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Language Arts for Elementary Students: Figurative Language, Terms & Quiz

written by: Kellie Hayden • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 10/31/2013

Figurative language, sometimes difficult to teach, can be taught easily with games. Students can learn how to analyze figurative language by middle school, whether it occurs in prose or poetry. Here we have definitions of language arts terms for this purpose--including a quiz.

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    Steps to Success

    In early elementary classes, students just need to know the basics of figurative language. By middle school, students should be able to identify figurative language and analyze it in poems and novels. In addition, students should also be using figurative language in their descriptive writing as well as when they write poems.

    Learning Figurative Language Review of Figurative Language

    The example lines included are excerpts or lines from classic pieces of literature and poems. The literary works used are part of the public domain.

    Alliteration is the repetition of consonants in the first letter of words

    Example: "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" by Christopher Marlowe

    The shepherd swains shall dance and sing

    Assonance the repetition of vowel sounds in words

    Example line: "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" by Emily Dickenson

    He kindly stopped for me;

    Hyperbole is an exaggeration

    Example lines: "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" by Christopher Marlowe

    And I will make thee beds of roses

    And a thousand fragrant posies;

    Idiom means sayings or expressions that have figurative meaning

    Example lines: The Jungle Book: “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" by Rudyard Kipling

    It is the hardest thing in the world to frighten a mongoose, because he is eaten up from nose to tail with curiosity.

    Imagery involves using one or more of the five senses (sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smell) to describe characters, places or things in literature or poems

    Example lines: "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe

    And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting

    On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;

    And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming

    Metaphor is the comparison of two unlike things

    Example line: Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

    Your eyes are lode-stars

    Onomatopoeia occurs with words that mimic or imitate sounds

    Example lines: The Jungle Book: “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" by Rudyard Kipling

    Darzee and his wife only cowered down in the nest without answering, for from the thick grass at the foot of the bush there came a low hiss–a horrid cold sound that made Rikki-tikki jump back two clear feet.

    Personification is giving human qualities or characteristics to an animal, an object or an idea

    Example line: "Casey at the Bat" by Ernest Lawrence Thayer

    Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt

    Simile is a comparison of two unlike things using like or as

    Example lines: Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

    No, no, I am as ugly as a bear


    And then the moon, like to a silver bow

    New-bent in heaven

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    Figurative Language Games

    Introduce Figurative Language

    Mention figurative language and you might hear a groan or two from your students, especially when you mention how it fits in with the state standards and indicators. However, talk about cereal that makes noise when you add milk, and you might just grab their attention. Cereal that snaps, crackles and pops is much more exciting than asking students what onomatopoeia is. Many students roll their eyes when they hear it and most cannot spell it. Many times, games help students to learn better as well.

    Figurative Lyric Game

    Teaching figurative language is all in the presentation. Some students do not appreciate poetry and that is putting it lightly. However, show them a simile from their favorite pop song, and they will be all ears.

    For example, you can play the lyric game with your students. Students can play for points by knowing the artist of a couple of lines of a lyric and know the type of figurative language used.

    Figurative Language Game

    For this game, students will be placed in two teams. Each team will need to try and to guess what type of figurative language is used in each line. There are twelve included. Then, students can make up their own to stump each other.

    1. The giant's yellow toe glowed in the dark.

    • Assonance

    2. The river swirled and danced before it leapt over the falls.

    • Personification

    3. His hand felt like an icicle when I held it.

    • Simile

    4. Practice makes perfect when making pickles.

    • Alliteration

    5. A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.

    • Idiom

    6. His brown eyes were hollow shadows.

    • Metaphor

    7. The buzz of the bees and the oink of the pigs made me feel at home.

    • Onomatopoeia

    8. The white honeysuckle swayed in the warm breeze, filling the whole hillside with a fragrant perfume.

    • Imagery

    9. The water raged and jumped above the rocks on the bank after the storm.

    • Personification

    10. His rage was like a volcano ready to erupt on any given day.

    • Simile

    11. Make me a mushroom burger.

    • Alliteration

    12. Jen called her boyfriend a thousand times a day.

    • Hyperbole
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