Simile and Metaphor Lesson Ideas

Teaching students about literary devices, such as simile and metaphor, can be a year long experience.

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Similie and Metaphor

State curriculum standards often say that students must be able to interpret simile and metaphor in order to understand new uses of words and phrases in text. While not all states assign this to the sixth grade curriculum, as my state Ohio does, students of every age are expected to understand these concepts. Seems simple, but at the beginning of the school year, many students have trouble distinguishing between simile and metaphor. With this in mind, it becomes my job to provide ongoing exposure and experience with literary devices throughout the school year. After an introductory lesson at the beginning of the school year, I challenge students throughout the remainder of the year through simple activities that can be easily added onto language arts units.   

At the beginning of the school year I like to teach lessons that focus on story elements, terms, and literary devices that we will see throughout the year. When we move into discussing simile and metaphor, I begin with examples from poems, novels, and short stories which are displayed on the classroom Smart Board. I then ask students if there are any differences or similarities among the sentences on the board. As we discuss the sentences, I introduce the terms simile and metaphor. By the sixth grade, students are familiar with the terms, and can generate definitions through discussion (if you are working with younger students you can adjust the lesson to fit their needs). Students are then paired into teams in order to complete a think-pair-share poetry response handout. Students find poems and identify the similes and metaphors, as well as make an inference on their meaning to the story (i.e., what is being compared and why that comparison is important to the meaning of the poem). Students then share their responses with the rest of the class.

Once the introductory lessons are completed, I reinforce the material through simple class activities that are added into other units we cover throughout the remainder of the school year. After students have learned about a given literary device, I place a big piece of blank paper (e.g. the presentation post-it notes, or light colored bulletin board paper) on a bulletin board in the front of the classroom. I make two columns on the paper and title them "simile" and "metaphor." The students are then given the challenge to post any similes or metaphors they find in anything else they read for the remainder of the year on the bulletin board with their name signed beside it. The student with the most similes or metaphors, or a combination of the two, at the end of the year wins a free lunch from our local pizza shop. When students post a simile or metaphor I take a minute at the beginning or end of class to go over what has been added to our list. Every now and then, to keep the competition going, the class will tally the results.

Other activities that I incorporate throughout the school year include book scavenger hunts, tableaux, and draw-it. When we are reading a novel, whether it's a whole class novel or group selected novels, I assign a book scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt asks students to go through what they have read and find items in the book such as similes, metaphors, past vocabulary terms, and anything else I'd like the students to review. Not only does this activity help students review what we have covered, but they enjoy being able to work on this assignment with a partner. This assignment is also flexible in that I can adjust the scavenger hunt questions for any level. A tableau is a game where students act out a scene from a text and freeze the scene for the remainder of the class to analyze. I also use this game with simile and metaphor. Students may choose a simile or a metaphor discussed in class, and freeze it for analysis. It is a humorous way to discuss the topic. Draw-it is a game where each student is given a slip of paper where they write a simile or metaphor, and place it into a bag. The class is then divided into teams and each member has the opportunity to choose a slip of paper from the bag, and draw what was written on it for the other teammates to guess. I also use this game to review plot events and story elements.  

The following lesson plans provide ways to teach about simile and metaphors throughout the year, and incorporate different materials and technology that can help build students' understanding.

Similie and Metaphor Lesson Plans:

Candy Bar Stories: Students apply knowledge of metaphor and simile by creating stories about their school and teacher using online candy bar wrappers. This lesson is a group-based project that integrates online research as well as some computer work in the final product. The lesson plan also includes web-based games for extension activities, or for those students who always finish first.

Fall Similes and Metaphors: In this seasonal lesson students learn about simile and metaphor through the integration of technology (e.g., Power Point, United Streaming, poetry websites). After students are able to identify and distinguish metaphors and similes they create and publish their own fall poems. The materials used in this lesson are focused on autumn, however, it could be easily adjusted for use with other seasons as well.

Reading the Play: This six-lesson unit guides a class through reading the play Julius Caesar and identifying literary devices such as simile and metaphor. Students are able to discover and keep track of similes and metaphors as well as how they were used in the play. By the end of the play students should have an expanded knowledge of the meaning and use of the literary devices.