Body Parts and Actions Vocabulary Lessons—Teacher's Guide

In this compilation of lessons, activities, and worksheets, students learn that vocabulary words normally used to describe the human body can also be used to describe parts of inanimate objects and in metaphorical expressions. Students are also introduced to the different types of actions that people engage in.
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Literal versus Metaphorical

  1. A vein of ore…A blood vein
  2. A blinking traffic light…To blink your eye
  3. A human nose…The nozzle at a gas pump
  4. A heel of bread…A heel on your foot
  5. A fat lip…The lip on a skateboard
  6. Elbow macaroni…Someone's elbow
  7. A person's toe…To toe the line
  8. The facing on a building…Face-to-face combat
  9. Your leg…The first leg of a trip
  10. A person's spine…The spine of a book
  11. A tearjerker book…A tear
  12. A person's jaws…The jaws of life tool that emergency workers use to pry people from wrecked cars

Another way to get children talking and thinking about body part metaphors is to use the items in the following chart as conversation starters. Either you or students in your class can probably supply sample sentences more fitting to your particular students than the ones that are given here just to get your thinking started.

Term Lexical Extensions Sample Sentences
hair haircut

For things associated with hair, we have such basic words as haircut, hairpin, hairdo, hairdresser, hairpiece, and hairstyling.

The fineness of hair is the basis for such metaphors as hairline crack, a hairline fracture, a hairline spring in a watch, and a hair trigger in a gun.

Having a hairy experience is a shorthand way to say you had a hair-raising experience, meaning you were so frightened that the hairs on your arms stood up.

To come within a hairsbreadth of something means having had a very narrow escape.

People who insist on splitting hairs are quibbling over little details.

ears earache

A musical person might be described as having an ear for music or being able to play by ear.

If you have someone's ear, the person respects what you say.

If your ears are burning, someone is talking about you.

Ears of corn look like donkey ears, but they were actually named from a Middle English word meaning edge.

The rabbit ears on portable TV sets are a shape comparison.

brow eyebrows

Brows are usually called foreheads, except when we talk about our eyebrows.

If someone earns something by the sweat of his brow, he has worked hard.

Someone who looks browbeaten appears humble and picked on.

Speakers are being metaphorical rather than literal when they talk about high brow versus low brow taste.

The brow of a hill is shaped like a person's forehead.

cheek cheeky

Cheeks are soft and vulnerable, which is why the Biblical admonition to turn the other cheek was startling advice.

People fighting cheek by jowl are in vicious and close combat.

Today people are more likely to have verbal fights and to use tongue-in-cheek humor.

Someone who is in your face might be described as cheeky.

mouth mouthpiece

If a cheeky person is also talkative, she might be described as mouthy.

Lawyers often act as the mouthpiece or the spokesman for their clients.

Having many mouths to feed means being responsible for supporting several people.

To put your foot in your mouth is to have said something embarrassing.

Both bottles and rivers have mouths.

Being down in the mouth means you are not smiling.

We hope the phrase smash-mouth football is figurative rather than literal.

The following worksheets will assist you in your teaching about body parts vocabulary. Answer keys are included where necessary.

Animal versus Human Heads
Hand It Over
From Metaphorical to Literal
A Leg Up
Exploring Analogies
Moving Our Bodies

Excerpted from

Vocabulary Plus K-8: A Source-Based Approach
Vocabulary Plus K-8: A Source-Based Approach
Alleen Pace Nilsen and Don L. F. Nilsen
Vocabulary Plus K-8: A Source-Based Approach is a goldmine of activities, examples, and workshops that provides teachers with ways to teach specific vocabulary words by presenting sound theory combined with practical teaching materials and friendly advice.
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