Soup to Nuts

3, 4, 5

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.

Lesson Rating 
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.
  • identifyidioms that do not reflect a philanthropic heart.
  • identify idioms in literature text.
  • share the idiom illustration projects with a lower elementary classroom.
  • read-aloud copy ofUncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen (see Bibliographical References)
  • chart paper
  • drawing paper 12" X 18"
  • colored pencils or crayons
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, studentsmake a list of idioms they (and their family members) use at home. The studentshould take it back to school to share with the class.

  • Disalvo-Ryan, Dyanne. Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen. HarperTrophy, 1997.  ISBN: 0688152856
  • Oliver, Dennis: ESL Idiom Page. 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.)


  1. 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 abouta kind of expression called an idiom.

  2. 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 actuallypush 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 studentsto picturea literal translation of the parts, which doesn't make sense. Encourage the students to name other idioms with whichthey are familiar. Make a list of idioms on the board or chart paper. (See Attachment Two: Oodles of Idioms).

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

  4. 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.

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

  6. Students each selectfour idioms from the list(or they mayknow others).Multiple lists of idioms can be found

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

  8. 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.

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

  10. Activity Two

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

  12. 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.

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

  14. Provide timefor thestudents to share their answers and modifications with the whole class.

  15. Activity Three

  16. Read Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen aloud to the classandtell 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.

  17. Activity Four

  18. 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 intheir best form, arrange for the students to present to the younger children.

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


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

Cross Curriculum 

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

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.2 Discuss the importance of respect for others.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Demonstrate listening skills.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe the task and the student role.

Academic Standards

Select categories to search for standards.

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