Identifying Figurative Language in Poetry Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan: Identifying Figurative Language in Poetry


Identifying figurative language in poetry is essential for enjoying poetry. This lesson plan will help you teach how to do it.


Spewing Forth Figurative Language

It was my first year teaching and Mrs. Gotohek sat in the back of the room writing my teacher evaluation. Things were going well until Loni Burgerflip in the front row asked a question. “Mr. Troubled,” she asked, “These are great figurative language lesson plans and I kind of like identifying figurative language in poetry, but when will I ever use this?”

I could have said that identifying figurative language in poetry increases enjoyment, reading comprehension, and enables students to develop critical thinking skills. Instead, my stomach churned and I threw up on the overhead projector. Mrs. Gotohek fired me on the spot and my Identifying Figurative Language Lesson Plans have remained dormant ever since.

Until now.

ELA Common Core Standards

Teaching figurative language satisfies the following ELA common core standards.  This will impress your administrator, but bore your students.  I recommend simplifying the language when you write the objective(s) on the board.  And yes, it is ironic that the language standards for making sense of figurative language uses words that only a walking dictionary could make sense of.

RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
L.9-10.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening. This lesson plan should help.
L.9-10.4b Identify and correctly use patterns of word changes that indicate different meanings or parts of speech (e.g., analyze, analysis, analytical; advocate, advocacy).
L.9-10.5  Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
W.9-10.1  Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
W.9-10.5  Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning.
W.9-10.9  Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
W.9-10.9a  Apply grades 9-10 Reading standards to literature (e.g., “Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work [e.g., how Shakespeare treats a theme or topic from Ovid or the Bible or how a later author draws on a play by Shakespeare]”).

What is Figurative Language?

Figurative language is a technique poets (and others) use to create strong imagery. Figurative language conveys meaning beyond the literal meaning of the words.

1.  Simile: a type of figurative language in which two seemingly unlike things are compared using like or as.  It is an indirect comparison.

  • Payday loans are like a blight on one’s financial soul.

2.  Metaphor: a type of figurative language that directly compares two unlike objects.

  • During the day it was a thunderous surge of cars, a great insect rustling.

3.  Personification: a type of figurative language in which animals, inanimate objects, or ideas are given human qualities.

  • The wind howled its disapproval as we opened the front door.

4.  Synecdoche: a part of something substituted for the whole.

  • Romeo, give me thy heart and we shall enjoy our love.

5.  Metonymy: When one thing is named for something with which it is closely associated.

  • I put a back the badge bumper sticker on my car, hoping it would help me not get pulled over.

6.  Hyperbole: A deliberate exaggeration.

  • You’ve probably taught figurative language a million times, but they still don’t understand it.

7.  A deliberate understatement.

  • Bill Gates is doing OK financially.

Lesson Plan Procedures

1.  Copy the above information.
2.  Read a poem with figurative language.
3.  Make a chart:

  • The chart should contain 5-8 columns, labeled at the top with the following words: Figurative Language Example, Simile, Metaphor, Personification, Synecdoche, Metonymy, Hyperbole, Meiosis (whatever figurative language examples you wish to teach).
  • The chart should contain 5-10 rows.
  • Write down specific examples of figurative language with line numbers in the left hand column. Put a check mark in the appropriate column to identify what type of figurative language is employed.
  • In the far right column, explain how the example of figurative language contributes to the overall meaning of the poem.  This is higher level thinking.  It makes the lesson adaptable outside of the classroom.

4.  Write a paragraph, essay, or a few sentences explaining the effect of figurative language on the poem as a whole. Be sure to use specific examples from the poem as evidence.
5.  Write a poem with at least 5 examples of figurative language.

Poetry Lesson Plans