I created this unit for a group of students who needed extra practice with fluency and a beginner’s understanding of poetry. Each day provided a quick lesson on one characteristic or type of figurative language, multiple readings of a short poem, and practice using the term of the day. The unit was designed to take no more than thirty minutes per lesson and lasted three weeks in my classroom.
Due to copyright issues, I could not include the actual poems used each day. However, because the terms being used are universal, fitting poems shouldn’t be too difficult to find! All of the poems I used came from one of two sources:
- The Big Book of Classroom Poems [Hollenbeck, K (2004). The big book of classroom poems. Scholastic Press: New York, NY.].
I hold up an object students have never seen before (an abacus, a computer part, a record!) and ask them to describe it by comparing it to something they know. I let several students share and write down the examples that include the words ‘like’ or ‘as.’ After I have four or five listed, I ask students if they can tell me why I only wrote those sentences down and not the others. What do these have in common or what patterns do you see? Invariably, one or more students will see that each sentence uses the word ‘like’ or ‘as.’ Yes! Several of you used an example of figurative language in your descriptions and you probably didn’t even know it! These sentences each contain a simile, which is a comparison of two objects, people, things, etc. and use the word ‘like’ or ‘as.’ Today we will read one poem that contains several examples of similes and then you will try some of your own.
I ask students to open their poetry packets to page eleven. I repeat that our focus today is similes and explain its definition. Students turn to their partners and do the same – stating the term of the day and telling its definition. I read page eleven aloud until I come to an example of a simile, which we read together.
I point their attention to the poems of the day. I’ve chosen the poem, “Performance,” and we have a quick discussion on what it feels like to get up in front of a crowd of people. I tell students that I’ve been singing all my life and even studied music in college. But, I could never get over my stage fright! Getting up in front of people is one of the worst things ever, in my opinion! I break out into a cold sweat, feel nauseous, and even a little light headed. I hate it! I ask if anyone else could relate. Well, that’s exactly what today’s poem is about! We read it through once simply to become familiar with it. Then partners spend the next few moments reading the poem. If time, they switch partners at their table and practice with someone new.
When everyone had a chance to read the poem multiple times, I ask them to begin analyzing it for examples of similes. I tell them that when they believe they’ve found a simile, they should circle the comparison word and then underline the two objects being compared. When finished, they should record the details on page twelve in their packets. Then, they are to write at least similes – one using the word ‘like’ and one using the word ‘as.’
Students share their work with someone in the room they have not worked with yet. They take turns telling their partners the term of the day, their understanding of its definition, and the work they completed during the practice activity.