Personification is the act of "giving human characteristics to something that is not human." Once your middle school students understand this concept, they might be surprised how often they recognize its use as a descriptive device in literature. Classroom games can reinforce students' understanding and recognition of this figurative literary device.
Gather together some clips from various cartoons that employ personification. Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Sponge Bob, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and stories about objects like "The Brave Little Toaster" would all work. Show your class the clips and ask them each to write down one character that they'd like to portray in a skit. Have each student make a list of all the ways that the chosen animal or object is personified. How do they dress and speak? What's their personality like? Once they've created their characters, have the students, in groups of two or three, create skits in which the personified characters interact.
Collect some poetry (or write your own!) that describes objects, ideas or animals personification. For example, you might describe how "bright and shining, but ever-changing in size and visibility" an unnamed object is. When you read this description, have students raise their hands or "buzz in" to answer with the question, as in Jeopardy, "What is the moon?" Make sure to collect a wide range of objects, animals and ideas (Time, for example, can be a cruel taskmaster) to describe as answers through personification. You could keep score and declare a winner of your Personification Jeopardy or just play for the fun and learning experience.
Group Personification Story
Have everyone sit in a circle. Begin by choosing one an animal or object about which to create a group story. If, for example, "a chair" is selected, begin the story with a phrase like, "One day there was a very lonely chair." One by one, each student continues the story, adding new personification aspects. (You might assist them with "How did the chair feel about that?" or "What did the chair do next?") Encourage the students to continue to develop the adventures of whatever object or animal they are describing until all in the circle have added a piece of the story.
Personification Scavenger Hunt
This exercise allows students to work in groups. Have them divide into teams of three or four. Tell them that you will give them a set amount of time to search through all the materials in the room for examples of personification. Tell them that once they select a resource, to be fair to everyone, they will only have five minutes to look through that resource before returning it to its place. Remind them that they must also take note of what resource in which they found their examples. As in a traditional scavenger hunt, the team with the most correct finds wins.
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