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Should Slang and Idioms be Taught in the Classroom?

Should Slang and Idioms be Taught in the Classroom? | ITTT | TEFL Blog

When one imagines an English language lesson, one probably pictures vocabulary drills, dictionaries, and verb conjugations. While these are all aspects that one will most likely find should they sit in on a class, perhaps there can be something fun, useful, and entertaining to be found as well, something like a lesson on slang and idioms.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Devin R. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

The use of slang and idioms are very commonplace in conversations for native English speakers.

While this type of language is mostly used in informal conversation, it is also often seen in books, commercials, and other forms of media. Slang and idioms are an essential part of how native English speakers communicate with each other. But should it be taught in a classroom? How would it be taught, and why? The answer to these questions will be explored more in-depth in this essay.

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Deeper Competence

Of course, English learners should learn formal English and proper grammatical structures, but as any native English speaker and any teacher of English knows, that type of language is just the tip of the iceberg. One could argue that true natural communication and fluency are found in the use of words like ‘yeah,’ or phrases like ‘hold your horses.’ For any student learning English, these words and phrases might seem extensive and maybe even ridiculous, but perhaps that is exactly why they should spend some time learning them so that when they do come across these terms in their life outside of the classroom, they may not feel so intimidated and can comprehend as much as possible.

So, how would an instructor teach this type of language?

Teaching a lesson on slang and idioms may not be recommended for beginner students or young learners as they are most likely still in the process of learning the basics of the language. However, more advanced students, especially adults and young adults might find this type of lesson useful and entertaining.

The amount of materials that an instructor could use in one of these lessons is plentiful. Materials such as song lyrics, movie and television clips, advertisements, idiom dictionaries and more could be used effectively. As for the structure of the lesson, the following Engage Study Activate (ESA) lesson could be utilized. Of course, the instructor could substitute any materials and vocabulary for more appropriate ones for their students as they see fit.

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Slang and Idioms Through ESL Method

At the beginning of the lesson, the instructor greets the students casually and tries to have a natural conversation with a few students using some slang and idioms. After those initial conversations, the instructor reveals why they were speaking a little differently than usual. From here the Engage Phase begins.

For the Engage Phase, the instructor has a discussion with the class about what slang and idioms are and what terms they heard the instructor use and what other terms they have heard outside of class and where they heard it. While this discussion is taking place, the instructor writes example terms on the board to prepare for the first part of the Study Phase.

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To begin the first part of the Study Phase, the class goes over the terms and phrases on the board and the meanings of each one while students take notes. Then, for the second part of the Study Phase, using idiom dictionaries, students take some time to complete a worksheet that incorporates a gap-fill exercise with various English idioms and slang. After the allotted time, the class will discuss the answers with the teacher and correct any mistakes they may have made.

For the first part of the Activate Phase, students will pair up and write a short skit that utilizes at least two idioms and three slang terms in an allotted amount of time. After the allotted time is up, each pair will act out their skits in front of the class as the second part of the Activate Phase.

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There are many ways that this lesson could be approached with so many materials and subject manner available. Teaching this lesson could be an excellent way to get learners of English as a second language to take risks with language, have fun with language, and learn how to communicate even more naturally and with more fluency than before.

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