Teaching Poems with Figurative Language
Make sure what you teach is valuable beyond the walls of the classroom. Use the following objectives guidelines.
1. If you are teaching poems with figurative language, begin with the definitions. Simply teaching the definitions, however, is not sufficient.
- metaphor – a comparison between two seemingly unlike things. Poems for teaching metaphors abound.
- simile – a comparison between two seemingly unlike things using like or as. Poems for teaching similes abound.
- personification – giving human characteristics to inanimate objects. Poems using personification abound.
- allusion – a reference to a famous person, event, or other literary work. Examples will follow.
- apostrophe – a speech given to an inanimate object, an idea, or someone who is dead. Examples will follow.
- hyperbole – a deliberate exaggeration. Examples will follow.
- meiosis – a deliberate understatement. Examples will follow.
- pun – when a word or phrase is used with two different meanings.
2. Teach students to identify examples of figurative language in poetry on their own.
3. Teach students to explain the purpose for the figurative language and analyze how it contributes to the theme of the poem.
4. Teach students to write poems with figurative language.
5. Teach students to use figurative language in their own writing to communicate more clearly.
1. “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe – Poe alludes to the following: Pallas Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom and war; Pluto, Roman god of the underworld; and “balm of Gilead,” a reference to the book of Job in the Old Testament. The most important allusion is in the title. Ravens were considered mystical birds, believed to have magical powers, the exact type of bird that would appear to a lonely man lamenting his lost love on a windy night. Use this poetry analysis lesson plan to get the most out of Poe’s classic.
2. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot – Any young man who fears walking up to a beautiful girl and asking her on a date will relate to Proofrock’s fear and hopefully be warned by his pathetic life to gird up his loins and take a risk every now and then. Eliot alludes to Dante’s Inferno, Michelangelo, John the Baptist, Lazarus, Hamlet, and mermaids. Spend a class or two annotating and analyzing this one.
Hyperbole, Apostrophe. Meiosis
1. “Red, Red Rose” by Robert Burns – Burns’ love isn’t just like a red rose. It’s like a red, red rose. That’s the first of many hyberbolic statements. The last is that he would walk ten thousand miles for his love. Everything in between oozes with hyperbolic cheese. Sappy teens will love it. Use this identifying figurative language in poetry lesson plan.
2. “Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats – One of poetry’s most famous odes, Keats speaks to the artist who painted a portrait on a Grecian Urn. Instruct students to recreate the picture or portions of the picture on the urn, using Keats’ description. Engage the entire class with these ideas.
3. “Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost – Frost contends that death by ice would suffice. That’s an understatement. This makes an excellent poem for poetry speed analysis.
For an in depth analysis of figurative language in the above poems and for links to the above poems, check out the figurative language in poetry study guide.
- Photo of Raven by Robert Tewart under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr
- Photo of Rose by hbunny under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr
This post is part of the series: Poems for Teaching the Elements of Poetry
- Poems for Teaching Imagery
- Poems For Teaching Similes
- Lesson Plan: Poems Containing Metaphors
- Teaching Poetry: Poems Using Personification
- Teaching Poems with Figurative Language