Life is a Highway: Take Your Students on a Metaphoric Journey They Won’t Forget

Posted by on February 23rd, 2016

Highway_metaphor_simile.jpgLife without figurative language is like an empty canvas. Figurative language is defined as the use of figures of speech to add emphasis or impact. The use of figurative language adds depth and color to ordinary semantics. Similes and metaphors are figures of speech used to compare two things that are alike. Metaphors simply state a comparison while similes use the words “like” or “as” to make the comparisons. A few examples of similes and metaphors include:


  • Life is like a box of chocolates.
  • That baby is as cute as a button!


  • My life is an open book.
  • Life is a highway.



Challenges may arise when teaching similes and metaphors. The initial challenge is explaining that all similes are metaphors, though all metaphors are not similes. It is important to make sure that students are aware of the distinctions between the two. Another challenge is when students are too literal in their interpretations, or they are not familiar with one of the objects being compared. Overcoming these challenges can be accomplished through the use of simple, direct examples during instruction.



Strategies for teaching similes and metaphors can be varied. When working with your adult learners, the learning strategies should be both engaging and relatable. Use content they are familiar to allow them to easily make connections and increase retention rates. Songs, movie lines and online resources are among the recommended tools for teaching these two elements of figurative language.


Songs & Poetry

Song lyrics and poetry are often filled with figurative language. This common usage makes songs and poems prime sources for practicing the skill of identifying metaphors and similes. Provide hand-outs containing poems and lyrics, ask students to underline the similes and circle the metaphors they come across.

Create a more interactive lesson by having students listen to popular songs or poetic readings and jot down as many similes and metaphors they hear throughout on index cards. Katy Perry’s “Fireworks” and Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” are two popular songs that can be used for this lesson. At the conclusion, have students sort the cards by simile or metaphor. Complete the activity by discussing what makes each card fit in a particular category. Instead of using current songs, you may also use songs that describe love and identify the different things that love is compared to through the use of simile or metaphor.



From Disney children’s classics to pop culture favorites, figurative language is often present in movies. You could show clips of movies to first demonstrate the use of similes and metaphors in various scenes. Repeat the exercise by having students watch the clips and record the similes and metaphors on a T-chart graphic organizer. This exercise can also be done by providing students with scripts from popular movies and allowing them to read them in groups and identify the figures of speech as they go along.


Online Resources

The internet offers a number of resources for teaching, reviewing and practicing the identification of similes and metaphors. Online resources include slide shows and printable worksheets. Interactive games and quizzes are also available for practice. Popular sites for content include YouTube, Pinterest and WatchKnowLearn.


Similes and metaphors are the colors of conversation and text. They also allow for the addition of excitement within the classroom. As you work to teach this skill to your students, opt for activities that make learning more like an adventurous journey than an ominous chore.


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