Bringing Language to Life: Tips for Teaching Figurative Language at Home

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Teaching figurative language is a lot like adding a splash of color to language learning. It might sound like something for older kids, but it’s a delightful adventure that even younger ones can enjoy!

Diving into the world of figurative language in your homeschool might feel a bit like stepping into the unknown, but fear not! With just a dash of creativity and a pinch of practical strategies, you’ll find it’s an exciting journey to include these language tricks in your child’s learning.

Learn tips and tricks for teaching figurative language in your homeschool

What is figurative language?

Figurative language is a key component in the world of literature and communication. It’s an umbrella term that encompasses various techniques such as metaphors, similes, idioms, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, personification, symbolism, and more. 

Figurative language isn’t just for poets and authors to play with; it’s a cool way to add some pizzazz to everyday conversations. It’s like a secret code that makes words more vivid and exciting.

Getting the hang of figurative language doesn’t just make language more exciting but it greatly improves understanding, too. When your kids dive into the world of metaphors, similes, and all those language tricks, they’re actually leveling up their reading and listening skills.

Think of it this way: when they’re reading a book, they’ll spot the hidden meanings between the lines, making the story even cooler. And during conversations, they’ll catch the real vibes behind what people say. 

This comes in handy when they’re exploring different types of books because it helps them analyze things deeper. Writers love using these cool tricks to add drama and oomph to their stories. So, your kids won’t just read words; they’ll unravel the hidden meanings within them!

Teach figurative language to kids and help them unlock the hidden meanings in books.

Teaching figurative language to different age groups

Understanding the right time to introduce figurative language to kids can be a bit tricky, but it’s not something you should stress about. Many educators and experts suggest that children are ready for this learning leap by third grade when their understanding of language is more developed. However, don’t feel restricted by this guideline! Every child learns at their own pace and may show readiness earlier or later.

Remember though, there’s no rush! The goal is to make learning figurative language fun and engaging rather than overwhelming them with complex concepts too early on. Start with simple examples of figurative language such as similes (as fast as a cheetah) or common idioms (it’s raining cats and dogs). As long as your kiddo seems interested and isn’t getting frustrated – keep going!

Teaching figurative language can be also tailored to the specific developmental stages of elementary, middle school, and high school students. While the core concepts remain consistent, the depth and complexity of instruction can evolve as your child grows. 

Here’s how you can approach teaching figurative language at each age and some examples of what to teach:

Teaching figurative language to elementary-aged children

Kids at this stage are like little sponges, soaking up new ideas. Figurative language can be a game they play rather than a boring lesson. Think about simple stuff like comparing things (like calling the sky “blue as the ocean”) or giving animals human traits (like talking trees).

Teaching figurative language to middle schoolers

As kids grow, so does their thinking. Middle school is all about diving deeper, like figuring out why authors use certain words. They’ll dig into more advanced stuff like idioms (phrases that mean something different from the words), alliteration (words starting with the same sound), or analogies (comparisons between different things).

Teaching figurative language to high schoolers

Now it’s like figurative language is a puzzle waiting to be solved. High schoolers can handle the trickiest types, like symbolism (when one thing represents another) or irony (when words mean the opposite). They can even use these tools in their own writing to make things more interesting!

Incdlue figurative lanuage for all levels of your homeschool

Benefits of Teaching Figurative Language

Incorporating figurative language into your homeschooling routine offers a myriad of advantages that extend beyond language skills. By embracing metaphors, similes, personification, and other forms of figurative expressions, you’re nurturing your child’s creativity, critical thinking, and overall cognitive development. 

Here are some of the benefits of introducing figurative language into our children’s lives:

  • Develops critical thinking skills – Understanding metaphors, similes, idioms etc. requires kids to think more abstractly and make connections between concepts. This builds skills like problem-solving, inference, and analysis.
  • Expands imagination and creativity – Figurative language encourages kids to imagine vivid scenarios and make imaginative comparisons. Using figurative language in stories or poems allows creative self-expression.
  • Improves reading comprehension – Being able to recognize figurative language helps kids understand when a passage isn’t meant to be taken literally. This aids in comprehending literature, picking up on nuances, and analyzing themes.
  • Enhances emotional intelligence – Figures of speech are often used to convey emotions or make writing more expressive. Learning to interpret figurative language develops kids’ capacity for emotional understanding and empathy.
  • Teaches about culture/history – Idioms and proverbs often originate from cultural traditions and events in history. Understanding where figures of speech come from gives kids insight into culture, linguistics and anthropology.
  • Builds verbal communication skills – The correct use of figurative language demonstrates a strong grasp of language. Kids with this skill can articulate ideas, explain concepts, and express themselves more effectively.
Ignite imagination by teaching your chlidren figurative language

Naturally Incorporating Figurative Language into Your Homeschool

Incorporating figurative language into your homeschool doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Here are five simple and enjoyable ways to seamlessly integrate these elements into your child’s learning journey:

1. Engaging Storytime

Choose storybooks or fables that naturally incorporate figurative language. Pause while reading to discuss phrases like “quiet as a mouse” or “brave as a lion.” This interactive approach helps children understand and appreciate the nuances of expression.

Here are a few examples of children’s books that incorporate figurative language:

  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak: This classic tale is filled with imaginative language that brings the wild things to life. Phrases like “rumpus” and “gnash their terrible teeth” provide opportunities to discuss the unique expressions used in the story.
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett: This whimsical story is packed with creative descriptions, like “spaghetti tornadoes” and “jellybean rain.” Kids can explore these delightful phrases and imagine what a world with food weather might look like.
  • The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson: This rhyming story features clever language and descriptions that make the Gruffalo’s characteristics come alive. Phrases like “terrible claws” and “poisonous wart” are perfect for discussing how words create vivid images.
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst: This book is full of relatable expressions that convey Alexander’s feelings throughout his challenging day. Exploring phrases like “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” can spark conversations about using words to express emotions.
  • The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss: Dr. Seuss is known for his playful use of language. Phrases like “bump, bump, bump” and “up-up with a fish” can be fun to explore and discuss in the context of the story.
Read fantastic books with your kids to explore figurative langauge.

2. Movie Magic

Watch movies or animated shows with figurative language-rich dialogues. Afterward, chat about the phrases you noticed, like “It’s raining cats and dogs” or “You’re my shining star.” This bridges the gap between screen time and language exploration.

Here are some examples of movies and shows that contain figurative language-rich dialogues:

  • Finding Nemo: In this animated film, characters use expressions like “just keep swimming” and “fish are friends, not food.” These phrases provide opportunities to discuss the use of metaphors and idioms in a fun underwater adventure.
  • The Lion King: Simba’s journey is filled with symbolic language. Phrases like “circle of life” and “remember who you are” can lead to conversations about symbolism and the deeper meanings behind words.
  • Shrek: This movie cleverly plays with language. Phrases like “ogre-sized appetite” and “better out than in” provide humorous examples of figurative language that kids can enjoy discussing.
  • Moana: The songs in this film, such as “How Far I’ll Go,” contain metaphors that represent Moana’s inner conflict and desires. Exploring these metaphors can help kids understand how words can convey complex emotions.
  • Toy Story: Characters in this beloved series use expressions like “to infinity and beyond” and “reach for the sky.” These phrases offer a chance to discuss the power of imagination and how words can inspire bravery.
  • Frozen: Songs like “Let It Go” are filled with metaphors and symbolism that reflect Elsa’s emotional journey. Exploring these phrases can spark conversations about character development and the impact of words.

3. Nature Walk Language

During nature walks, observe the world around you and use figurative expressions to describe what you see. Share phrases like “whispering trees” or “sun painting the sky,” encouraging your child to create their own metaphors.

Here are some examples of figurative expressions you can use during nature walks to describe the world around you:

  • Whispering Trees: Listen to the gentle rustling of leaves in the trees. Explain to your child that the sound is like the trees are whispering secrets to each other.
  • Sun Painting the Sky: As the sun sets or rises, describe how the colors spread across the sky like an artist’s brush strokes, painting the sky in shades of pink, orange, and gold.
  • Dancing Flowers: Observe flowers swaying in the breeze. Explain that it’s like they’re dancing gracefully to their own natural rhythm.
  • River’s Song: When you’re near a river or stream, talk about how the water flows over rocks, creating a soothing and rhythmic sound, like a song sung by nature.
  • Blanket of Stars: During an evening walk, look up at the night sky and describe how the stars twinkle like tiny lights on a soft, velvety blanket.
Using Figurative Language on nature walks with your family.

4. Figurative Journaling

Set aside a journal for your child to jot down instances of figurative language they encounter. It could be a line from a book, a snippet from a conversation, or even a catchy advertisement slogan. This helps them actively engage with language in their daily life.

Encourage your child to keep a special journal where they can collect instances of figurative language they come across. Here’s how to get started:

  • Spot the Gems: Whenever your child reads a book, listens to a conversation, watches TV, or even notices a catchy slogan, ask them to be on the lookout for phrases that sound different or colorful. These could be similes, metaphors, idioms, or any form of figurative expression.
  • Note It Down: Have your child jot down these phrases in their journal. For example, if they read a line like “the city never sleeps,” they can note it down and write a short description of what it means to them.
  • Guess the Meaning: Encourage your child to take a guess at the meaning of the figurative expression. This helps them engage with the language and think about how the words create an imaginative image.
  • Share and Discuss: Set aside time to sit down with your child and go through their journal. Discuss the phrases they’ve collected, what they think those phrases mean, and why they find them interesting.
  • Create Their Own: Encourage your child to come up with their own figurative expressions. For example, they could describe a rainy day as “tears of the sky” or a fast car as “a lightning bolt on wheels.” This nurtures their creativity and understanding of figurative language.
  • Connect to Emotions: Help your child understand how figurative language can convey emotions. Ask them how a certain phrase makes them feel and why. For example, “butterflies in my stomach” can convey nervousness.
  • Use it in Writing: Encourage your child to incorporate the phrases they’ve collected into their own writing. This could be in stories, poems, or even just creative sentences.
There are so many benefits of teaching figurative to your children.

Family Figurative Fun

Turn family time into a figurative language game. Ask each family member to use a metaphor or simile to describe their day or their feelings. This creates a playful atmosphere for practicing and learning together.

Here’s how to turn your family table into a playful learning environment:

  • Metaphor or Simile Share: Ask each family member to share a metaphor or simile that describes their day or how they’re feeling. For instance, someone might say, “My day was as busy as a beehive,” or “I feel as excited as a kid on a rollercoaster.”
  • Guess the Meaning: After each person shares their metaphor or simile, encourage the others to guess what it means. This not only brings laughter but also shows how language can be both creative and meaningful.
  • Create a Story: Build a collaborative story using figurative language. Each family member adds a sentence to the story, incorporating a figurative expression. For example, “Once upon a time, in a faraway land, lived a curious cat…”
  • Theme Nights: Choose a theme for each mealtime, like “Feelings Friday” or “Adventure Wednesday.” Everyone uses figurative language related to the theme. This helps your child understand how figurative language can be used in different contexts.
  • Language Swap: Challenge each family member to use a figurative expression from a different language or culture. This broadens your child’s understanding of language diversity and creativity.

By weaving figurative language into your routine, you’re not only teaching a valuable skill but also encouraging a lifelong appreciation for language’s beauty and versatility.

Gathering the Right Resources for Teaching Figurative Language

So, you’re all set to introduce your child to the fascinating world of figurative language. But wait! Do you have the right resources in place? It’s crucial to gather engaging and age-appropriate materials that can make this learning journey enjoyable and impactful for your child.

Books are a wonderful source when it comes to teaching figurative language. Look for children’s literature with rich examples of similes, metaphors, idioms etc. Poems by Shel Silverstein or Dr.Seuss books could be great places to start. 

You might also consider getting workbooks specifically designed for teaching figurative language at middle or high school level, like Monkey and Mom’s Figurative Language Pack – give it a try with her free sample. These often include fun exercises and activities that allow kids to practice what they’ve learned.

These figure of speech printables will work perfectly for a homeschool family for language arts.

Don’t forget about digital resources! There are plenty of online platforms offering interactive games, quizzes and lessons on figurative language tailored for different age groups including middle schoolers. Websites like BrainPOP or online games like Cannonball Cats can add an element of fun while reinforcing key concepts effectively. Remember though, the best resource is one that resonates most with your child’s interests and learning style!

Final Thoughts

By introducing figurative language to children at different stages of their development, you’re nurturing their communication skills, imagination, and critical thinking abilities. 

It’s not just about making language more interesting; it’s about giving them the tools to unlock the depth and nuances of words. From simple similes and metaphors in elementary school to exploring more complex forms like symbolism and irony in high school, the journey is a progressive one that evolves with your child’s growth.

Special thanks to Laura from Monkey and Mom for sharing these wonderful ideas and this useful resource for teaching figurative language in your homeschool.

Meet Laura from Monkey and Mom

Laura is a homeschool mom from Europe with eight years of hands-on expertise in guiding her gifted child’s education. Her eclectic approach blends structured academics and child-led exploration to create a rich and personalized learning environment.

Drawing inspiration from her background as a creative and photographer she discovered unique ways of capturing the essence of education. Alongside homeschooling, Laura finds enjoyment in curating and reviewing curricula, all while navigating the distinct challenges of homeschooling in a country where the practice is taboo.

Beyond education, Laura is an avid writer who loves sharing insights with fellow homeschoolers on her blog, Monkey and Mom. Her philosophy revolves around the privilege of homeschooling. While empowering children to embrace their passions, she believes in finding balance in mastering essential skills, even if these ventures lie outside of their comfort zone.

These are fantastic tips for teaching figurative language at home

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