Books, How To

Teaching Similes & Metaphors

What’s the deal with similes and metaphors? Why are similes as easy for students to grasp as 1+1, but metaphors are a map without a key? See what I did there? Hilarious I know. What’s not hilarious, is how many times I’ve pulled my hair out over students struggling to differentiate between the two. If you’re in the same boat, I scoured the internet and went door to door to my colleagues to find the best tips out there so you don’t have to.

Picture Books

I teach 4th grade, and picture books are the cornerstone of my curriculum. There isn’t a subject out there that doesn’t benefit from a picture book. They’re perfect for mini-lessons.
2. They’re quick
3. They’re engaging
4. Students love being read to. No matter how old they are. The older they get the more novel the idea is – trust me, they’ll love it.


Step 1: Define similes and metaphors.
Step 2: Create a T chart and give examples of each
Step 3: Read picture book, stopping when you find the first few similes and metaphors, discuss and add them to your t-chart.
Step 4: Continue reading; have students raise their hands when they notice a similes or metaphors. Discuss and add to the chart.
Step 5: Have students find similes and metaphors in their own reading, or in picture books of your choice.

Mentor Texts for Teaching Similes and Metaphors:



Once your students can recognize the difference between similes and metaphors they’ll need to write their own to fully master them.
We do this by completing a short writing project – The First Snow. It’s basically a poem made out of similes and metaphors about the first snow * Find more detailed instructions here
Create another T-Chart. Come up with a topic – dogs, school, the desert. Have your students brainstorm a list of adjectives that describe this topic on one side of the chart. On the other side list additional nouns that the these adjectives describe. Give your students examples of putting these ideas together to form both similes and metaphors. (See picture below)
It’s so easy to put these sentences together into a poem which makes for a great bulletin board item. We did ours on the first snow.


For your students to truly remember this lesson you need to reinforce it, and you need to make it a challenge.
1. Stop when you run across either a simile or a metaphor during read alouds. “Hmmm he was as cool as a cucumber. What is that?”
2. Create a place for students to post similes and metaphors they find in their own reading. Allow students to use fun post-its to display their findings somewhere visible in the room.
3. Have fun with idioms. So many idioms are similes and metaphors. Looking at idioms from that point-of-view helps students find meaning in them.
Whatever you do, don’t teach these once and then move on. You need to bring them up as much as possible, find them in your textbooks, emails, and newsletters. Bring them up early and often – by the end of the year, they’ll be pros.

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