What Do They All Mean?

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SWBAT distinguish literal and non-literal meanings of words and phrases in writing.

Big Idea

How can I figure out what the author means through their use of figurative language?


10 minutes

To begin this lesson, I read the beginning of the story Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. I only read the first few pages to students and asked them to let me know if they noticed any examples of figurative language the author used. We looked at those closely and I modeled for students how to think about the story and what the author means. We discussed that the story is about a little girl and her dad going owling. At the beginning of the story, she is explaining that you have to be quiet to go owling and the author uses some figurative phrases to describe in more detail how quiet you have to be. I bring to students’ attention that the author also uses figurative language to describe the setting of the story which is very important to what the characters are doing in the story. We discuss together what the author means literally about the setting when she describes it using figurative language. To make sure students understand how to figure out the meanings of the phrases, I give students some things to think about while reading the story.

  • Think about the big picture, what is happening in the story?
  • What is the author really saying about what is happening?
  • What picture is the author trying to paint in your mind? Visualize while you read.
  • What words does the author use and how? How do these words help you see the story?
  • What does the author really mean?

Before they begin, I tell them to take a look at our anchor chart to refresh their memories of the different types of figurative language authors use.

Independent Practice

20 minutes

For this activity, I typed the story up and gave each student a copy. I read the story aloud to students using inflection in my voice whenever the author used figurative language. After reading, we reviewed what the story was about. Next, I had students go back and do a Close read of the story themselves. Students are divided into small groups but each person is responsible for their own work. As students read, I instructed them to underline examples of figurative language and try to identify what type they are. I also had students explain in the margins of the story, what each example meant or what the author was really trying to say. As students worked, I circulated the room and also worked with groups of children I thought would need some extra guidance and scaffolding. 

Wrap Up

10 minutes

Once students finished, we reviewed some of their thoughts and we talked about how understanding the phrases helped us better understand the characters and the ideas in the story. I also collected students work to assess if students were able to effectively interpret the author’s use of figurative language in the story.