International Idioms

Explore idioms from different languages, and appreciate how we express ourselves in unique ways!
Ages 5-10 / 45
min Activity
Perspective Taking
Social Studies


  • ‍Learn about idioms, or expressions that form a meaning that is special or unique to people who speak a particular language
  • ‍Explore idioms from different languages, and reflect on similarities and differences between how people express themselves

Supporting Research

According to research, idioms provide an authentic pathway for people to understand the environment, customs, beliefs, emotions, and views of a language’s native speakers. Thus, educators should encourage students to practice perspective taking as they reflect on the culture and context that contributes to different idioms, and what these expressions might reveal about the speakers’ experiences and history.

To learn more about this skill, and how it promotes students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.

Activity Partners

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  1. Engage students in a conversation about idioms. You might say: “Have you ever heard the expression “break the ice”? In English, people use this expression to describe the act of getting to know someone, or forming a new friendship. It comes from a time when ships would help each other during the winter, when they often got stuck in the ice, so small ships would go forth to “break the ice” and make space for larger ships. These types of expressions are called “idioms”, and every language has its own idioms! These expressions often have a meaning that is special to the people who speak a particular language. What are some expressions that you have heard, or use in your language(s)?”
  2. Create a list of expressions shared by students, or use these cards which contain examples from different languages. Invite students to research an idiom from a language that is unfamiliar to them, and record:
    • The literal and figurative meanings of the idiom
    • How the idiom is written and pronounced in its original language
    • The history or context of the idiom, and what the idiom might reveal about the speakers’ culture, history, beliefs, and values
    • Any similar expressions that students use themselves 
  3. After students complete their research, encourage them to get creative and share their findings! For example, students might create artwork depicting the idiom and its meaning, play charades while classmates try to guess the expression, or use the idiom as a writing prompt to describe a time when they have experienced a situation similar to its meaning (e.g., a time when they “broke the ice” with a new friend). 

If students in both classes have individual devices (e.g., mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.)...

Use a platform such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams which allows you to screen-share during a video call. 
One educator should set up the Kahoot! game and share the code with students in both classes by following this tutorial about using Kahoot! in a remote learning environment, and share their screen so everyone can follow along.

If students in either class don’t have individual devices...

Follow the same instructions above, with one educator starting the game and sharing their screen so both classes can follow along.  
Instead of students joining the game to answer the questions, they can hold up their fingers, call out their answer, or use a paper template to indicate their response.

If you prefer not using Kahoot!...

Use this document (Spanish version) to prompt students.