Idioms and Clichés Lesson Plan: How to Identify, Use, or Avoid Them

Submitted by: Jackie Mercer

Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12

In this multi-day lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 6-12, students use BrainPOP resources to explore idioms and cliches. Students will identify idioms and clichés in books and use them in original writing.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Identify idioms and cliches in free choice books
  2. Distinguish between idioms and cliches
  3. Use cliches and idioms in original writing


  • Internet access for BrainPOP
  • Free choice novels (grade-appropriate young adult or adult)
  • List of at least 100 cliches and idioms
  • Notebook paper and pencils or pens
  • Timer


idiom; cliche; figurative; literal; substitute; modify; origin; corny


Before beginning this lesson, select at random a classmate to whom each student will write a letter, or allow students to partner up and write letters to one another. Also, make sure that the students all have a free choice book that they have been reading prior to this lesson so that they can easily refer back to it. Be sure to preview the movie to plan your pause points.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Day 1: Ask students what they know about cliches and idioms. Take all responses and discuss. Do not give students the definitions.
  2. Pass out the Vocabulary Activity. Instruct students to only fill in the answers as they see them in the video.
  3. Show students the first part of the Idioms and Cliches Movie, pausing at the end of the discussion of idioms. Have them fill in the activity. Then have the students watch the section about cliches, pausing before the end which compares the two.
  4. Hand the students the paper with the list of cliches and idioms, or project it for the class to see. Ask students to write a school-appropriate, but creative letter to their assigned classmate and include at least 20 idioms or cliches. Collect the letters when the students finish.
  5. Day 2: Give the letters to the student to whom they are addressed. Allow some of the students to read the letters aloud.
  6. Ask students to discuss the usage of idioms and cliches. Which ones had the most meaning? Which ones made the most sense and why?
  7. After having the students discuss the letters, allow them time to finish filling out the vocabulary activity from yesterday.
  8. Ask the students to figure out which phrases were idioms and which were cliches that were used in the letters. Have them create a list of the differences between the two and the reasons for the differences.
  9. Have the students view the end of the movie (or play the whole thing from start to finish) and take the Quiz. For homework, they need to think of current sayings that they think are idioms. They then need to identify which they believe will turn into cliches and why.
  10. Day 3: In small groups, have students share the lists that they developed for homework. This will then be shared with the whole group.
  11. Students will look in their own independent reading books to find examples of idioms and cliches. After finding two examples of each, they will be asked to explain what they add or take away from the writing and why.

Extension Activity:

In this multi-day lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 6-12, students use BrainPOP resources to explore idioms and cliches. Students will identify idioms and cliches in books and use them in original writing.

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