Building Deeper Readers & Writers with Similes and Metaphors

I am participating in #Sliceof Life20.  Thanks to the twowritingteachers team for creating this space for writers to share and grow. It is such a welcomed time right now. This community is deeply appreciated.Slice of Life2


If we want to be successful in building deeper readers and writers, then we understand the benefits of incorporating children’s literature into the teaching of reading and writing. We use practical strategies for teaching close reading and become more confident in using mentor texts to model differentiated instruction in reading and writing. In elementary-school classrooms, students can participate in “Close reads” across the content area, not just in ELA workshop. Work with similes and metaphors to deepen students’ understanding of why authors use them. Consider the following from Rachel: The Story of Rachel Carson by Amy Ehrlich:

Imagine! Beyond the fields and orchards, beyond the woods where she played with her dRachel Carson fossilogs, beyond the Allegheny and the town of Springdale and the city of Pittsburgh, there was a vast ocean even now. At night Rachel lay in bed, her thoughts turning like waves.

Rachel grew up near Pittsburgh. The author writes about a time when Rachel discovered a fossil of a sea creature in a field near her home. With her mother’s help, they identified the fossil. Note how the author deepens Rachel’s wonder and our wonder by comparing her thoughts to the waves of an ocean.  Ask students how thoughts could be like ocean waves and they will say something like this from a fourth grader: ” “She had so many thoughts bubbling up inside her – they were like the waves at the shore that move in and out and in and out. It never stops. Rachel had so many thoughts, she could not go to sleep!”  I chose to read this picture book biography and do some strategy work with similes and metaphors in the next week.

Consider these experiments in these fourth graders’ writer’s notebooks:

“The river was a green giant, grasping at the muddy banks and swallowing fish, frogs, and tree branches as it raced down the mountain.” (Emma)

“The sugar-white sand coated my bare feet like frosted flakes in my cereal bowl.” (Jason)

“A maze of islands stretched before us, and I wondered if a Minotaur was waiting for there.” (Samantha)

It should be noted that this class had been studying Greek myths in reading workshop and the classroom teacher’s previous read aloud were stories from Treasury of Greek Mythology: Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Heroes & Monsters by Donna Jo Napoli.

Hernys Freedom BoxAnother passage I often use for work with similes and metaphors is this page from Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine:


But Henry’s mother

knew things could change.

“Do you see those leaves

blowing in the wind?

They are torn from the trees

like slave children are torn from their families.”

Similes and metaphors are powerful figures of speech that create vivid images in the reader’s mind and stir the emotions. According to Keene and Zimmerman (Mosaic of Thought). “Proficient readers spontaneously and purposely create mental images while and after they read. The images emerge from all five senses as well as the emotions and are anchored in a reader’s prior knowledge.”  Visualization is a powerful comprehension tool for close reads.





5 thoughts on “Building Deeper Readers & Writers with Similes and Metaphors

  1. I couldn’t agree more. I always loved drawing attention to strong figurative language and as in your post, the children’s examples were always amazing. Stay well!

    Liked by 1 person

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