High School Literary Devices Activities

Your students will enjoy these engaging activities.
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Literary devices are a ubiquitous part of any high school English class, but many students still have trouble learning the terms. High school teachers can help their students remember literary devices with the following engaging strategies that differentiate between learning style and ability level.

1 Group Competition

For a fun and energizing lesson on literary devices, you will need the following materials for a 30-student classroom: six sets of a typed list (larger font) containing at least 12 literary terms which you will cut into strips by word, six sets of brief literary quotes that incorporate one of the terms that you will also cut into strips, a small envelope for each group's terms and examples, a timer and a small prize for the winning group. Group students into six groups of five. Tell groups that they will compete with each other for a grand prize. Next, hand out the envelopes with terms and quotes. Students must match the literary term with the quote. The first group who gets them all correct wins the prize.

2 Online Games

For lucky teachers who have computers in the classroom, online games can be a fun and engaging way to teach your students about literary terms. There are a myriad of free educational websites for high school students. Online games are great because they appeal to the competitive nature of students, they can be monitored and they're fun. The Internet has free matching games, hangman, jeopardy and flashcards, to name a few.

3 Pairs Collaborate

For another fun activity that can also double as a section of a final assessment for a novel or longer work of nonfiction, place students in pairs that you differentiate for ability level. Give students a list of eight to 10 literary devices that they must find in the text you are using. Have students search the text, looking for examples of each literary device. As each device is found, the pairs should determine the meaning and name of the device, the reason the author chose to use the device and the effect of the device. Make sure students cite the page on which the device was found. For ninth grade, identifying examples of puns, foreshadowing, dramatic, verbal and situational irony and antithesis works well with Act I of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." American literature students can learn about characterization, metaphor, flashback, dialect and irony using "Of Mice and Men." Older students can pair syntax, metaphor, allusion, flashback, theme, tone and reliable narrator with the award-winning book, "The Road."

4 Individuals Get Creative

If you want a quiet but creative activity, have students work alone to complete the following exercise. You'll need a sheet of printer or unlined paper for each student, markers, colored pencils or crayons and the list of terms you want students to use. Using a sheet of paper as your example, have students fold their paper in half lengthwise. Next, have them fold the shorter ends together in half two times. Students will have folded the sheet into eight rectangles. Students should write the name of one literary device on the front of each rectangle. Underneath the name, they should write a unique example of the device. On the back of the sheet, have students draw a visual representation of the literary device that they created on the front.

Elizabeth Jamison is a published writer, composition teacher and PhD candidate specializing in rhetoric/composition. She holds a master's degree in English education from Georgia State University. With more than 15 years experience, she has been published in magazines and journals.