Part of what make's Ada Limon's poem "The Conditional" exceptional is its use of figurative language, and I would like my students to become more comfortable with figurative language as a writing skill.
When we discuss the beauty and unique style of writing with figurative language, I have students write observation poems. The first goal is to make literal observations three times in a row: 1. Look up and write 2. Look around and write. 3. Look down and write.
Below is an example of the first stanza of a literal observation poem based on 1) the details of the ceiling tiles 2) what was nearby on a desk and 3) what was on the floor.
Students can repeat this process up to 3 times if they’d like (look up, look around, look down).
Then, I have students go through the same process, but this time, making only figurative observations. Below is an example of the first stanza of a figurative observation poem based on the same observations above 1) the details of the ceiling tiles 2) what was nearby on a desk and 3) what was on the floor.
For as many literal observations as the students made, I have them make the same amount of figurative observations.
After students draft their literal and figurative observations poems, we focus on students’ figurative observations, taking note of the unique comparisons, imaginative descriptions, and humorous interpretations. This often leads to a discussion of the power of figurative language and the freedom and creativity that can be used to enhance a point. We compare the literal observation poem with the figurative observation poem and discuss impact figurative language can have in writing.
Molly Rickert is a seventh grade English teacher at Holicong Middle School. This idea was inspired by a class she took through the West Chester Writing Institute (PAWLP). Follow her on Twitter (@itsklinemk).