English Idioms? A piece of cake! (book review)

One of the books I usually use in my classroom (sooner or later) is the one on English idioms. It’s quite difficult to make a nice lesson on idioms because you have to find some nice examples, create some fun exercises and set everything in context. But lo and behold! For there is a book with 60 units full of idioms that are ready to go. If you want to make a nice gift for a student (or a teacher) of EFL – here it is.

English Idioms in Use by Michael McCarthy and Felicity O’Dell is a great book that may be used both in the classroom and for self-study purposes. There are 60 nice units organised so well that everything is already set in various contexts. What is even better, the first chapter explains what idioms are and how important it is to know them.

Idioms to Talk About

The first part of the book deals with idioms according to the topic area that the are used to talked about. For example, there are idioms connected with anger (e.g. to be out for blood or ruffle someone’s feathers), dealing with problems (e.g. make do or bring to light), even structuring and talking about arguments (e.g. a can of worms or the acid test). I use this part when I see that the Use of English part in my coursebook might need some supplementation.

Idioms from the topic area of…

The second part focuses on idioms according to the image they are based on. Here, you can find idioms referring to colours (e.g. red tape or green with envy), weapons and war (e.g. bite the bullet or stick to your guns) or food (e.g. be the greatest thing since sliced bread or have a sweet tooth). I use this part when the topic of the lesson requires some invigoration (like combining idioms with, for example, the dreaded topic of environment).

Idioms using keywords

It’s quite easy to guess what this part deals with – you can find a lot of idioms referring to words like heart (e.g. someone after my own heart or have a change of heart), line (e.g. draw the line at something and draw the line under something) or ground (e.g. prepare the ground for something or suits me down to the ground). I found this part a nice idea for a last resort when my students don’t want to work on the lesson, I’m absolutely discouraged and the weather is really disastrous – that’s a nice way to break the routine and introduce something new.

Unit structure

Each unit is divided into two parts – theoretical explanation of idioms along with some exemplary uses, and exercises where one can practice the idioms. Naturally, there is the answer key to double check all the doubts, useful for self-study approach… and for lazy teachers, too.

Recommendation

There are a lot of idioms in English and some of them may be quite obsolete, however it’s always better to know them all, rather than not – especially if your linguistic level is quite high. To be honest, I find this book rather interesting to study myself, there is usually something new I come across. If I were to recommend an educational Christmas present for a good student or a teacher who needs more resources, I would certainly go for this option.

But maybe it’s good to add something more to such a gift, like a good novel, chocolate or a pair of socks, of course… 

Idioms in Use
McCarthy, Michael and O’Dell, Felicity
Cambridge University Press, 2002
ISBN 978-0-521-78957-8

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7 Free Online Courses in December

Winter is here – maybe it’s snowy in your place, but here in Poland it’s just grey and dull (and cold). I managed to find some fine hot chocolate, just to spend my evenings reading and learning. Like every month, I found a set of lovely free online courses, so you may spend your winter break learning something new. 

English for Teaching Purposes by Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Start: 3/12/2018

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: teachers planning to teach in English

This course on English and teaching methodology aims to help university lecturers do their teaching in English, in line with university internationalisation policies. If you are a teacher of a subject other than EFL, you might be interested in this course. Moreover, you will learn how to integrate all aspects of CLIL to put together their own English-medium course on their particular subject.

Performance Assessment in the Virtual Classroom by University of California

Start: 3/12/2018

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: teachers working in a virtual environment

If you teach in a virtual classroom, you know that assessment is still very much important, but it has to be approached in a different way than in the traditional classroom. This course will present formats of virtual assessments, assessing special populations, including at-risk, gifted, and special needs students, and learning management systems as related to performance and assessment.

ICT in Primary Education: Transforming children’s learning across the curriculum by the University of London

Start: 3/12/2018

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: teachers interested in incorporating ICT in primary education

The materials in the course are based on studies carried out for the UNESCO Institute of IT in Education, Moscow. You will discuss a variety of useful tools and resources for integrating ICT as well as how children perceive the use of technology in a school context. You will also learn about learning design, infrastructure, negotiation with parents, communities of practice, policies, staff development, pedagogical innovations, differentiation, affordable access, and teaching support.

Shaping Your Professional Brand by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Start: 3/12/2018

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people who are interested in building their own personal brand

If you think of building your personal brand, you may find this course particularly useful. You will learn how to manage your own approach and be prepared when things go wrong. An interesting item is a study on an effective strategy for apologising, and how to engage in disputes professionally.

Learning How To Learn for Youth by Arizona State University

Start: 3/12/2018

Duration: 3 weeks

For whom: people who want to stop procrastinating and want to start studying

This course looks really awesome! You will basically learn how to learn – you will study the strategies that will turbocharge your learning, including test-taking tips and insights that will help you make the best use of your time on homework and problem sets.

Magic in the Middle Ages by Universitat de Barcelona

Start: 3/12/2018

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: people interested in medieval culture, beliefs and practices from the perspective of History and History of Science

This course looks like fun, especially with the approaching Solstice. Naturally, I wouldn’t encourage you to study magic – but I think such course may be quite interesting for long, winter evenings. You will learn which spiritual practices were allowed in medieval Europe and which ones were related to the devil.

For science, naturally!

Kickstart Your Career: Getting Ahead at University by QUT

Start: 10/12/2018

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: students starting their university experience

If your students don’t really know what to do with themselves, I’d strongly recommend this course. They will be able to use this course to find out how to get the most from their university education, how to choose a course of study and how to investigate possible future roles and pathways in the profession they will eventually choose.

I hope you’ll find a nice course for yourself 🙂