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Lesson Plan #: AELP-LPS0205
Submitted by: Erica McIlnay
Email: ericamcilnay@yahoo.com
School/University/Affiliation: University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
Endorsed by: Dr. Bernard J. Poole
             University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
Date: January 27, 2003

Grade Level: 9, 10, 11


  • Language Arts/Process Skills
  • Language Arts/Literature

Duration: Two 50-minute sessions

Description: This lesson focuses on identifying and creating similes, metaphors, and personification in literature and in students’ own writing.

Goals: Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening :

  • 1.1.11.E. Establish a reading vocabulary by identifying and correctly using new words acquired through the study of their relationships to other words. Use a dictionary or related reference.
  • 1.1.11.H. Demonstrate fluency and comprehension in reading.
  • 1.3.11.D. Analyze and evaluate in poetry the appropriateness of diction and figurative language.
  • 1.4.11.A. Write short stories, poems, plays.
  • 1.6.11.A. Listen to others (ask clarifying questions, synthesize information, ideas, and opinions to determine relevancy, and take notes).
  • 1.6.11.D. Contribute to discussions.
  • 1.6.11.E. Participate in small and large group discussions and presentations


  • Given a short story, students will be able to identify three types of figurative language.
  • Students will be able to describe the literal meaning and analyze the abstract meaning portrayed in each type of figurative language.
  • Students will be able to appreciate the author’s intent in including figurative language in his or her writing.
  • Students will be able to create their own examples of figurative language by writing a poem using similes, metaphors, and personification.
  • Students will be able to understand the importance of incorporating figurative language into their own writing both inside and outside of class.
  • Students will be able to understand the purpose of using figurative language to create vivid images in writing.
  • Materials:


    Activity 1: Attention Getter (5 min.)
    Students should clear their desks of everything except for paper and a pencil. Explain that a poem will be read to the class. As the poem is read, students will need to think of the element of descriptive writing that the poem best exemplifies (and be able to support their answer). It’s a good idea for students to jot down notes on the passage as it is read. Read the poem, Corner, by Ralph Pomeroy, aloud to the class. Afterwards, ask students which element of descriptive writing the poem best exemplifies (intended response: figurative language).

    Activity 2: Review Elements of Descriptive Writing (5 min.)
    If students are hesitant, look lost, or give a wrong answer, then ask if anyone can name any of the elements of descriptive writing. If someone gives the correct answer, then ask students to name the other two elements (answers: sensory detail, figurative language, methods of organization). Whether or not students arrive at the correct answer after this review of elements, repeat the question from Activity 1 for the third time (allowing students to change their answer or to give them more confidence that their answer is correct).

    Put up a transparency of the poem, Corner, by Ralph Pomeroy. Based on any prior knowledge of figurative language, have students give specific examples in the poem. (Students will probably only give examples of similes and metaphors.) Only underline what they find on the transparency (students don’t have to find all examples). Possible examples include the following:

    • cop…leather stork (simile)
    • eyes…fish (simile)
    • cop…enemy or my death (simile)
    • knock out cigarette…bravery (metaphor)

    Activity 3: Introduce Figurative Language (10 min.)
    Brainstorm: What is the purpose of comparing a cop to a stork or his eyes to a fish? Why don’t we say the cop stood on one leg or his eyes moved around quickly? (Intended responses: appeals to the imagination, makes the reading more interesting, instead of describing the cop in great detail compare him with an image, pictures speak louder than words.)

    Explain that the above answers are purposes of figurative language. Show a transparency of notes on figurative language (see Materials ), and have someone read the definition of figurative language aloud to the class. Explain that there are different types of figurative language. Ask if anyone can name a type of figurative language; two were already mentioned. Name the three types of figurative language (there are more types; this lesson is only covering three, the ones that are used most often). Have a student read the definition of a simile. Ask if anyone can provide an example of a simile based on the definition. Then reveal the example on the transparency. Repeat for metaphors and personification. Explain that when discussing figurative language, the phrases can’t be read literally; they must be read abstractly (or imaginatively). For instance, The stars are diamonds in the sky (stars aren’t literally jewels). Ask how we are to interpret this comparison. (Answer: We are to realize that the metaphor implies that the stars were twinkling or shining brightly in the way that diamonds do.) Personification example: When the wind blew, the leaves danced on the tree branches (leaves can’t dance: implies gracefulness). Distribute copies of the notes on figurative language to the class.

    Activity 4: Identifying Types of Figurative Language (15 min.)
    Explain that we need to practice finding examples of figurative language because sometimes we read them and don’t even realize that we are interpreting the phrases abstractly; we do it instinctively. Distribute the first three pages of The Most Dangerous Game to the class. Read the story using ghost reading– one person reads until he/she wants to stop, then someone else takes over (students shouldn’t stop reading in the middle of a sentence). As the story is being read, students should underline any examples of figurative language and circle any words that are unfamiliar. Afterwards, place students in groups. They should discuss the examples that they underlined and look for additional examples of figurative language. They should explain what is being compared in the similes and metaphors and explain the human quality implied in personification examples.

    Put up a transparency showing the master list of figurative language found in the story (teachers will need to create their own master list). Groups should compare their lists with the master list to see which ones they found and how many they missed. The point is for the students to understand that they must read carefully to identify figurative language and appreciate the author’s effort in adding details such as figurative language into their writing.

    Activity 5: Practice Creating Comparisons (10 min.)
    Explain that comparisons must be justified. The reader has to be able to make sense of the comparison. Example: Alice is as fast as a snowman (doesn’t make sense). Ask how to change the simile so that it makes sense. (Intended response: We need to compare Alice to something the reader can picture moving. Ex: Alice is as fast as a cheetah / snail / lightning). Distribute a worksheet on creating figurative language (see Materials ). Read the directions aloud to the class. Students may work with a partner to complete the worksheet. Collect the worksheets for a grade worth 10 points.

    Write or type (if possible) a poem (minimum of 8 lines) about a person, place, or thing. Those who don’t have access to a computer can type it during class tomorrow (if typed: font=Times New Roman, 14 pt, double-spaced, centered on page). Students should not write about a proper (specific) noun. For instance, write about a beach in general — not Myrtle Beach. Write about neighbors in general — not Mrs. Smith. Students shouldn’t include the noun (subject) in the poem. Students should write the subject of the poem on the back of their paper. Students must include at least one simile, one metaphor, and one example of personification in the poem. Read an example to the class and have students guess the subject (see model poem in Materials ).

    (Homework tip: Students should read their poem to a parent; if the parent can guess the subject, then the student probably did a great job!) Pass out a copy of the model homework poem. Be sure to point out that students only need to worry about writing the poem. During the next class session they will make a decorative border for it, and then the poems will be posted on a bulletin board. Students that finish early tomorrow will write the unfamiliar words circled in The Most Dangerous Game in their Vocabulary Journals. Using context clues, they will guess what the meanings are. Then they will use a dictionary to look up the definitions. Lastly, they will write an original sentence including the new word(s).

    Activity 6: Reflection on Lesson (3 min.)
    In their notebooks, students should list something that they learned today that they didn’t know before. Then students share their new knowledge with a neighbor. Ask for three volunteers to share what they learned with the entire class. Assessment:

    Diagnostic Assessment:

    • Asking students to recall information from a previous lesson gives insight into how well they learned the material.
    • Activity 2 asks students to name types of figurative language they already know, giving a good indication of how well the information has been taught in the previous grade levels.

    Formative Assessment:

    • Did the students participate by giving examples of figurative language in the poem?
    • Were they able to correctly identify the examples? Did the students participate in groups? Were they on task? Were they working quietly? Were they working cooperatively? How many examples of figurative language were they able to find? (compare to master list)

    Summative Assessment:

    • Did students complete the worksheet? Did they follow directions? Was is completed correctly?
    • The poem assignment can be used as summative assessment but will have to be evaluated during the next class. Was the poem at least 8 lines? Did students include an example of each type of figurative language… and used correctly? Did they mention the subject in the poem?

    Useful Internet Resources:
    * Corner by Ralph Pomeroy

    * The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell
    http://eserver.org/fiction/the_most_dangerous_game.html * Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening