Using figures of speech requires understanding how to relate different ideas and make comparisons. Mastering the concepts allows students to become both better readers and writers. There are numerous games and activities you can use to engage your students' interest and teach concepts such as simile, metaphor, personification, oxymoron and hyperbole.
Divide students into groups of four to six. Begin by providing an opening line or theme for a poem and instruct students that they must take turns creating each line of the poem and must use one or more figures of speech in each line. At the end of each line they should indicate the figure of speech used. For example: "The bird flew like an arrow across the burning cold. (simile, oxymoron)" Judge the best poems — provide the winners with award ribbons and display their work on the board.
Adapt the idea of MadLibs to only use figures of speech. Break students in small groups of two to four and provide them with a story with blanks; instruct them to fill in the spaces with the indicated figure of speech. Use a timer and provide a small prize for the group who can complete the story first. At the end, students should be allowed to share their stories and discuss their choices. For example, you might give them something like this: "Joe hopped (simile) down the hill. He met Jill who (hyperbole). The two of them loved to go to the park where (personification)." Students might answer: "Joe hopped (like a frog) down the hill. He met Jill who (carried a ton of apples). The two of them loved to go to the park where (the trees whispered and danced in the breeze)."
Sentence Strip Game
Create a series of sentences using various figures of speech, and a series of cards with the names of the figures of speech, such as metaphor and simile. Split the class into two teams and give them each a set of strips and cards. Using a timer, have the students place the sentence strips on the white board and match them with the correct cards. The team that matches all of the sentences to the correct cards in the shortest time wins. Use tape to attach the cards and strips, or if you want to reuse them later, laminate the strips and add magnetic tape on the back.
Create a set of cards with the words metaphor, simile, personification, oxymoron and hyperbole. Shuffle the cards and place them face down, then gather the students into a circle and explain that they will take turns making up a silly story one sentence at a time. Begin the story by saying something like, “Suddenly…” As the students tell the story, periodically hold up a figure of speech card. The student must then use the figure of speech indicated by the card in her sentence. Continue until everyone has a turn.
Ball Toss Review
Write review questions from your figure of speech lessons on note cards with the answers on the back of the cards. Give each student one or two review questions. Using a soft Nerf-type ball instruct the students to toss the ball to one another and ask their questions. For example, one card might read, “Give the definition of a simile.” The student then tosses the ball to one of his classmates, who then tries to answer. If he answers correctly he gets to throw the ball to the next student. If the student cannot answer the question, the first student chooses a different student. If that student cannot answer the question, the teacher should provide the answer and make a note that students may require more instruction.