This Movie Idioms ESL Activity helps students practice using different expressions and idioms from popular movies. It works best with adults, but younger learners could also enjoy it if they are above an intermediate level of proficiency.Kids, Adults
Movie Idioms ESL Activity Preparation:
There is a bit of preparation is required for this ESL speaking activity. Browse through some clips on YouTube or Netflix to find some appropriate material.
Do a search for “idioms in films” or “idioms in movies” to get some content to use. Alternatively, you may already have some movies or dramas in mind that have a lot of idioms. Finding a TV sitcom or a movie that your students are familiar with would be ideal for generating the most interest in the activity.
Watch the clips closely and take note of the idioms that are used. It would help to type them out into a Word doc to print out for your students.
You may also be able to pull some great idiom quotes from websites that specialize in that kind of niche. Do a Google search for “movie quotes” and scan down the lists to see if there is something that you could use. QuoDB is an excellent resource for finding dialog that is used in popular films.
Movie Idioms ESL Activity Guidelines:
To start off the activity, write a commonly used idiom on the board that most students would know, such as, “Piece of cake.”
Beside the idiom write “Literal Meaning” as a header. Then ask the class if anyone knows what the literal meaning of the expression is.
It’s likely that someone will know, but if they don’t tell them that it means something that is “easy or simple” to do. Model an example sentence using the expression: “The spelling test last week was a piece of cake.”
Ask the students to say a few other sentences aloud and elicit responses. Give them a few minutes in groups to practice using the expression so they build up confidence.
Next, write out another idiom on the board. However, this time make sure that it is something that you have found that is featured in one of the movie clips that you found online.
Then, do the same task as above and elicit the literal meaning of the idiom, write it on the board and give them an example sentence using the idiom.
For the next step, tell the class they are going to watch a scene from a movie which uses the same idiom. You may want to introduce the movie and what’s going on in the scene first to give them some context. Tell them to listen for the idiom and write the exact sentence down that the character says using the expression.
By integrating listening and writing skills into the activity it will further consolidate their understanding of the idiom.
Finally, play the scene, they listen and complete the assigned task. After they all write down their sentences including the idiom, they compare what they have written with a partner. Lead feedback and elicit the correct sentence that the character in the movie said. Correct any mistakes in accuracy if necessary.
Students create their own sentences using the same idiom. They can practice using them with their partners similar to how they did at the beginning of the activity.
Repeat the same task for the other movie clips that you found which use other idioms and expressions. Of course, you can adapt the exercises to how you see fit. Adapt it depending on the class time and abilities of the students.
Follow-Up ESL Activities:
If you have more time to kill, you may want to extend the lesson with other activities that use other core skills to solidify understanding of different idioms. For instance, you could have the students focus on listening skills using the Movie Words ESL Listening Activity using the clips that you found.
To focus more on discussion and conversation skills, check out the Movie Trailers ESL Speaking Activity.
For more idiom activities, check out our searchable list of common English idioms and phrases. The list is also divided into different idiom themes with free printable PDFs and worksheets to use with your students.