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Figurative Language: Meaning, Examples & Activities

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  Sleep like a rock Light as a feather Cream of the crop As big as a bus     The above phrases are examples of figurative language, all of which are commonly used in day-to-day English. Any student--especially any English language learner--can struggle with such figurative speech, particularly when the implied meaning (i.e., idiom) does not translate to the student's first language. The concept of figurative language is also difficult for struggling readers to understand, but all students need to be able to identify and use it in reading and conversation.

Figurative Language: Meaning, Examples & Activities

figurative language

Figurative language is a way to make ordinary language be more effective and insightful. It uses figures of speech to go beyond a literal meaning to help create more interesting writing and to amplify what we are saying.

Take a look at what figurative language is, examples of it, how Imagine Learning is teaching it to students and some additional activities to help explain the concept further.

What is Figurative Language?

Figurative language is when you describe something by comparing it to something else.

The words or phrases that are used don't have a literal meaning.

It uses metaphors, allusions, similes, hyperboles and other examples to help describe the object you are talking about.

Figurative Language Examples

Sleep like a rock

Light as a feather

Cream of the crop

As big as a bus

The above phrases are examples of figurative language, all of which are commonly used in day-to-day English.

Any student--especially any English language learner--can struggle with such figurative speech, particularly when the implied meaning (i.e., idiom) does not translate to the student's first language.

The concept of figurative language is also difficult for struggling readers to understand, but all students need to be able to identify and use it in reading and conversation.

“Sometimes authors use words to create ideas, feelings, or mental images.”

Imagine Learning Teaches Figurative Language

simile1

Imagine Language & Literacy teaches these rather abstract concepts in a concrete, approachable way through engaging step-by-step instruction.

First:

In Figuratively Speaking, instruction moves at an easy pace while it walks students through this complex concept.

Through imaginative visuals, students learn about comparisons such as similes, and then they see how authors use those comparisons to create mental images.

Because the visual aesthetic is beautiful and the text examples are vivid, students will find figurative language easy to understand and remember.

Read More: 8 Steps to Choosing the Right Technology for Your English Learners

For example:

When first learning about similes, students are asked to create an image that demonstrates the simile “the pond was like a mirror" (see photo example).

In order to follow through on the instruction, students break down the meaning of the simile by selecting different characteristics of a mirror (i.e., smooth, shows my reflection, etc.).

The program then offers students multiple options for creating the correct image, teaching them what it is like to create a mental image.

Once the clues are congruent with the intended simile, the image of the pond truly reflects the simile

“You might see other descriptive language, but it’s only a metaphor if it compares two things.”

All figurative activities use careful, explicit instruction to guide students through the concepts of simile and metaphor.

Participants first understand and then (in Figurative Finds) apply the concepts in a passage/poem/story by reading the metaphor and finding its meaning.

metaphor 2

The photo shows the difference between the use of “is” in a metaphorical and non-metaphorical sentence.

“Remember, in metaphors things are compared by saying one thing is something else.”

Figurative Language Activities

Other related activities provide additional practice for students who need to understand figurative language.

For instance:

In Word-A-Tron, students practice a variety of vocabulary words that include literary terms (e.g., simile, metaphor). Students also learn the meaning of idiomatic expressions or figurative language such as “like a sheet of gray fog.”

The activity Find the Word asks students to select a word on a page based on a definition, synonym, or antonym.

Sometimes, the prompt includes the meaning of an idiomatic expression.

Such as:

“you’re out”

“all right”

“I’d be toast”

Other activities include comprehension questions about figurative language.

Through these activities, children can develop their imaginations as well as vocabulary and reading comprehension.

Read More: Closing the Achievement Gap for English Learners

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