Figurative Language: It’s just a figure of speech!

43 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT define Figurative Language and distinguish between phrases used literally or figuratively.

Big Idea

Introducing the concept of Figurative Language


“There were literally a million people at the park!” is something that a third grader might say but not quite understand their mistake. They have heard that term used and try to use it themselves, but they don’t often understand what literal language is. In the same sense, they may use phrases like, “Break a leg” or “Don’t spill the beans” but can’t identify those as Figurative Language.  In this unit, students will learn the difference between figurative and literal language and understand the importance of using Figurative Language to make text more interesting.


I like to spend a sufficient amount of time on each strategy to allow for an introduction, modeling, scaffolding, independent practice, assessment, and reflection. Therefore, I spend approximately one week on each strategy and follow a similar instructional routine. This is day one of Figurative Language Week – Introducing the Strategy. 



10 minutes

Connection: I always start by connecting today’s lesson to something kids have previously learned so that it triggers their schema and background knowledge. Since this is the first they are learning about Figurative Language this year, I ask them what they think of when I say, “Let’s hit the road.” Kids will instantly say that means we are leaving to go somewhere. Then I ask if anyone pictured me physically hitting and punching a road, to which I get lots of laughter. We have a quick discussion about why they did not picture that and instead knew what it meant.  


Teaching Point: This is when I tell kids explicitly what we will be working on. I say, “This week, we will be focusing on Figurative Language, which is when words DO NOT mean exactly what they say. I tell them that there are tons of common phrases that would be really silly if we thought about them literally. Then I show the anchor chart and share the examples (do not share the bottom portion yet). I also explain the difference between figurative and literal language using the chart.    


Active Engagement: This is where students get to try out the strategy that I just taught them. I ask them if they can tell the difference between figurative language and literal language. I read them the first example from the bottom portion of the chart and they are supposed to call out if the phrase is used figuratively or literally and we discuss how they know. Then I repeat with the rest of the sentences.


Link to Ongoing Work: During this portion of the mini-lesson, I give the students a task that they will focus on during Independent Reading time. Now that I’ve introduced Figurative Language, I tell them that when they are reading today, their job is just to notice Figurative Language while reading one of the books in their browsing boxes. I explain that they will not always find Figurative Language in every book, but that really great authors use it a lot to make their writing more interesting. I remind them that I will randomly choose a few students to share so that they make sure to complete their task.


Guided Practice

45 minutes

Transition Time: Every day after the mini-lesson, students get 5 minutes of Prep Time to choose new books (if needed), find a comfy spot, use the bathroom, and anything else they might need to do to prepare for 40 minutes of uninterrupted Independent Reading.  


Guided Practice: Today, I would be conferencing with students right at their comfy spots and asking them to share Figurative Language examples from the book they are reading. This is also when I could pull students for assessments, one-on-one reading, strategy groups, or guided reading groups. Because this portion of Reader’s Workshop is meant to be flexible and student based, it is not beneficial to plan too far ahead of time. Instead, you should gauge which students may need extra support through the mini-lesson, prior assessments, reading levels, overall ability and need for scaffolding. For Figurative Language support, I will read with specific students, either with their own books or a teacher selected book, and help them identify examples.



5 minutes

At the end of 40 minutes, I remind students that their job during reading time was to notice Figurative Language in their books. I ask them to repeat the term, Figurative Language. Then I tell them to meet with their reading partner to share what they found. How many examples did they find? Do they understand what each phrase meant? After partners have had a chance to share with each other, I ask a few students to share with the class. I then tell the class that we will focus on Figurative Language for the rest of the week. Reader’s Workshop has come to an end so students put their browsing boxes away and make sure the library is neat and organized.