Sample Lessons

Figurative Language: Metaphor, Metaphorical Extension, Simile

Grades 5-6

The Brook of the Heart
Have you got a brook in your little heart,
Where bashful flowers blow,
And blushing birds go down to drink,
And shadows tremble so?

And nobody knows, so still it flows,
That any brook is there;
And yet your little draught of life
Is daily drunken there.

Then look out for the little brook in March,
When the rivers overflow,
And the snows come hurrying from the hills,
And the bridges often go.

And later, in August it may be,
When the meadows parching lie,
Beware, lest this little brook of life
Some burning noon go dry!

—Emily Dickinson

My heart is a dark forest where no voice is heard,
Nor sound of foot, by day or night—nor echo, borne
down the long aisles and shadowy arches of a horn,
Trembling—nor cry of beast, nor call of any bird.

But always through the deep solitudes a grieving wind
Moves, like the voice of a vast prayer; it is your love
Lifting and bending leaf and bough—while, far above,
One thought soars like a hawk, in the heaven of my mind.

—John Hall Wheelock

*Solitude: Being alone. Think of the card game, Solitaire. You play it alone.

this morning
this morning
I met myself
coming in

a bright
jungle girl
quick as a snake
a tall
tree girl
a me girl
I met myself
this morning
coming in

and all day
I have been a black bell
I survive

—Lucille Clifton

Let’s Look at the Poem, “Solitudes.” Here are some ideas to think about:

In stanza one, what mood is the speaker in?
What words or phrases let you know that?
What does he compare his heart to in stanza one?
Does he use a metaphor or a simile?  How do you know?
In stanza two, in what mood does the poem end? What words let you know that?
Stanza two uses both simile and metaphor. Can you find them?

Poem Work: Suggested Topic #1
Write a poem finding a metaphor or simile for your heart, the way John Hall Wheelock does in the poems “Solitudes.”  Notice how his feeling changes from one in stanza one with a fine opening metaphor; and then look at the ending in stanza two.  See how his feeling has changed? Try creating a poem where you write about a day your own feelings changed. Use descriptive language to do that.

Suggested Topic #2
Write a poem imagining meeting yourself—think of all the places and ways you might do that—in a mirror is an obvious one, but there are others. Who would you be? What/Who might you see yourself as? Use metaphors, similes, symbol, personification so that your language is imaginative, yet shows different sides of you—your life, your likes, your fantasy selves.

Rachel3Figurative Language: Personification *Grades 3, 4, 5

Let’s listen to the poem, “The Sky is Vast.”
(Note: The poem follows) As you listen, circle all the words that personify the cloud. Then, individually, or in your group, answer these questions:

  1. What words personify  the cloud?
  2. What is the little cloud’s problem?
  3. What words or phrases in the poem tell you about little cloud’s problem?
  4. What is the theme (the main idea) of this poem?

Does the little cloud’s problem remind you of anything in school? In a movie you have seen, or a book you have read?

*Remember:  Personification is when you give the feelings and descriptions of a person to something that is not a person.

Poem Work: Due_______. Create a poem using personification. Personify a leaf in autumn, an apple on a tree, a scarecrow, your favorite creature, the moon, the sun, the stars. (choose one or more of these ideas, or come up with your own.) Have fun using your imagination. And don’t forget metaphors, similies, and details.

The Sky is Vast
Once in this vast sky
lived a tiny cloud
a tiny solitary cloud
many vast clouds moving around it

The little cloud was tearful
He said, “How great are those clouds!
They will crumple me, let me hide!
I am so small, they will crush me !”

The tiny cloud drifted
Many clouds laughed at it
and said, “See how ugly it is?”

The tiny cloud cried
and looked for its mother
“Oh, Mama, come soon,
the giants are coming!”

The mother cloud heard
the child’s voice

Fast she came and they merged
into one

The sun was behind them
as they rolled forward

The sun smiled at the little cloud
and the little cloud blushed in the vast sky.

—Prmaila Khadun


Personification is when you give the feelings and descriptions of  a person to something not human.

Here is a poem by the poet Hilda Conkling.

O little soldier with the golden helmet,
What are you guarding on my lawn?
You with your green gun
And your yellow b O eard,
Why do you stand so stiff?
there is only the grass to fight!

How does she personify the dandelion? In other words, when she looks at the dandelion, what does it look like to her? What descriptions add to that picture? What words describe the dandelion as a person?

Poem Work:  Due_______. Create a poem using personification to describe a creature you like. Or, you might choose to personify something in spring: a flower, a garden, the wind, the rain.

Remember, try to describe what you write about by imagining your topic as having the feelings and descriptions of life as a human!

Don’t forget similes, metaphors, and details. Rhyme is optional.

The Purple Potato
The only potato that was purple, you see
had no friends. He was purple lonely.
He was expected to be just brown,
to look like every other potato in town,
But Purple Potato wanted none of that:
he was proud of his color, and that was that.
He was purple as a lilac, purple as a grape,
purple as a king’s magnificent cape.

He was purple with pride, purple with joy.
He was simply a great purple potato boy.

Still, he was lonely, the only purple spud.
Oh, how he longed for any color bud—
a buddy to roll with down Big Potato Hill,
a buddy to laugh with, to play with, to chill.
He hunted high and he hunted low.
He hunted at Wegman’s and at lots of art shows.
But even the painters kept potatoes just brown,
so purple potato always left with a frown.

One night rolling home he dallied and lolled.
Then came a whisper and he heard his name called.
“Psst, Purple Potato, cast your eyes over here.
I’m hiding with pumpkins to mask my great fear.
I’m an orange cucumber and the Greens tossed me out!

Now I must whisper, though I’d much rather shout.
I’m one-of-a-kind, unique, just like you.
Will you be my friend? I would like you to.”

A tiny little tear was in cucumber’s eye.
Purple Potato let go of a long, happy sigh.
“Don’t cry, young cuke.  I’ll be your friend.
I think purple and orange are a beautiful blend.”

And blend they did, all through their lives,
through play time and college and when they found wives.
They knew no matter your color, your size or your shape,
whether you’re orange as pumpkins or purple as grapes,
a friend will always love the real you.
Purple Potato and Orange Cucumber proved this to be true.

—Rachel Guido deVries

Some Ideas to Think About

What is the message or theme (main idea) in The Purple Potato?

What words or phrases let you know the poem’s message?

This poem uses metaphor, simile, personification, and ryhme. Can you find examples of them?

Does this poem remind you of anything at school? In a book you have read, or a movie you have seen?