Why teach figurative language in isolation? Use great examples from novels! | Mentoring in the Middle

Why teach figurative language in isolation? Use great examples from novels!

 Teaching figurative language is funny.  We want kids to recognize the different types, and so we show them poems and song lyrics and they begin to recognize the styles.

Let's go beyond memorizing types of figurative language and use novels to show how they enrich and enhance descriptions!

Use novels to teach figurative language, squirrel with an acorn
Why do we teach figurative language?

Think about what understanding figurative language does!  It helps students understand and analyze the language and imagery used in novels.  It builds background knowledge and encourages deeper comprehension and critical thinking skills. 

It improves writing ability.  When students become more comfortable with figurative language they can start to use it in their own writing, adding depth and richness to their descriptions (which can sometimes be lacking.)

It improves reading ability.  As students figure out this sometimes-more-nuanced language, they make more sense out of what they're reading.

Best places to find figurative language

  • Start with stories rich in figurative language.  Here are some I've used that are chock-full of figurative language examples, but there are many other books to choose from!
    • Pony by R.J. Palacio
    • The Curse of the Mummy by Candace Fleming
    • Eleven by Tom Rogers
    • Front Desk by Kelly Yang
    • Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling  
  • Pick out some passages that feature figurative language and post them on your board or read them aloud.  Discuss with your students how that language helps create more vivid pictures in the reader's mind. You might want to have students talk about what they envision in their heads.
  • Let students use their independent reading books to find examples of figurative language there.  You might want to share with the class, or perhaps have students create drawings of what they visualize.
Decode and discuss figurative language examples
  • Read some passages aloud and dissect them together.  Break down the idioms, personification, metaphors, similes, and hyperbole (and any others you want to target) into categories.
  • Discuss what they actually mean but also what you know they mean.  Look at how they enrich a story!  For example, You're driving me up a wall has a literal and a figurative meaning.
  • Encourage your students to play with phrases - draw them or chart their literal and intended meanings.  
Partner or small group work
  • Have your students continue with the book you're reading, or with their own independent reading books.  Make a figurative language list of what they find and identify each one.
One-pagers and figurative language journals

  • Your students can create a one-pager using their independent reading book.  Have them draw a character or setting or the theme - whatever the figurative language most describes.
  • Or have them write a new story using some of the figurative language from their book
  • If you want, have students create a journal where they keep track of figurative language they hear, read, or sing along to.

There are many ways to unlock the door to your student's imaginations and expression.  These are some that nurture a passion for reading and writing.

Want some other ideas to get your students reading and writing?  ✅ Grab these fun, FREE writing prompts when you join my email list!

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