Teaching middle schoolers how to use and correctly identify figurative language is a crucial skill for analyzing literature and creative writing. Literary devices and figures of speech are used in everyday language and, when used properly, can improve the writing process.
Learning figurative language terms and how to recognize these figurative language techniques doesn't have to be a tedious process.
Here, we have a list of engaging activities to help your middle school students recognize figurative language.
1. Create a Figurative Language Unit
Creating a unit on figurative language is not easy. So why re-create the wheel? I love this 6th-grade unit on figurative language terms. This digital version is FREE and includes everything you need to teach your students. Creations by Kelsey even has figurative language lessons, figurative language definitions, practice sheets, correct answer keys, and way more.
Learn more: Creations by Kelsey
2. Make Figures of Speech Flash Cards
Flash cards are always fun to reinforce figurative language (or any other subject). Depending on your class type, there are some tremendous figurative language digital flashcards on Quizlet.
Learn more: Quizlet
3. Have Students Teach Mini-Lessons
There is no better way to know that kids have learned something than if they teach it to their peers. Separate your students into groups and have each group create a mini-lesson plan on 1-3 figurative language terms.
Learn more: Whitman Elementary
4. Have a Poetry Unit
Poetry units are an excellent way to teach about figurative language literary elements. This can be done around 2nd grade up through 10th grade. This activity is a great way to encourage descriptive writing and allow students to demonstrate a strong understanding of the importance of symbolic language skills.
Learn more: Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest
5. Explore Figurative Language in Popular Music
My students always, without fail, love exploring popular music that they love to discover figurative language truth. This is a fun language activity you can use with almost any grade level. I have found that this high-interest activity that discovers specific language in songs is better appreciated by those in the upper-grade levels, such as high school.
Learn more: Genius
6. Play a Figurative Language Bingo Game!
No matter how old you get, BINGO is always a fun game. I love this activity from Teachers Pay Teachers that is already put together, extremely inexpensive (which every teacher loves), and is something that the entire class can enjoy!
Learn more: Teachers Pay Teachers
7. Figurative Language Trash-ket-ball
Most of the time, I tell my students not to throw paper across the room into trashcans. In the case of learning, I will make an exception. This game is fun for everyone and requires very few resources. I like to use this as a figurative language review game or a review game in general.
Learn more: Slide Player
8. Write an Embarrassing Story
You cannot skip this writing activity if you have a class full of creative writing students. You set the length of the story and assign a rubric. But have your kids write about their most embarrassing moment and allow them to share with the class (if they want to).
9. Practice Creating an Excellent Writing Hook
Grammarly is a great resource for learning how to write your hook sentence. Figurative language is imperative when writing that beginning sentence to grab your reader's attention.
Learn more: Grammarly
10. Traveling Figurative Language Groups
One activity I did with my 10th graders was figurative language traveling groups. I would create six stations, each with its figurative language task cards to discover. The groups would create a shared google slide presentation and then find examples of each term.
11. Write Definitions with Examples
This activity isn't the most exciting one of the bunch; however, when it comes to retaining language arts informational terms, this is a great activity. I have found that this kind of retention practice is excellent for figurative language standard-based testing.
12. Create a List of Slogans
You can give figurative language instruction all day long, but the retention won't go far unless you have an engaging activity. Creating a bunch of slogans is a fun and entertaining way to use figurative language.
Learn more: Finder Wheel
13. Examine Reading Passages
Examining language in literature is an excellent way for middle school kids to demonstrate that they can recognize a figure of speech used in a text. You can examine why it was used in the first place and break down the text.
Learn more: Smithsonian Magazine
14. Make a Found Poem
Found poems are a fun and creative way to create something new from something old. Find an old book, tear out the pages, black out all the words you don't want, and leave the words you do to make a "found poem."
Learn more: Mystic Museum of Art
15. Have Students Write a Song
Music uses figurative language, so why not write your song? Making students develop their songs and clever lyrics allows them to show you their more profound understanding of figurative language.
Learn more: Careers in Music
16. Examine Ethos, Pathos, and Logos
Figurative language is used all of the time in various television and radio ads. Teaching the classic ethos, pathos, and logos is a great way to show how figurative language is used in everyday advertising.
Learn more: Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart
17. Read a Classic Story (stories for children)
18. Explore Movie Clips for Figurative Language
We watch movies all the time but rarely ever dissect them. Show students a series of movie or TV show clips (from appropriate shows/movies), and each clip demonstrates a different figurative device.
Learn more: Jennifer Herrera
19. Write an Article on a Real Event
Figurative language is used to give sway to actual current events all over the world. Have students write an article on something currently happening, but the challenge is using certain types of language to sway their audience.
Learn more: McCormick High School
20. Do a Figurative Language Scavenger Hunt!
I love a good scavenger hunt. Luckily, there are lots of excellent scavengers hunts already made online. These hunts allow your kids to stay engaged the entire time while trying to find the clues. The Reading Mama has a great scavenger hunt ready to print that covers terms like personification, metaphor, idioms, and similes.
Learn more: This Reading Mama