Before any reading lesson I want my students to focus on a particular reading strategy. Either I review or introduce a strategy. To introduce figurative language, I want them to focus on the words that the author chooses to tell his story.So we begin by reviewing our accuracy strategies of crosschecking and looking at the whole word.
We then review checking for understanding and how it has been going for them. They really like to share where their reading is at and when they used the strategy. It allows them to have ownership of the strategy and hear how their classmates have tried it. I have found that the more you check in with them about their strategies, the more they will try them because they want to share.
What is figurative language? That is the first question we have to answer. What does it look like and why do we use it.
I start by getting them thinking about anytime we might say or read something that is compared with something else but isn't really related. This usually gets some blank stares, but I had a few try to answer. I needed to give them an example of what I am talking about. I used the example, "Logan was as slow as a turtle when he was getting ready for school."(Logan is my son and the kids know I use my kids as examples a lot.)
We then discuss if what I said was really true. Was Logan really a turtle. This is when I love my job, because they still find this example to be funny. I either give another example or we move into them sharing examples they might have heard or read.
To help them understand further, I read a story that contains a lot of figurative language. I like the story of "Dusty Locks and The Three Bears." It is also fun to use this to help compare and contrast a story they have read/heard to a similar story.
We do a quick Before Reading "Turn and Talk." I want them to tell each other one thing that they already know about Goldilocks. Things I heard were about her eating the bears food, sitting in the chairs, and the bed. The one area that was inconsistent was the ending. Depending on the story they read, heard, or are told they all have a different ending.
Once they each have had a moment to share I bring their attention back and introduce the story and give them the title of the book, and it gets a good giggle going. Right away a few students started to talk about the title being different. This is when I take the opportunity to ask them why they think the author changed the title. I also tell them that many stories that have been retold have variation and different versions. One student asked if this was like when their favorite Disney show did Cinderella, but not the way they remembered it. They got it!
I remind them that they are going to help me check for understanding. I am really going to need their help in figuring out all the tricky wording and figurative language the author uses.
As I read I stop whenever there is a great example of figurative language. Right away the author talks about the large Grizzly bear being "as cross as two sticks." We quickly work together and try to solve what they author was trying to tell us. In the case of a picture book we can use the pictures to help.
I keep this going through the whole book and we then talk about our favorite figurative language parts. We also discuss why the author used it and how did it help tell the story. I also try to get them thinking on how could they understand figurative language if there are no pictures.