Figurative language can be an overly abstract and challenging subject for students to grasp. Differentiating between similes and metaphors by using concrete examples is certainly a good place to start. After that, it’s all about having fun and learning to recognize metaphors in their original context before incorporating them into one’s own writing. Your students will be sure to master these tricky figures of speech with the help of these nineteen entertaining activities.
1. Replace the Words
Begin with a simple sentence that contains a basic metaphor, such as “She is a gem.” Then have students identify the word that indicates the metaphor before discussing what it means. After considering the qualities that the word connotes, encourage students to elaborate with different ideas.
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2. Consult the Experts
Examining the work of famous authors is a great way to gain an appreciation for the power of metaphors. Look at some famous poems that incorporate metaphors and see how different authors accentuate meaning by using this literary device. How would the poems differ if they featured similes or other descriptive words instead?
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Billy Collins is a master at using the extended metaphor. Take a look at his poem “Cliche” and have students identify simple and extended metaphors before discussing how this intensifies poetic meaning. Instead of using just one metaphor, Collins paints an entire picture with repeated metaphoric emphasis.
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Have students bring in examples of metaphors that they’ve found in their reading and compile them into one worksheet before challenging them to identify the metaphors. You can also have them change each metaphor to a simile to explore how this changes the underlying meaning.
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Riddles are an incredibly fun and diverse way to learn metaphors. Most are rich with metaphoric descriptions and require some critical thinking to map out the answer.
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6. Draw Me a Metaphor
Visual metaphors allow students to easily picture the action taking place and understand the connection between the subject and the figurative language. They become especially fun when paired with riddles or when examining children’s stories and nursery rhymes. Why not create a class book with visual metaphors?
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7. Differentiate from Similes
Create an anchor chart that compares and contrasts both similes and metaphors, before giving students the freedom to choose whichever literary device they would like to use in their own writing.
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8. Imagery with Art
Incorporate photography or fine art instruction into your classroom by having students generate examples of metaphors for each. This activity is also a great way to incorporate socio-emotional learning as it allows students to share their reflections on each art piece.
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9. Sing About It!
Incorporating music adds a dynamic and sensory element to your classroom, especially when the choice is the popular School House Rocks! The visuals combine with the auditory as students sing the song “Telegraph Line” while working to identify the metaphors they hear and see.
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10. Matching Games
Matching games make for fun practice while reinforcing an understanding of core literary concepts. Split up the metaphors and their meanings before challenging students to match them. You could also have students color corresponding images to boost their hand-eye coordination.
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11. Silly Sentences
Have a contest to see who can create the funniest or silliest metaphor while capturing the meaning they are trying to convey. You can pair this with images (see #8) or have students illustrate the ideas to intensify the humor. Make sure to have students explain the reasoning behind their ideas to ensure they’ve grasped the meaning.
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12. “I Am” Poetry
Writing “I Am” poetry invites students to explore figurative language – and who doesn’t like to talk about themselves? This gives them the freedom to use personal descriptors while finding creative ways to use metaphors in poetry. To enhance learning, guide students to emphasize the use of their five senses to define the world around them.
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13. Play 20 Questions
The classic game “20 Questions” encourages students to figure out a mystery noun using a series of yes-or-no questions. Put a twist on this old-time favorite by asking players to pose questions using only metaphors. So, instead of asking, “Is it red?’ they can try asking, “Is it a dark night?”
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14. Play Charades
Nothing says “She’s an elephant,” like a game of good old-fashioned charades. The answers to charades are almost always metaphors. After making a guess, students can elaborate by sharing the clues that led them to the correct answer.
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15. The Metaphor Game
This is a fun way to get kids thinking outside the box in terms of metaphors. It’s great for groups and really gets a discussion going. You can ask inventive questions such as, “If this student were a dessert, what would they be?” or “If this person were a color, what would they be?”
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16. Trade Writing
While students are working on creative writing, have them read aloud their stories before inviting listeners to point out the metaphors they hear. Likewise, they can exchange their writing with a fellow classmate and underline metaphors in each other’s work or suggest additional ones.
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17. Song Lyrics
All lyricists incorporate metaphors in their songs to emphasize and paint a visual picture of their musical message. Have each student bring in the lyrics of their favorite school-appropriate songs and see if they can identify and explain the metaphors they contain.
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18. Scavenger Hunt
Have students go through magazines and cut up images that depict a metaphor. Or take them to the library and have them search for books and images that are metaphor-based. This activity is a wonderful way to show learners that metaphors are all around them if they only take the time to notice.
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19. SEL & Metaphors
Using metaphors to connect concrete images with emotions is a great way to help reinforce student understanding of this important literary concept. You can also extend their learning by discussing why different colors evoke specific emotions, such as red being connected with anger and yellow with happiness.
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