Figuratively Speaking

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Language Arts, Writing, Traits of Writing, Oral Language

Grade 3- 5


Students will learn about and create examples of figurative language.


Students will take to writing figuratively like flies to honey when they practice this element of writing while including some vivid illustrations. Share some figurative language from the phrases listed below, or, if possible, distribute copies of Mad As a Wet Hen! to each student. (Other good resource books include ones written by Fred Gwynne. See the Materials list.) Introduce the use of figurative language by sharing some phrases either from the book or by introducing the phrases below and helping students identify situations in which they might be used. Then share the illustrations on the following page with the class and have them identify the familiar phrases that accompany them. If they can't guess by using the picture, help them by sharing the accompanying sentences. If they still can't guess, give them the answer.
Next, have students either select a phrase from the book or one of their own favorites for which to create a three-part study card. Give each student a sheet of drawing paper measuring 4" x 12". They fold the paper to make three boxes, each 4" x 4" in size. Then they write the figurative phrase in the first box, a picture illustrating the literal meaning in the second box, and the phrase's meaning in the third box. Have each person in turn fold back the two worded ends so that only the picture is showing. Then he shares the center of his card as the class tries to guess the figurative phrase. Once this is disclosed, he shares what the phrase really means. You may wish to challenge the class to use the phrase in a sentence. Post the students' work on a bulletin board entitled "Figuratively Speaking."
For more practice using figurative language in their writing, have students complete the Figuratively Speaking activity sheet and select one of the sentences for which to write a story. They should include a literal picture to demonstrate the use of the figurative language they selected.
Sample Figurative Language Phrases

  • Don't bite the hand that feeds you.
  • Kill two birds with one stone.
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
  • Never look a gift horse in the mouth.
  • You can't teach an old dog new tricks.
  • The early bird gets the worm.


  • Mad As a Wet Hen! And Other Funny Idioms by Marvin Terban
  • Figuratively Speaking activity sheet
  • writing and drawing paper
  • figurative language resource books by Fred Gwynne
  • The King Who Rained
  • The Sixteen Hand Horse
  • A Chocolate Moose for Dinner
  • A Little Pigeon Toed

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