If you take a few moments to listen to a middle school conversation you might hear something like this: "If I don't make the basketball team I'll die," or "I was so embarrassed I thought I'd die." Is it only me, or is there a pattern here? What is it about middle school students that makes teaching hyperbole a breeze? The answer I have arrived at is . . . the drama. I like to take snippets of hallway conversation, and present them as examples of figures of speech. I point out that students use figurative language daily - we only need to label these examples with the technical name and definition. The following are a few ideas and resources I use when teaching various figures of speech.
The first resources I turn to when teaching any figure of speech are my favorite websites. Many offer lesson plans, ideas, and worksheets. I also like the grammar games on the student page of the Scholastic wesite. I use the worksheets, games, etc . . . as reinforcements and homework supplements after whole class instruction has taken place. Scholastic also has books about figurative language that I use during instruction. I also make these books available to students. Another online resource I like to visit for figurative language ideas is KidsKonnect. This website offers examples, definitions, and student practice and review activities. It's a great resource for students when they need information for an assignment.
One way I solidify the concept of hyperbole is by having students make posters. Both the students and I enjoy this activity. After presenting examples of hyperbole found in hallway conversations, in books, or in online material, students create lists. Students bring their lists to class and choose one example of hyperbole to illustrate. Each student illustrates his or her chosen hyperbole on a poster and presents it to the class. The class votes on the best example of hyperbole, and the winner is given a humorous prize. Last year I gave a plastic "gold" Olympic medal to the winner. The year before that I gave an oversized pencil. The student with the longest list of examples of hyperbole also receives a prize. I use versions of this activity when teaching all figures of speech. Another way to get students engaged is by having them act out a figure of speech. Students write their favorite figure of speech on a small piece of paper. The paper goes into a bag, and students draw a hyperbole, or whatever figure of speech we are working on, and act it out in front of the class. The remainder of the class watches the skit and tries to guess the figure of speech and/or specific example. I allow students to divide into partners for this activity, which makes the skits more amusing to watch and present.
When teaching hyperbole, or other figures of speech, I tend to gravitate towards the activities that encourage students to become active participants. Whether they are illustrating or acting, students seem to comprehend better and connect the "fancy term" to what they are saying in everyday conversation. The following are other lesson ideas for teaching hyperbole.
Hyperbole Lesson Plans:
"Jabberwock" Figurative Language: In this lesson students read the poem "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll as an introduction to poetry and various types of figurative language, including hyperbole. After reading the poem students use websites, complete a worksheet, and play a game in order to define and apply the different types of figurative language.
Funny Business: This lesson introduces students to satire and parody surrounding television news. Students create their own satirical news stories after researching methods and techniques in which to add satire and parody to a news story. This lesson provides a realistic connection to students' lives. Although it is not included in this lesson plan, hyperbole could be easily added into this lesson and its related activities.
You May Be A Poet: This lesson is actually a nine week poetry unit in which students learn about various poetry styles and figures of speech, including hyperbole. At the conclusion of this study, students create their own poems and compose them on white tee-shirts. Although this is a nine week study, activities and mini-lessons can be borrowed from this unit depending on students' prior knowledge.
Academy Awards of Figurative Language: This is a great inquiry-based lesson where students research and present assorted forms of figurative language, including hyperbole. An "academy award" for the best figurative language presentation is given to the best example presented to the class. This lesson contains great online resources for both teachers and students.