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Figurative Language - similes, metaphors and more

Compiled By: Risa

Ideas for teaching figurative language and book/story suggestions that include elements of figurative language such as simile, metaphor, onomatopoeia, hyperbole, idioms, personification, and alliteration

Posted by: Cathy

My fourth graders absolutely love learning about idioms! We brainstorm as many as we can. I give them a list of about 40 that I have found. We discuss the real meaning and talk about how funny it would look if we interpret figurative language literally. We make idiom books where they write the real meaning (You're driving me up a wall means you are making me crazy.) but we draw the literal meaning. They love to share their pictures with the class because they are so funny! We make these into class books and share them with other classes. We also do charades with idioms and the kids have to guess which idiom we are acting out.

Posted by: Suezie

I teach 5th grade. I have used "I'm As Quick as a Cricket" with my current class and numerous other grade levels in the past to teach similes. The illustrations are beautiful and can inspire an art project that uses similes. When the students understand what a simile is, I encourage them to look for similes as they read their independent novels and books. It is amazing how many they can find. We found at least 7 or 8 in Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. I also used this book when I introduced metaphors. Sadako says "I am a turtle." but is she really a turtle? NO!! She is behaving like a turtle.....she is not running fast.

Hope this helps.
P.S. Poetry is also good for finding metaphors in.


Figurative Language Headings/Websites
Posted by: Risa

Figurative Language Headers (attached below)

We teach Figurative Language throughout the school year and during ‘teachable moments’. To keep track of examples, I typed up a ‘heading’ for each of the terms we want out students to learn:
Line 1-Figurative Language Term
Line 2-Definition
Line 3-Example
(Source for definitions and examples:

After you download them, they should come out 2 per page. You may need to adjust and re-format the font since not all computers have the same fonts.

Glue them to the top of a sheet of upright (portrait) construction paper.

As we move through the school year, we post the sentences/examples we find in our reading, whether it’s from our basal reader, read aloud or content reading.

These are a few that we’ve already placed on our lists:
“…waving their hands like windmills in the air.” From Judy Moody was in a mood. Not a good mood. A bad mood.
“It (backpack) stunk like a skunk” From Judy Moody…
“Deserts with rocks like enormous sculptures amazed him.” From Grandfather’s Journey
“Bombs scattered our lives like leaves in a storm.” From Grandfather’s Journey
“He marveled at the towering mountains and rivers as clear as the sky.” From Grandfather’s Journey
“Its tall windows were like eyes glaring down.” From Tomas and the Library Lady
“The light of the moon followed the old car.” From Tomas and the Library Lady
Baby bear
many mischievous monkeys
Webpage Links
Figurative Language Lesson plan

Figurative Language-Love to learn

Figurative Language-Personification explained

Figurative Language-Personification-quick quiz

Figurative Language-Project-Teachers First

Figurative Language-Alliteration-Kids see and hear sentences

Figurative Language-Defined and Links for resources

(I included the above explanation and weblinks in the attachment.)

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i don't know about last minute....
Posted by: tia

i have my students start working on our district Writing Assessment starting with the first week of school--i'm passionate about writing--and have thus created a reputation for myself as being this great writing teacher---uh....and feel some pressure to show results!

our writing assessment is an expository (with a touch of narrative) essay. we have a very clear scoring rubric (NS--no score--for too short to tell if it's an essay, not in English, not essay...1-5--5 being the best--but even so, not necessarily perfect) i teach my students what each of these scored essays looks and sounds like. throughout the year we score essays from previous years and the students score them with the rubric. they have gotten very good at it! so they know what is expected of them.

i constantly give them excellent writing examples for ideas and to remind of everything "juicy" that makes writing good. i often have them write an essay on the same topic that we viewed in previous essays.

i score all their essays with this rubric--i try to have them write at least 1 essay a month--using the same format of the Writing Assessment. and i talk with them about how to make their writing stronger. (for some kids it's "indent for crying out loud! write with complete sentences!" for others it's "okay, you've got alliteration and similes, now add onomatopoeia and personification" or even "make your intro more interesting--add a hook or zing!"

i use my read alouds to assist in the writing process. after reading a good passage, i stop and ask the class "writing technique used here?" and they jump to raise hands to tell me where the alliteration is or the simile or sensory details...etc (They get a treat for being correct.) but i don't have them do this for every instance, but they raise their hands anyway and i know they are listening and getting it. (at an inservice i was at friday, a fellow teacher shared something similar she does--she pays them a "dollar" if they can bring their book to her and point out literary devices.)

so, no real last-minute advice....i feel it's something you have to do all year long, but if you haven't, do the following:
*get them acquainted with the writing assessment "rules"--like the size, margins of given paper--can they only use black pen? time limit, how to use thesaurus, no white-out, etc.
*show them previous writing samples and writing prompts, if you have them available
*explain the scoring rubric, if you have one
*create a master list for them of what SHOULD be in their writing--and leave it up during the writing assessment, if you can. (our rules are, if it is already hanging, you can leave it up--so this week, we'll make a reminder chart and leave it up for the next two weeks). ideas: introduction, topic sentences for body paragraphs, conclusion, sensory details, voice, figurative language (simile, metaphor, hyperbole, personification), alliteration/assonance, add blues/hook to intro....

good luck!

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figurative language
Posted by: danielle

hope this helps. the activities are for grade 5.

Personification books:
The Nose by Catherine Cowan
Call Me Ahnihgito by Pam conrad
Night Noises by Mem Fox (also for similes)
also comic strips

Simile and Metaphor books: Any chapter from Island of the Blue Dolphins and Maniac Magee depending on the grade level.

for similes you can have them create riddles comparing two objects.

metaphors: create a metaphor poem about their family. For example

my family lives in a medicine chest:
dad is the super size band aid, strong and powerful but not always effective in a crisis.
mom is the middle size tweezer which picks and pokes and pinches.

I hope you get the idea of the poem. The unit is the medicine cabinet and the elements are the things found in the cabinet.

for personification: have them work with a partner and create a commercial that uses personification


Posted by: Lori 2

Two books by Virginia Burton come to mind immediately --

Katy and the Big Snow
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

You could also use the Poppleton books by Cynthia Rylant or any book in which animals talk -- Charlotte's Web, Trumpet of the Swan, Fantastic Mr. Fox, etc.

You didn't mention grade level, but there are many possibilities. I hope this helps.


Posted by: Mary

Does it have to be a picture book? How about, instead, Hailstones and Halibut Bones, which is about the most awesome book of poetry going, and is very accessible to kids. It's a book of color poems--talk about simile, metaphor and personification! That's what I would use (do use) to teach those concepts.

But if it HAS to be a picture book....

Shadow (by the Pinkneys, I think)
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
Time of Wonder by Robert McClosky (old one)

Metaphor examples from poem
Posted by: Shannon

Thanks for responding to my post. I'm trying to decide if this activity is too advanced for 2nd grade and if it's more appropriate for 3rd grade...

The poem I'm using is "Nocturne" by Jane Yolen. A beautiful poem with wonderful illustrations. As you can probably tell from the title, the poem itself is about night.

An example line from the poem:

In the night,
in the velvet night,
in the brushstroked bluecoat velvet night,
a big moon balloon floats
over silent trees...

The actual vocabulary in the poem isn't difficult. The book is recommended for ages 4-8 years, but I wasn't sure if it was too soon to require students to think abstractly about figurative language... Any help would be appreciated!!

Posted by: fun_friend

Scholastic has a great resource book called Similes and Metaphors you can Eat. There are lots of poetry ideas floating around on the internet too. Be sure to teach the language of poetry like simile, metaphor, alliteration, rhyme, etc., because these items are on the big state test! I should know. I DID teach alliteration in one lesson. It appeared on a standards check test and the big test and the kids had completely forgotten what alliteration was!!! Once you have introduced a lot of terminology, you can reinforce retention by creating a game like jeapardy or some kind of matching card game. Kids enjoy poetry forms too: ABC poems, acrostics, haiku, limerick, diamante, etc. I think it would be fun to have the kids compose at least 12 poems before Christmas and make a calendar for their parents for Christmas.

I like teaching poems the kids can read in different ways. If it is short, I challenge the kids to memorize it. If it is long, I like assigning sets of lines to the whole class and reading it a few times that way. Some poems can be read by two or more voices. Joyful Noise is a book of poems for two voices.

Maryteach advocates using lyrics of songs from the popular media to analyze versus poems in a textbook.

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Re: similes
Posted by: mlg

I did a unit on simile and metaphor back around Christmas time. I used a number of techniques to help the kids grasp the concept. One of the most successful, however, was the lyrics from "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" by Dr. Seuss. The kids had been watching "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" during indoor recess so they were familiar with the song. To locate copies of the lyrics I typed in "lyrics and the song title" on the Google search engine.

By the way, the kids loved it and I keep referring back to the lesson as we are in the middle of writing poetry. It really seemed to get their creative juices flowing.

Posted by: Susan

Yes, I teach similes and metaphors in 3rd grade. In fact, we've talked about them since the beginning of the year. My kids will usually shout out SIMILE or METAPHOR when I'm reading a story out loud, so I know they have the concept now. As far as the parent, it sounds like the child just got tired and it upset the parent. I've had similar things happen before. I would just explain that you'll continue to go over similes and metaphors, and hopefully with more practice the child will understand it better. I think you spent enough time on it before independent practice, but some children just need more practice before grasping it well.

Posted by: Julianne

Most students love working with similes. I'd suggest getting some sentence strips and making the "middle" of the similes - like, as, than. Explain that similes are sentences that compare two things. Brainstorm some descriptive words for a person. A person can be happy, fast, smart, angry, frightened, etc. Now put one of your descriptive words on a piece of sentence strip and begin to build your simile. I'd start out with something simple like "Fast as a __________." Have students fill in the blank with things they think are very fast. You might end up with, "Fast as a rabbit, Fast as a race car, Fast as the wind, Fast as my dad's motorcycle." Make a sentence strip card for each ending so students can practice moving the words around during centers time. Now try the same words using "like" or "Than" in the middle. Do they still work? Using sentence strips gives students a chance to manipulate the words which adds to their understanding of the idea and to their ability to read the words. If your group isn't quite that advanced, you can do the exercise verbally and have them draw pictures to show what the simile stands for.

Same book, Rebecca
Posted by: Mariella

I was going to suggest the same book Rebecca suggested - Quick as a Cricket, which has been in my own children's collection (pretty handy). After a brief explanation of what a simile is and does (using familiar ones - "busy as a bee" "sweet as honey", etc.), I would give them sentences or phrases with their own names and characteristics - John is as tall as ________ . Sandy's eyes are as blue as _______ . David can run as fast as ____________. and let them all work at filling in a good word to make a simile that helps create a strong visual picture. And then, I might have each student draw one of the similes they've developed (the illustrations in Quick as a Cricket are wonderful and vivid and might help inspire them as to how they could do this).

No title
Posted by: MaddieC


First of all, it has to be a school-wide committment. Our high stakes test takes place in 4th.

That means that EVERYONE (K, 1, 2, and 3) has to do his/her job. We ALL accept responsibility for the scores, not just the 4th grade teachers.

In our school if a child is struggling s/he is sent to before school (30 mins) or afterschool tutoring (60 mins) daily.

Our school self-evaluation pinpoints our weak areas and the majority of our resources are aimed at those weakpoints. (money and manpower)

Everyone teaches to the standards. They drive our instruction, not the textbook.

We have formal and informal meetings where we exchange data and information on students and curriculum.

Our ancillary programs (Title 1, Migrant, ESL) are all integrated into the "game plan."

We address discipline in the classroom cooperatively and energetically because it is the biggest impediment to learning.

We have done fairly well so far. We still have a long way to go, but we are moving forward.


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Figurative Language
Posted by: Kim in La

Not sure if these will help, but a supervisor gave us this list of books by different objectives, and under the figurative language section, these are a few of them:

Abbie Against a Storm, Marcia Vaughan
Amos and Boris, William Steig
Big Bad Bruce, Bill Peet
Caleb and Kate, William Steig
Duke Ellington, Andrea D. Pickney
Feathers and Fools, Mem Fox
Midnight in the Mountains, Julie Lawson
My Grandma Lives in Gooligulch, Graeme Base
Sheep in a Jeep, Nancy Shaw
Some Smug Slug, Pamela D. Edwards
The Magic Fan, Keith Baker
The Z was Zapped, Chris Van Allsburg
Water Dance, Thomas Locker
Wilma Unlimited, Kathleen Krull

Like I said, these are listed under "Figurative Language", so not sure if they will help or not!

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Figurative language
Posted by: ramcoach

We just finished a complete unit on figurative language. With hyperbole's you can use a variety of resources. Shel Silversteins poem "No Difference," and Tall Tales are a couple that we used. A trick to remembering what a hyperbole is, is to underline the e at the end of the word and make the connection to exaggeration. We made a class book with hyperbole's in it. Students could come up with their own and if they were stuck, we had a list readily available for them to choose from. We love figurative language, it's so much fun! Lots of ideas on idioms, simile's, metaphor's, onomatopoeia, personification and alliteration if anyone needs anything. Just ask!

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paint chips
Posted by: imalith

I was looking at paint samples and realized that they all had cute names, like Tangarine orange, burnt sienna, firegold, etc. I borrowed (:D) several of the samples. I pass these out to my students and they use them to write similes.

My friend's shirt was as orange as a tangarine.

My tea cup was as red as a burning ember.

The car glistened like flames from a fire.

Extending the activity, they get scenic pictures from magazines and then find the color that matches. The mountains were the color of lilacs in the spring.

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Color Poems
Posted by: nanz

I reinforce similes during my poetry unit. I have my class imagine what they would say to a blind friend who wanted to know what a certain color was like. The poems are four lines, one for each sense other than sight, and must contain a simile. For example:

Blue feels like the ocean breeze cooling my skin on a warm day
Blue sounds like ice clinking in the bottom of my glass
Blue smells like the sky after a rain
Blue tastes like snow in a snowball fight


Red feels as hot as the noon day sun
Red smells as fragrant as a rose in bloom
Red tastes as spicy as Mom's homemade chili
Red sounds as alarming as sirens in the night

My students enjoy the creativity of this project and the final results make a beautiful bulletin board display.

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I Have a Dream Speech
Posted by: Funnygirl

MLK Jr.'s speech is completely filled with similes, but mostly metaphors. It is a brilliant and beautifully moving document, and using it would be a way to integrate writing with social studies.
I just bought an illustrated version of the speech put out by Scholastic Press with illustrations by Ashley Bryan, Jerry Pinkney, Pat Cummings and many more award winning artists.

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Figurative Language Page Puzzler
Posted by: Risa

Got this idea from Christina4062 on the Second Grade Board
I went to a workshop on Thursday and one thing we learned about are "Page Puzzles". They are a good vocab review/sponge activity for the kiddos.

I made some up for my 2nd graders and posted them on my website... if you're interested go to the section for "teachers" and click on "files". You'll find them in the "p" section!

Christina her idea and instructions, I just couldn't wait. I worked on it 'till I got it done. (Good thing I don't have to go to work in the morning!) ;)

Christina's directions are on her "Page Puzzlers" but basically:
Print out a copy. Then cut apart the squares. You might want to save a page for your files before cutting apart. (I'm going to print this on cardstock and then laminate.)
Next put the pieces in an envelope and have them available for students to put together.
She also suggests that this can be used for groups where each team gets a set and competes to finish each puzzle.

I tried to use basic fonts that most computers have since I don't have Adobe Acrobat. I played with the shapes and sizes of text to try to make them more interesting to older students. If I make more I might decide to make them all in a more standard text. Of course, I haven't used it yet, so if anyone uses it, I'd like to know how it works out for you.

(Thanks a lot, Christina!)

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Here's another version of the same thing
Posted by: Risa

After taking some time to look over the original, I realized that students might just figure out how to put the shapes together without really knowing the definitions. I went back o the drawing board and tried to make a table with squares, so that the shapes might be interchangeable, but the definitions would need to be correctly matched up on all sides. I'm thinking it should be a bit more challenging, this way.

This 9 square puzzle has the same words and definitions with some being repeated. I'm eager to share it with my team and try it out with my students tomorrow! Thanks for your feedback, tammy and lynette!

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Figurative Language 'Finds'
Posted by: Risa

I was looking through my files and found a couple more pages you might be able to use.

Both pages were developed by my fourth grade colleague.

This attachment is a page we use throughout the school year for the different stories we read in our basal reader, our read-aloud or independent home reading.
It's divided into sections with the term, brief definition and example of
idiom, or
personification.As students read (or listen to) their stories, they write the examples they encounter. We use this page as a group for many stories before they are asked to use them independently. (We also keep track of these figurative language examples on sticky notes that are placed on the appropriate figurative language charts in the room.)

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Figurative Language Chart
Posted by: Risa

This attachment, also developed by my fourth grade team partner, is a page (or chart, if done on tag board) which the students create as partners or in teams.

I typed the explanation and some examples in red text, but after downloading it, delete the text you don't want and use the format with your students, if you decide to try this out.

(I haven't tried this activity personally, but my team partner has done this for several years.)

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In 5th grade
Posted by: shuntyswife

I introduced figurative language by reading More Parts by Ted Arnold...I love it as much as the kids do!

I let them go through magazines and cut out examples they found of each type of figurative language, advertisements are full of them.

To close it out, I let them make figurative language posters like you said-they illustrated their favorites. I put them in the hall under "Getting Figurative in Fifth". The whole elem. got a kick out of their interpretations!:)

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