing stories that use idioms can be a powerful method to master understanding of these expressions. Ideas how to do this are on the blog post, ‘Writing with Idioms.'” quote=”Writing stories that use idioms can be a powerful method to master understanding of these expressions.” theme=”style3″]

Have Students Choose their Favorite Idioms

Student choice is a huge motivator in getting them engaged in any assignment. Give a selection of idioms from which students can choose the most meaningful to them. They’ll choose the ones that make the most sense, or that spark that creative idea for a story.

Don’t worry if several students choose the same idiom, or if two or three besties decide to write the same type of story with the same idiom. Since each child is unique in their thinking, even though they start out with the same idiom to use, their writing will be different. Their stories or essays might follow the same plot and reasoning, but the end product will still be their own.

Idioms examples on a blue foreground with a boy on a laptop and story ideas on the wall next to him.

Short Story Writing with Idioms

Idioms are perfect ways to spark story ideas and allow students to play with language. Who doesn’t love the book, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” by Judi Barrett? It’s a bit of a riff on the idiom, “raining cats and dogs.” If a professional author can write a bestselling book based on an idiomatic expression, who knows what your students will be able to do?[click_to_tweet tweet=”Story ideas based on idioms can be a way for students to play with language.” quote=”Story ideas based on idioms can be a way for students to play with language.” theme=”style3″]

To begin the lesson plan, reading this book might be a great way to introduce the concept. Even if you teach upper elementary, they’ll love to hear an old favorite again. Have the students pick out humorous expressions the author uses. For example, the town is named “Chew and Swallow.” The clouds are “sunny side up eggs.” It rains mashed potatoes.

There are two ways to approach this writing lesson.

  1. Have the students create an original story based on an idiom.
  2. Have the students write a short story or essay on a topic of their choice. Require that they include one or two idioms in their writing.

Idioms for a Writing Activity

Here is a list of ten common idioms that could lead the way down the creative writing path.

  1. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. (What happens when the basket falls?)
  2. Leave no stone unturned. (A mystery of a missing object.)
  3. When pigs fly. (A humorous story of animals doing unusual things.)
  4. Zip your lip. (What would happen if robots had lips that zipped? Or people?)
  5. The skeleton in the closet. (A great prompt for a Halloween story.)
  6. Spill the beans. (This idiom reminds me of Strega Nona stories by Tomie de Paola.)
  7. Once in a blue moon. (This could become a fantasy story or a science fiction story.)
  8. Break the ice. Or do an icebreaker. (Students could write about their favorite icebreaker activity from the beginning of the school year.
  9. Red handed. (What if robbers’ hands turned red after they committed a crime?)
  10. Bad egg. (This was famously used in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.)

If none of these idioms float your boat, you can find a gold mine of idioms in this bundled set of idioms worksheets.

What are Idioms worksheet packet with images of two worksheets


Click on the image to see all of the products included. You can watch a video of the product pages. You can choose any one or all of them. It’s a growing bundle, which means that as time goes by and I add more categories and idioms activities, you’ll get them at NO EXTRA COST.

You can find even more at The Idioms website. They have them divided into categories to help in your search.

Now that you’ve conquered idioms in your classroom, you could start with some easy and brilliant ways to teach what is an Onomatopoeia. If you want to dive deeper, What is Literary Devices? An Amazing Writing Tool, Quickly Explained will take you on that journey.

True story: The first time my principal visited my class for an informal observation, when I was a brand new teacher, I was teaching about onomatopoeia. She looked at the board with a strange expression.

After my lesson she pulled me aside and said, “I think you may have misspelled onomatopoeia.”

ACK! Thankfully she had a fabulous sense of humor and was able to laugh about it. Thank you, Greta!