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What We Learned on #engchat About Teaching Figurative Language

You may remember our blog post announcing that we would be hosting #engchat on January 21. We were curious about the importance of teaching figurative language, and about teachers’ favorite methods for implementing it in their classroom curricula. Yesterday evening, teachers from all over the nation joined us to share their thoughts. We just couldn’t keep this inspirational chat to ourselves, so here are some of our favorite responses from teachers, including strategies that they use with their own students. For more figurative language terms and examples, watch our Figurative Language Rap!



Do you think that our society still values having a way with words? Is it still important to teach figurative language?

In our high-tech age of hyper-abbreviated language, does figurative language still matter? We at Flocabulary think so, but we set out to ask teachers from varying grade levels and locations. The answer? A resounding YES!

Yes — I think social media is placing an even greater value on a ‘way with words’ — new media, old values.


Figurative language helps with abstract thinking and building connections. It is a must teach.


A knowledge of figurative language is vital. How else can you protect yourself when it’s used against you?


How do you approach figurative language instruction? Through reading? Writing? All at once? Throughout the year?

OK–we all agree that figurative language is important. But how can we excite our students about it? Teachers focused on students developing their own personal relationship with figurative language: using it to better express their own feelings, and identifying where its usage affects them. After all, everyone’s visceral response to language is unique–that’s why words are so wonderful!

I use, first, authentic moments built out from daybooks. ‘What are you struggling with? How can we better express that?’


Teach your students to be sentence stalkers. Always on the look out for powerfully written sentences that resonate with them.


How important do you think it is for students to be able to name types of devices of figurative language?

Teachers agreed that simply identifying figurative language terms was secondary to actually using figurative language in a rich, meaningful way.

Teaching figurative language is less about naming the device and more about playing with language.


I use a balance. Teach the name for it, but also help them create their own in their writing.


For a fun introduction to terminology, watch our Figurative Language Rap!

Any specific lessons or techniques to teach figurative language? How do you get students to look closely?

Whether through reading, writing or creative activities, teachers find countless creative ways to impart their love of creative language to their students.

With 6th grade, I find poetry hits the spot well. Short & simple.


Kids all put nouns in a hat. I draw two. They create extended metaphors. Surprisingly beautiful writing emerges.


It’s important that students find figurative language in the text of their choosing, then reflect. ‘Why do I like this writer/book so much?’


Favorite works & authors for teaching figurative language:

Teachers were eager to share the works they use in class, and The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros was a favorite. Here are additional works that were mentioned:

  • Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • “On Turning Ten” by Billy Collins
  • “In the Well” by Andrew Hudgins
  • Ralph Fletcher
  • Gary Soto
  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
  • Emily Dickinson
  • James Wright
  • Image Grammar by Harry Noden

Online resources:

Thank you SO much to everyone who participated, and those who tuned in just to follow the discussion. Thanks especially to #engchat for having us! We’ll be looking forward to the next chat. In the meantime, share your favorite tools for teaching figurative language in the comments section below!