Creating Similes and Metaphors

Often, when I introduce or revisit figurative language, I return to one or several mentor texts that I have used with students as read alouds. Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting and Owl Moon by Jane Yolen are particularly wonderful. My Dog is as Smelly as Socks: And Other Funny Family Portraits by Hanoch Piven is also quite useful.

It is worth the effort to spend some time working with students on similes and metaphors. Learning to create them also aids in comprehension.  When students rely on worn-out similes such as “He was as slow as a turtle when he had chores to do,” they don’t have to do much thinking.  I find a display of household objects to be a useful way to help students create fresh and thought-provoking comparisons. Gather some ordinary and maybe some less familiar objects from your kitchen, basement, garage, or craft room. Your finds may include a rolling pin, a vase, a ceramic dog, a piggy bank, painter’s tape, holiday ornaments, a flower vase,  a grater, a peeler, a spiralizer, a timer, a birdhouse, a whisk, mortar and pestle, a zester, salt and pepper mills, a tennis racquet, a catcher’s mitt, a horseshoe, a soccer ball, a photo album.

Choose something from the table and model how you would brainstorm a set of characteristics that you associate with the object – encourage words and phrases.

My choice: Painter’s Tape   


August blue          sticky                                      useful                                 smooth-to-the-touch

strong                    useful                                     in demand                         harmless

light                        easy-to-peel                         a painter’s tool                  essential

safe                         splotted                               splashed                              disposable

forgotten               dirty                                      streaked                              reduces error

aids in perfect creations                                  eliminates frustration       sky blue

used-to-be round                                              practical                                 presentation tool


Metaphor/Simile/ Extended Analogies – My Example

I am like a roll of painter’s tape, strong but lighthearted and streaked with imperfections. As a teacher of writers, I facilitate the development of independent thinkers within the safe environment I create. Students know they can take risks and try new things. They know I need to revise and edit my own writing, and I sometimes ask for their help. Like painter’s tape, I am user-friendly and aid students in creating beautiful pieces of writing with just the right amount of support. Although I am often in high demand for conferences, I am sometimes forgotten as my students form support structures with their peers and become more skilled in self-conferences.  My sky-blue personality each day helps students to weather the storms of their daily lives and create in the safe space of writing workshop.

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