Jackrabbit Tips & Tricks

Speak Language That Children Understand

You can make your students’ learning experiences even better if you remember how important the language you use with them is in their ability to understand you.

Remember that adults using lots of expressions, comparisons and slang terms that children may not understand. It can – in fact – be very confusing to them and send them off in a new direction – away from the actual meaning of your conversation.

Each of these literary devices include regional versions that add more to the confusion.


Sick is slang for cool but also means that someone is ill. And cool can mean that something or someone is great or can describe temperature.

Flop can be something that failed or the sound something makes when it falls or can be the act of falling in an ungainly way.

The third degree can describe how someone is interrogated or can be one in a list of degrees.

 Kick the bucket can mean to die or to actually hit a bucket with your foot.


Add insult to injury, Gone to the dogs, Pipe dream, Play possum, Bite my head off, Smell a rat… Each of these are expressions that illustrate meaning. Many expressions are passed down – perhaps something granddad always said – or used in literature to provide colorful descriptions.


He’s as broad as the side of a barn, She walks like a truck, Don’t chew like a cowTime is money. Life is a rollercoaster. The world is a stage. Comparisons can be even more perplexing – depending on whether they are metaphors, similes, analogies, or allegories. These even confuse adults!

Children’s brains can come to a screeching halt (to use an expression) because of words and phrases that are more appropriate in adult conversation. Children get stuck trying to process what they just heard and never hear the rest of the sentence or conversation.

Children are very literal – which is why using these devices makes communications more challenging for them. Just imagine what they are picturing when you say that a class has gone to the dogs, or that one of your best student’s latest performance was sick. Even phrases like sleep tight just don’t make sense to little ones.

Be aware of what you’re saying when you’re teaching – or even when you’re just talking with children before and after class. Watch their eyes, if they take on a perplexed look, you may have used a term or phrase that they don’t understand and lost their attention. You may need to start over and speak your sentence in language they understand.


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