Lesson plan

Capturing the Clues

It’s time to get those magnifying glasses out! In this lesson, students will act as detectives, searching for clues about idioms. Who can find the clues that lead to the meanings of various idioms?
Need extra help for EL students? Try theIdiom Meanings and Context CluesPre-lesson.
EL Adjustments
GradeSubjectView aligned standards
Need extra help for EL students? Try theIdiom Meanings and Context CluesPre-lesson.

The students will be able to locate idioms within a text. The students will be able to use context clues to determine the meanings of various idioms.

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments
(10 minutes)
  • Distribute idiom “Mix it Up” cards, giving one card to each student.
  • Ask the students to find which cards go together to form a phrase.
  • Once students have finished finding their partners ask the students to discuss what they think it means.
  • Explain that the literal meaning of these phrases is different from the figurative use of these phrases.
  • Tell the students that the context is important and some phrases don’t have a literal meaning when we read them in a text.
(10 minutes)
  • Use the concept of being a “detective” with a magnifying glass to help the students understand the task of using context clues to determine the meaning of certain idioms.
  • Write the following sentences on the board or display on a smartboard:

Yesterday, my homework was a piece of cake. It only took me a few minutes to finish it! My teacher asked us to complete a few addition problems. It was easy for me because I had already memorized all of my addition facts!

When the principal visited our classroom and told us that he had something important to tell us, we were all ears. Everyone was sitting quietly and looking at him. We couldn’t wait to hear what he had to say!

  • After you write the sentences on the board, model the process of finding the idioms within the sentence.
  • As you show the students how to locate the clues that lead to the meaning of the idioms, think aloud, showing the students what you are thinking as you model the process.
(10 minutes)
  • Display the Clueing In! worksheet on the smartboard or draw a diagram of the graphic organizer on a whiteboard.
  • Using text of choice, ask the students to share their thinking about clues in the text that help them understand idioms.
  • As students share their thinking, write down the clues they find on the “clue” sections of the worksheet.
  • Next, ask the students to turn and talk to their partner in a “think, pair, share.” Ask the students to use the sentence starter “I think this means...” to tell what they think the idiom means in the context of the sentence.
  • Provide additional practise as needed.
(20 minutes)
  • Ask students to use the Find those Idioms! worksheet to locate additional idioms in a text of choice.
  • Students should record the idioms they find in the boxes on the left and then fill in the following sentence frame: “I think this idiom means __Because____.”


  • For students who need additional support, provide one or two examples of clues that help them understand the meaning.
  • Have the students create illustrations of the idioms and compare the illustrations to the context clues given in the text. Ask students if the literal meaning matches the text.


  • Have the students use a text of their choice that does not already have idioms in the story. Ask the students to respond to text by using an idiom to describe a character or part of the plot in the story.
  • Ask the students to use an idiom from one of the suggested books to write their own context. How could that idiom be used?
  • Instead of using the whiteboard for modeling and guided practise, use the smartboard.
  • Have the students create a visual of several idioms using Google Drawings or other design software or programs. Invite the students to compare the literal meaning with the figurative meaning.
(10 minutes)
  • Distribute the Use the Clues! worksheet, along with texts of choice that contain idioms.
  • Ask the students to find idioms in the texts, list clues that help them determine the meaning of the idioms, and synthesize the information to write the meaning of the idioms in specific contexts.
(10 minutes)
  • Display a list of idioms on the board.
  • Ask the students to use that idiom in context, writing two or three sentences on an index card.
  • Ask the students to trade their card with a partner.
  • After all students have traded cards, invite the students to locate the idiom on their partner’s card and then look for clues that help them understand the meaning of the idiom.
  • Once all students are finished, have the students pair up and discuss what they found.

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