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Figurative Language I

Figurative Language I: Describing Concrete Sensations Contributors: Emma Lunbeck and Eleanor Liu To teach the difference between literal and figurative language; to demonstrate the value of comparisons in writing; to encourage creative thinking; to have students practice finding connections between disparate ideas. Optional Free Write Topic: Describe a night sky without using clichés or dead words.

Literal or Figurative? The Preparation


Show students the following clips from the video provided at the link: Spaceballs, “Comb the desert!” Men in Tights, “Lend me your ears!” Episode of Police Squad, “Cover me!”

Discuss each clip. Note: it’s important to create a pattern of questions that you can repeat for each clip. This helps prevent confusion. One possible pattern: 1. Okay, say we got out a dictionary and looked up the meaning of every word in the phrase. What would it be telling us to do?

2. Is this dictionary definition how we’re supposed to take the phrase? Or is there another meaning?

3. This other meaning depends on a comparison. (Define this term, if necessary.) What is being compared to what?

After going through the examples, discuss the idea of comparison. A literal phrase is one that we can understand by its dictionary definition, but a figurative phrase depends on a comparison. For example, when you say, “I have a ton of homework,” do you mean you have 2,000 pounds of homework? No; you’re comparing the feeling of having lots of homework to the feeling of being weighed down by something really heavy.

The Cure for IDK  

The Cure for IDK isn't a typical lesson book. It is frank, funny, and full of lessons that are simultaneously entertaining and challenging....