Because We Love Idioms: A Cause and Effect Lesson Plan

Subject: Language Arts
Grades: 4-6

Students use idiomatic expressions to develop a better understanding of cause and effect relationships and hone critical thinking skills.

Students will:
· Learn the definition of “idiom”
· Demonstrate their understanding of cause and effect relationships, using idiomatic expressions
· Improve their critical thinking skills by identifying both the cause and the effect in sentences using idiomatic expressions
· Apply their knowledge of cause and effect by using idiomatic expressions in writing

IRA/NCTE Standards for the English Language Arts
Standard 4:
Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
Standard 5: Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
Standard 6: Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.

Materials Needed
· WordTeasers: Idioms
· 3 x 5 index cards

Getting Started
Write the following sentence on the chalkboard.
Sebastian studies once in a blue moon.
Ask students to tell what they know about the expression “once in a blue moon.” Have they ever heard that expression before? What do they think it means? (Something that happens or is done rarely.) Tell students that the phrase “once in a blue moon” is an example of an idiom or idiomatic expression. The meaning of an idiomatic expression cannot be determined by the individual words. Can students think of other idioms? (Raining cats and dogs; cool as a cucumber; chip on his shoulder.) Suggest other idioms from WordTeasers: Idioms and help students determine the definition for each.

Next, ask students what they think will happen if Sebastian studies once in a blue moon. (He won’t get very good grades. He’ll fail the next test.) Write the following sentence on the chalkboard:
Because Sebastian studies only once in a blue moon, he failed the spelling test.
Then ask: What caused Sebastian to fail the spelling test? (He didn’t study for it. He studies only once in a blue moon.) What happened because Sebastian studies only once in a blue moon? (He failed the spelling test.)

Tell students that this sentence is an example of a cause and effect relationship. An effect is something that happens. A cause is what made it happen or why it happened. Write the following cause and effect sentence on the chalkboard.
After losing 10 games in a row, the basketball team threw in the towel.
Then ask: Why did the basketball team throw in the towel? (They had lost 10 games in a row.) What happened after the basketball team lost 10 games? (They threw in the towel.) Can students identify an idiomatic expression in that sentence? (throw in the towel) What does “throw in the towel mean”? (to quit)

Duplicate the following Cause and Effect Activity below and distribute to the class. Call on volunteers to read each sentence in the left-hand column and to identify the idiomatic expression and its meaning. Then, explain to students that the sentences in the left-hand column all state the cause or reason that something else happened. Put the letter of what happened (the Effect) from the right-hand column in the blank next to its cause or the “why” something happened.

Cause and Effect Activity
Cause Effect
(1) _____Jeff felt under the weather. a. He was grumpy all day.
(2) _____Jack had a chip on his shoulder. b. The kids stayed in the house to play.
(3)_____ Sally was feeling down in the dumps. c. He didn’t go to school.
(4)_____ Jake got up on the wrong side of the bed. d. She called her bff Maria.
(5)_____ It was raining cats and dogs. e. She doesn’t watch the TV show.
(6) _____Vanessa thinks American Idol is for the birds. f. He got into an argument with his coach.

Have students combine the sentences in the left-hand column with the sentences in the right-hand column, using one of the following transitions words (or words that “signal” a cause and effect relationship).
because since due to the fact that
Finally, let students work in teams of two to come up with their own original cause and effect sentences that incorporate an idiomatic expression from WordTeasers: Idioms. Distribute 3 x 5 index cards to each team. Tell each team to write a “cause” sentence on one card and an “effect” sentence on the other. Then, mix up all of the cards and distribute to the class. Allow time for students to “pair up,” matching a cause and effect for each pair of students.

Next Week: Analogies with WordTeasers: College Prep
Source: WordTeasers: Idioms — an educational game designed to get kids talking, laughing, thinking, writing…and improving language arts skills. Ages 9+ . Available at

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