4 Steps for Teaching Figurative Language

Figurative language is one of my favorite topics to teach! It's one of those units that pushes students to dive deep and use their analytical thinking skills. While I may love teaching figurative language, I realize not every teacher shares my same enthusiasm.  I'm hoping that by breaking down the process and sharing some of my favorite resources, teaching nonliteral language can become something teachers look forward to. **Don't miss the free organizer at the end


Teaching Figurative Language can be fun and meaningful for your students. Teaching figurative language through poetry can make it even better! Here are my best tips for teaching similes, metaphors, idioms, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, imagery, alliteration, and personification.


1. Start Out of Context


Anytime I introduce my students to a new literary device, I like to give examples and teach them explicitly what it is. This is the most basic way of teaching figurative language. You simply want your students to be able to identify the type (simile, metaphor, hyperbole, idiom, personification, onomatopoeia, imagery, alliteration) and explain their answer.

Activity Ideas:
To accomplish this part of the lesson, I may simply write a phrase on the board and ask my students which type of figurative language it is. Or, I may write an expression and ask them how we could "morph" it into a specific type.

Another great activity for teaching figurative language out of context is to use a sorting game. This will give students enough practice in identifying each type of nonliteral language that they should be ready to move on.



Question Stems:
What type of figurative language is being used?
Identify the figurative language being used?


2. Deeper Thinking with In-Context Learning


Now that my students are masters at identifying, I'm able to use mentor texts to show them examples of each type of figurative language being used by an author. While reading these texts to my students, I make a point to ask in-depth questions. 

Here are a few examples of texts you may want to check out and use with your students. Plus, here are some deep-thinking questions you can pair with any text. 

Mentor Texts
Metaphors - My School's a Zoo
Hyperboles - Library Lil
Idioms - Monkey Business
Personification - Scarecrow
Alliteration - The Long, Long Letter

Teaching Figurative Language can be fun and meaningful for your students. Teaching figurative language through poetry can make it even better! Here are my best tips for teaching similes, metaphors, idioms, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, imagery, alliteration, and personification.


While reading these texts to your students, you may want to ask questions like...
What is meant by the figurative expression ___________________?
Why did the author choose to use this type of figurative language?
How did this type of figurative language add to the telling of the story?
How did the author use figurative language to enhance the text?


3. Teaching Figurative Language through Poetry


My favorite way to teach figurative language is through poetry. Sometimes figurative language can get lost in stories, whereas with poetry, it tends to pop out and smack you in the face. Also, it is very easy to "dig deep" and get students to sharpen their skills.

Teaching Figurative Language can be fun and meaningful for your students. Teaching figurative language through poetry can make it even better! Here are my best tips for teaching similes, metaphors, idioms, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, imagery, alliteration, and personification.


Here is how my poetry unit goes...
1. For each type of figurative language, my students get a poem. We read the poem and hunt for examples. 
2. My students then analyze the meaning behind the figurative language that was used. I want them to understand what the simile (for instance) means within the poem (in context).
3. I then push my students to think about why the author chose these words.  Why didn't the author just say what they meant? Why use nonliteral language? What did the figurative language add to the poem?

By the time I am done with this part of my unit, my students have analyzed and discussed each type of figurative language.  For lack of a better phrase, "They've got this!"


4. Independent Practice


It is essential to give your students ample opportunity to work with figurative language independently. One of the best ways for them to do this is during their independent reading time. Allow students to use their own fiction text, paired with this graphic organizer, and find examples of figurative language on their own.  You can download this organizer for FREE!





Teaching Figurative Language can be fun and meaningful for your students. Teaching figurative language through poetry can make it even better! Here are my best tips for teaching similes, metaphors, idioms, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, imagery, alliteration, and personification.


If you are looking for more resources to help you teach figurative language, check out my complete Figurative Language Unit.