Today’s phrase is…
To do something by the skin of your teeth.
Introduce it to your students with some personalised examples from your own life:
I passed my driving test by the skin of my teeth, one more mistake and I would have failed.
My football team managed to win the league by the skin of their teeth, it came down to goal difference in the end.
Lead them to the meaning: by the thinnest of margins. Point out that it’s most commonly used in the contexts of exams/tests, elections or competitions.
The politician held onto his seat in parliament by the skin of her teeth.
The golfer qualified for the next round by the skin of her teeth.
I passed my Spanish speaking exam by the skin of my teeth.
Put students in pairs and encourage them to think of examples from their own life.
As a counterpoint, you could introduce the following opposite expressions:
- to pass with flying colours
- to sail/breeze through
Here’s the Quizlet set of all the previous phrases of the day.
Today’s phrase is….
To get out of hand
Introduce it to your students with some personalised examples:
The party got a little bit out of hand after you left.
His Miley Cyrus obsession has got a little bit out of hand.
Help students to infer the meaning of the expression:
to become difficult to control
Have students discuss the following questions in pairs or small groups:
- Have you ever been to a party that got a bit wild?
- Have you ever attended or witnessed a celebration or protest that became difficult for authorities to manage?
- At school, were there specific times of day or times of the year when teachers had difficulty controlling students?
- Do you have any hobbies, tastes or pastimes that you think might be turning into obsessions?
Use this Quizlet set to recall previous phrases of the day.
Today’s phrase is….
To not be cut out for something
To not be cut out to do something
Introduce the expression to your students with a personalised example:
After just 2 days working for an insurance company, I decided I wasn’t cut out for an office job.
While at medical school my sister realised that she wasn’t cut out to be a doctor.
Have students infer the meaning: to not be the right type of person for that job/situation. Point out that it is almost always used in the negative and that it can be followed by “for” and a noun, or my “to” and a verb.
Put students in pairs and have them discuss the following jobs and situations. They should decide how suitable they think they are for them and to give reasons for their answers:
How well do you think you would cope in these situations?
- As a waiter in a busy restaurant on a Saturday night.
- As a board member of a big corporation.
- In an army on a battlefield.
- As an Olympic athlete.
- As a doctor in an emergency room.
- As an explorer in the 1500s.
- As a teacher in a class of 30 4-year-olds.
- As a teacher in a class of 30 14-year-olds.
- As a world famous celebrity.
- As an auctioneer selling world famous artworks.
- As a reclusive writer living in a cabin in the woods.
- As an astronaut piloting a rocket to Mars.
Use this Quizlet set for recall activities with previous phrases of the day.
Today’s phrase is….
to do wonders for
Introduce it to your students with a personalised example:
“Getting away from the city for a couple of days did wonders for my mental health.”
Show them some more examples to help them grasp the meaning:
All that sunshine does wonders for your mood.
Yoga will do wonders for his fitness.
Fresh vegetables and pure water can do wonders for the liver.
Get a pet – my dog has done wonders for my soul.
The expression means to have a big positive effect on something. It’s most often used to describe positive impacts on physical or mental health, but can also be used to describe improvements to relationships or reputations.
The couples therapy did wonders for their marriage.
The announcement of the ceasefire did wonders for the country’s standing on the world stage.
Put students in pairs or small groups and have them think of some examples:
- A product or activity that has had a positive impact on their mental or physical health.
- Some advice you could give a couple who are going through a rough patch.
- Something that a celebrity did that had a really good impact on their career or reputation.
The phrase of the day today is…
Spare a thought for someone.
As we’re over a year into the horrific war in Ukraine, we should spare a thought for all of the people who have been killed, injured or displaced as a result of Russia’s brutal invasion.
The expression means to stop and think about that group of people. The expression often appears like this:
Spare a thought for those less fortunate than you.
Encourage your students to think of other marginalised groups who need more support and attention at the moment. Perhaps consider creating a poster display with all your students’ messages of support for different groups.
Have them discuss the following questions in pairs:
- How often do you think people spare a thought for those less fortunate than them these days?
- What else can be done to raise awareness of the plight of marginalised groups?
- Do you know anyone who has taken in refugees or offered support in other ways?
- Would you be willing to do it?
Use this Quizlet set to practice past phrases of the day.
The phrase of the day today is….
“Contrary to popular belief,….”
Introduce it to your students with some examples:
“Contrary to popular belief, you can’t catch a cold just from being cold.”
“Contrary to popular belief, gorillas are shy and gentle creatures.”
“Contrary to popular belief, British cuisine is actually quite good.”
The expression is used to introduce a fact or statement that is the opposite of what most ordinary people think
Challenge students to be stereotype/myth busters. They can either choose to disprove a stereotype about people from their country/region using the expression, or they can disprove a commonly held theory or “old wives’ tale”.
Please post some of their example sentences in the comments!
Today’s phrase is….
“To draw the line at something”
Introduce it to your students in a personalised example:
“I like scary movies but I draw the line at the Saw films, they’re too gory for me.”
Ask them to guess the meaning with their partner. The expression means to set a limit on what you’re willing to do or accept. You could show them more examples:
“I like exotic pizza toppings, but I draw the line at pineapple.”
“She’s all for her daughter expressing herself but she draws the line at her getting a nose ring.”
First have students consider the three examples. When it comes to horror films, where do they draw the line? What about pizza toppings? Where did their parents draw the line when they were growing up?
Encourage them to write 2 or 3 personalised examples and share them with the class.
Here’s the quizlet set with all of the phrases of the day so far.
Today’s phrase is…
“To keep one’s options open”
Introduce it to your students in a personalised sentence, for example:
“When I chose my A-Level subjects, I wanted to keep my options open so I picked psychology, English literature, history and media studies.”
The expression means to wait before making a final decision in case a different option arises.
You could show them some more examples:
“I thought maybe I’d keep my options open, maybe I’d go on a skiing trip, camping trip or something later.”
Film star: “At this stage, I’m just keeping my options open and I’ll sit down with my agent and see what comes along.”
“I’ve had offers from two different colleges but I’m keeping my options open just for now.”
Ask students to discuss the following questions in pairs:
- Have you made a final decision about….
- What you want to study at uni/as a masters?
- What career you want to go into?
- Where you’re going on your next holidays?
- What are the pros and cons of keeping your options open?
- Are you a decisive person?
- What is your process for making big decisions?
I’m trying to introduce some micro-learning to my proficiency class by starting a “phrase of the day” system. I’ll collect them in a Quizlet set so I can revisit them.
The first one is:
Strange as it may seem, ….
Strange as it may sound, ….
I’ll introduce it to my students in a sentence about myself:
“Strange as it may sound for someone who is petrified of heights, I actually love rollercoasters.”
You can also use corpus websites like Skell, to show students more examples, though personalised sentences are always more effective.
Allow students to react to the meaning of the sentence. Do they think it’s strange that I like rollercoasters as Simeone who is scared of heights? How do I rationalise it?
Then have students come up with three examples about their own life. Encourage them to think carefully about some interesting or contradictory facts about themselves.
Have them read their sentences to each other and use it as a jumping off point for a short conversation. Can they find common ground? Who has the strangest fact?
This is a lesson plan for C1+ Spanish speaking students. Students use contrastive analysis to compare Spanish idioms and expressions with their English equivalent. It was inspired by an activity in Leo Selivan’s book Lexical Grammar. Download the student handout and key below: