Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Soup to Nuts
Lesson 4
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


The purpose of this lesson is to recognize idioms and discuss their meanings.  Students will identify the idioms in the book Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen.  Students also examine idioms for hurtful language and modify idioms to reflect a philanthropic heart.


Three or Four Forty-Five Minute Class Periods


The learner will:

  • demonstrate understanding of the term idiom.
  • illustrate a literal translation of an idiom (this will seem like nonsense).
  • verbally explain the meaning of an idiom.
  • identify idioms that do not reflect a philanthropic heart. 
  • identify idioms in literature text.
  • share the idiom illustration projects with a lower elementary classroom.

Service Experience:

Although this lesson contains a service project example, decisions about service plans and implementation should be made by students, as age appropriate.
Learn more about the stages of service-learning.

Students will explain idioms to students in kindergarten and first grade through a presentation of skits, posters, and/or songs.


  • read-aloud copy of Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen (see Bibliographical References)
  • chart paper
  • drawing paper 12" X 18"
  • colored pencils or crayons
Handout 1
Take Home List
Handout 2
Oodles of Idioms
Handout 3
Don't Break My Heart

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set: 

Write an idiom, such as "knock it off", on the board or on chart paper.  Ask the students what the phrase means.  Write their responses on the board or chart paper.  After students have given several responses tell them that they are going to learn about a kind of expression called an idiom. 

  • The definition of an idiom is an expression that cannot be understood by the individual meanings of its parts.  For example, "knock it off" doesn't mean to actually push something off a table.  Tell the students the definition and give them some examples such as "don't beat around the bush" and "feeling under the weather."  When you give an example, ask the students to picture a literal translation of the parts, which doesn't make sense.  Encourage the students to name other idioms with which they are familiar.  Make a list of idioms on the board or chart paper.  (See Attachment Two: Oodles of Idioms). 

  • Give the students some scrap paper and tell them that they are going to "quick draw" an illustration of an idiom.

  • Read an idiom (It's raining cats and dogs.) and have them draw a quick picture that illustrates what that phrase would look like if literally translated.  The students write the idiom's meaning under their picture. (It's raining very hard). Do this with other idioms from the brainstormed list.

  • Pass out the drawing paper.  Tell the students to fold the paper into four sections.  This creates four spaces to illustrate four idioms.

  • Students each select four idioms from the list (or they may know others). Multiple lists of idioms can be found at www.eslcafe.com/idioms

  • On each section of the drawing paper, the students (1) write one idiom at the top, (2) illustrate the literal interpretation of the idiom, and (3) write what the idiom means under the illustration. 

  • Teacher Note:  If you have Special Ed. or ESL students, allow them to work in pairs for this activity.  More advanced students could develop a creative way to present their idioms.  For example, create a role-play.

  • Display the idioms with a header that reads "That's not what I mean! Idioms and their silly interpretations."


Activity Two


  • Discuss how some idioms may seem harsh or unkind.  These do not support respecting each other or reflect a philanthropic heart.  

  • Pass out copies of Attachment 3, Don't Break My Heart.  Students may work in small groups to discuss the meanings of the different idioms on the worksheet or you may go over the meanings together as a whole class before students work on their own. 

  • Go over worksheet directions and the example.  Have the students complete the worksheet on their own, with a partner, or in a small group.

  • Provide time for the students to share their answers and modifications with the whole class.


Activity Three


  • Read Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen aloud to the class and tell the students to listen for the idioms used in the text.  Tell students to raise their hands as they hear an idiom.  After each page, stop and discuss the idioms found on that page.


Activity Four


  • Divide the class into small groups to plan and practice idiom presentations.  Each group will decide how they will present one idiom to a class of kindergarteners or first graders.  The idiom they choose should represent a philanthropic heart and be presented in a way that the younger children can understand.  The presentation should show the meaning of the idiom and a silly demonstration of a literal translation.  The group may present in the form of a skit, song, poem, poster, or other medium.  After they have practiced and have the presentations in their best form, arrange for the students to present to the younger children. 

  • Choose some students to make an introduction so the students understand what idioms are before the individual presentations.


The teacher will observe the student's illustrations and presentations to evaluate their understanding of the term idiom. 

School/Home Connection:

At home, the students tell their family members about idioms, giving examples from Attachment One: Take Home List.  With the help of their family members, students make a list of idioms they (and their family members) use at home.  The student should take it back to school to share with the class. 

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

  • Amelia Bedilia books have many idiom examples throughout.  Ted Arnold's books Parts and More Parts also contain many idioms.  Have the students read these books on their own and make a list of idioms and explain how they were misunderstood.
  • Make a matching game.  Have an assortment of idiom illustrations posted somewhere in the room.  You may want to use pictures the students previously created, or pictures can be created using magazine illustrations, coloring books,  and/or from an internet search.  (1) After teacher writes each matching idiom phrase on an index card, give one or more cards to each student or pair of students.  (2) Each student or pair of students will then be required to place the card next to the correct idiom and explain to the class the meaning of the idiom.

Bibliographical References:

  • Disalvo-Ryan, Dyanne. Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen. HarperTrophy, 1997.  ISBN: 0688152856
  • Oliver, Dennis: ESL Idiom Page. www.eslcafe.com/idioms Accessed June 29,2005
  • Terban, Marvin.  Scholastic Dictonary of Idioms. Scholastic Reference, 1998. ISBN 05090381571  
  • Parish, Peggy. Amelia Bedelia. HarperTrophy Books, 1992.  ISBN: 0064441555 (Look for others in the series.)

Lesson Developed By:

Clare Friend
Curriculum Consultant
Learning to Give

Bethany Klunder
Grand Rapids Public Schools
Sibley Elementary School Building
Grand Rapids, MI 49504


Handout 1Print Handout 1

Take Home List

Take Home List

At school we learned that an idiom is an expression whose meaning does not come from the meaning of the words that make up its parts.

What idioms do you use at home? Here are some examples to get you started. 

  • check your pocket - look in your pocket for something (NOT making a check mark on your pocket)  
  • in hot water - in trouble for something (NOT submerged in hot water)
  • keep an eye on him - watch so he doesn't get hurt or into trouble (NOT having an eyeball on him)
  • string-bean legs - really skinny legs (NOT actual legs made of beans)

 With the help of your family, write down idioms you hear family members use.  Write the meaning of each idiom.

Handout 2Print Handout 2

Oodles of Idioms


Jennifer- Please add 1-2 graphics to the right open space illustrating an idiom.

Oodles of Idioms

  • Pulling my leg
  • Beat around the bush
  • Keep your chin up
  • Save it for a rainy day
  • Chilled to the bone
  • Down in the dumps
  • On cloud nine
  • Go fly a kite
  • Let the cat out of the bag
  • Under the weather
  • Full of hot air
  • The cat's got your tongue
  • Once in a blue moon
  • Kill two birds with one stone
  • Barking up the wrong tree
  • Twisting my arm
  • On the ball
  • I can't get over it
  • Pat on the back
  • Hit the roof
  • Dead as a doornail
  • Sharp as a tack
  • Blue in the face
  • Green thumb
  • Tickled pink
  • Bring home the bacon
  • Sticky fingers
  • Chew the fat
  • Burn a hole in one's pocket
  • Fork over
  • Heart of gold
  • Butterflies in my stomach
  • Slept like a log
  • Hold your horses
  • Pain in the neck
  • Hit the road
  • Getting cold feet
  • In the dog house


Handout 3Print Handout 3

Don't Break My Heart

Name: _________________________________ Date: __________________


Directions: Read the idioms. Decide if each idiom represents a philanthropic heart (kindness). Write yes or no. If no, rewrite the idiom with a philanthropic point of view.





Write Yes or No


Rewrite idiom if necessary


Examples: Killing two birds with one stone



 Opening two bird cages at once.

1. Pulling my leg





2. Beat around the bush





3. Keep your chin up





4. Save it for a rainy day





5. On cloud nine





6. Full of hot air





7. Twisting my arm





8. On the ball





9. Pat on the back





10. Green Thumb





11. Sticky fingers





12. Heart of gold





13. Pain in the neck





14. Getting cold feet






Philanthropy Framework:


Bonnie, Educator Atlantic City, NJ4/3/2012 12:43:29 PM

This is an incredible lesson! My 4th grade students loved it.

Submit a Comment

All rights reserved. Permission is granted to freely use this information for nonprofit (noncommercial), educational purposes only. Copyright must be acknowledged on all copies.