Teaching Figurative Language: 5 Engaging Ways to Teach Figurative Language

Teaching Figurative Language: 5 Engaging Ways to Teach Figurative Language

For many educators, trying to convince students that figurative language is what MAKES literature is like telling them there was life before TikTok. Teaching figurative language in such a literal world can be a challenging task, but it can also be fun. Here are five engaging ways to teach figurative language.

Many of them still insist that such claims must surely be urban myths.

In all of my time in the secondary ELA classroom, I admit that some of my most challenging lessons have been over figurative language. Students see that phrase and are immediately intimidated, and I don’t necessarily blame them. There’s so much more to it than your basic metaphors and similes. It’s a little intimidating!

When introducing my students to more complex literary concepts like allusions, personification, and more, I’ve discovered that it’s all about breaking it down into smaller “chunks” of information so they don’t get too overwhelmed. Of course, there’s a lot of modeling, whole-class discussion, and activities along the way as well.

I also think learning should be fun, which is why I’ve come up with these five engaging ideas for teaching figurative language. Feel free to take each concept and make it your own! I also like to incorporate the resources in this figurative language teaching unit when I teach students all about figurative language.

5 Engaging Ideas for Teaching Figurative Language

Middle school and high school ELA students will become more familiar with figurative language the more they encounter it, so why not make the journey fun and entertaining along the way?

Teaching Figurative Language: Extended Simile Love Letter Challenge

Teaching Figurative LanguageValentine’s Day is just around the corner, and one of my favorite ways to teach similes is with an extended simile love letter challenge. If you’re unfamiliar with extended similes, they’re simply a simile that runs several lines long where the writer explains the similarity in the first line. Here’s an example:

Love is like a traffic cone
Sometimes it stops you from making unsafe turns
Other times, you don’t see it coming, and it suddenly hits you
You also might steal it because someone dares you to
That never ends well

The outcomes of this activity are beautiful, hilarious, and everything in between. I usually give each student a heart-shaped piece of paper and another slip with a random word on it. Then, each student must compare “love” to that word and write an extended simile of at least five lines. However, you can modify the length, terms of the challenge, and more. It’s so much fun!

Teaching Figurative Language: Figurative Language Stations

If you’re looking for a hands-on ELA activity to use for unit review (and you have the space), try figurative language stations. They’re an excellent informal assessment option, and students can move around and engage their brains simultaneously! The best part is, you don’t need to create anything overly complicated for each station.

Pull real-life figurative language examples from previous lessons, post a page of text where students have to identify several different figures of speech, and make your kids do the work by challenging them to create their own allusions, metaphors, and more. Depending on the number of students in your class, I would recommend around five stations (especially when considering social distancing).

Teaching Figurative Language: Literary Scavenger Hunts

Figurative Language Teaching Unit
Teaching Figurative Language: A complete unit for secondary ELA

Literary scavenger hunts are another engaging ELA activity to teach figurative language, and I always like to add in some table group competitions to make the activity even more exciting.

You’d be amazed how fast a seventh-grader or even a tenth-grader will work when bragging rights are on the line!

You can create your own basic scavenger hunt that asks students to explain and identify the type of figurative language in the text you’re reading.

You can take advantage of the no-prep versions in my comprehensive figurative language unit.

Teaching Figurative Language: Task Cards

Task cards are another low-prep way to teach figurative language in the middle school or high school ELA classroom. Each card asks the student to demonstrate their knowledge with real-life comparisons, illustrations, emojis, and more. They’re also great for differentiated learning, and you can use them in a variety of ways:

  • Give them to students for a Bell Ringer activity
  • Assign them as an informal assessment
  • Use them as part of a learning station activity
  • Have students work on them in groups

Teaching Figurative Language: Short Skits

If you’re searching for a figurative language activity that’s more centered on the performing arts, give short skits a try. This is a great way to urge students to demonstrate their understanding creatively, and you can make it as involved or low-key as you want. For each skit, assign a type of figurative language to 2-3 students.

Let’s use metaphors, for example. Each group then has to write up a short scene where they use multiple metaphors in their speech. Once everyone has prepared their scripts, it’s time to act them out! Challenge the audience members to identify which type of figurative language is being used and give out informal awards to amp up the fun.

Figurative language is what breathes life into literature that would otherwise be akin to chewing on dry toast. I hope that these fun ELA activities will help your students learn to appreciate (and identify) a well-placed simile as much as I do. If you’re short on time and are looking for high-quality, low-prep lessons, check out my complete figurative language unit for the secondary ELA classroom!

Figurative Language Teaching Unit for Secondary ELA

Teaching Figurative LanguageEngage your students in a complete figurative language unit where they learn all about eight different types of figures of speech: allusions, hyperboles, metaphors, onomatopoeia, oxymorons, personification, similes, and symbols!

This figures of speech bundle is designed for the secondary ELA classroom. It contains direct-instruction teaching materials, guided student sketch notes, student practice worksheets, and hands-on task cards.

What fellow teachers are saying:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Extremely satisfied

The slideshows and worksheets were engaging and covered the material beautifully. This was mostly review for my 9th graders, but the slideshows were clear and concise so we could move through them quickly. I have a promethean board in my classroom and the well-crafted slideshows made this such a great visual for my students. Highly recommend!”

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Extremely satisfied

I already have short story resources which I really like and students find engaging. I used this resource to supplement certain elements of it though. After doing so, I will be incorporating more of this resource into my teaching portfolio.”

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