What Are the Kids Saying?

Discover slang and idioms used around the world!
Ages 5-18 / 30
min Activity
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  • Explore slang and idioms from different cultures, and reflect on similarities and differences between the expressions 
  • Discuss cultural influences on languages, such as movies, music, and social media
  • Connect with other classrooms through follow-up activities (located in the “Gallery” and “Extensions” tabs) to continue learning about expressions used around the world (e.g., through posting on a collaborative Padlet, or interacting with another class over a live or asynchronous exchange)

Supporting Research

There are numerous benefits when we learn multiple languages, such as decreased prejudice toward people different from ourselves, greater analytical and problem-solving abilities, and enhanced listening and memory skills. Importantly, when we learn a new language, we also learn about the cultural context surrounding it, and gain a deeper understanding of our own culture. This activity aims to foster students’ self-awareness as they reflect and share about their own language and culture, and perspective taking and inclusivity as they seek out and try to understand others’ perspectives and experiences in how they express themselves. 

To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.


Activity Partners

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Educator Note

This activity offers an opportunity for students to share about their native language(s) or the language they are currently learning in school. For language learners, encourage them to explore and present slang and idioms in the language that they are learning. Students might also research the origins of these expressions, such as pop culture, history, and cultural norms.


  1. Begin the activity by discussing the role of slang and idioms in language. Begin by asking students to explain the terms “slang” and “idioms” and the difference between the two terms.

    Then, you might say: “Languages are constantly evolving and adapting, especially as people come up with new and creative (and sometimes funny!) ways to express themselves. There’s slang, which we usually use during casual conversations with family and friends. Slang is trendy and changes quickly, and it’s influenced by our pop culture and sense of humor. For example, saying something is “so cringe” if it’s embarrassing. There are also idioms, which are phrases more deeply rooted in our culture and history, like saying “break the ice”, which comes from a time when ships would help each other during the winter and small ships would go forth to “break the ice” and make space for larger ships.”
  2. Ask students the following questions:
    • What is some slang that you recently learned or heard, and what does it mean? Where does it come from?
    • What is an idiom that you’re familiar with? What does it mean? Do you know where it comes from?
    • How do you think movies, music, and social media influence the way we speak?
    • What are some reasons that languages might change over time?

    As students share examples of slang and idioms, write them down on a physical or digital board that is visible to everyone, and include details like what each expression means and where it comes from.

    If students are currently learning a new language, encourage them to research and share about expressions used by native speakers.  
  3. Then, display this slideshow for students, which shows slang and idioms used around the world. Throughout the slideshow, pause to ask students to guess what each phrase might mean, and if they know a similar saying in another language they are familiar with.
  4. Afterwards, invite students to reflect on the expressions that they learned about. For example, you might ask:
    • Was it easy or difficult to guess what the expressions meant based on the translations? Were you surprised by anything?
    • What was your favorite expression that you learned?
    • How do slang and idioms reflect a community’s culture, like their values, history, and sense of humor?
    • When we are learning a new language, why is it important to also learn about the informal expressions that native speakers use?
    • Usually, slang and idioms are specific to a community, but can you think of any expressions that are more global? Why do you think these expressions have become so popular?

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.