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Cliché Contributors: Tandy Versyp, Sarah Bates, Gino Orlandi To help students recognize and avoid cliché; to show students how to create new ways to express old ideas; to encourage inventive, original thought; to discourage lazy and unclear thinking. Optional Free Write Topic: Describe something by looking at it from behind or underneath. The Origin of Cliché Explain to students that cliché is French for click. Back in the day, when newspaper type still had to be set by hand, some clever printers got in the habit of pre-setting commonly used phrases. That way, they could easily drop those phrases into stories, rather than assembling them from scratch every time they appeared. These big groups of letters settled into the press with a heavy click. That is to say, instead of rewriting the same tired phrases over and over again, printers took these pre-made sentences and simply clicked (or clichéd) them into place. So really, using a cliché means taking someone else’s words and just clicking them into place, rather than coming up with something for yourself. Pretty lazy and boring, right?

Recognizing and Revising Cliché


Step One: Write a few clichés on the board, but leave out a key word from each of them. Here are some examples:


2 3 4

Like trying to find a _______ in a haystack Money doesn’t grow on _________ I know it like the back of my _________

Step Two: Read the sentences out loud and ask the students to shout out the word

that goes in the blank when you get to that spot. When they shout it out, say “CLICK! Did you feel it? Did you feel that word just clicking into place? That’s a cliché.”

Step Three: Lead a short discussion about the clichés on the board. Are these phrases surprising to you? Interesting? Would you want to read a book full of these? Probably not—it’s not very exciting to read something when you already know exactly how it’s going to end.

Step Four: Pick a cliché on the board and ask students to figure out what it is trying

to express. Take, for example, “Jeff knew that road like the back of his hand”: that phrase is simply trying to say, “Jeff knows that road very well.”

The Cure for IDK  

The Cure for IDK isn't a typical lesson book. It is frank, funny, and full of lessons that are simultaneously entertaining and challenging....