Personification

Personification is figurative language in which nonhuman objects are given human characteristics. Personification is prevalent in literature, film, and television. Students’ favorite programs, like Spongebob Squarepants and Thomas the Train, as well as popular picture books, like The Giving Tree and The Day the Crayons Quit, showcase ordinarily inanimate objects possessing human qualities. Students are, therefore, exposed to the concept of personification at an early age. Children have been exposed to personification in fairy tales, nursery rhymes, poetry, song lyrics, and fables.

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Teachers should create personification lesson plans that start with concrete examples building on students’ prior knowledge of the concept (the wind howled; the moon played hide and seek with the clouds; time flies when you’re having fun).

Teaching Personification

As students get older, personification lessons should be written and implemented to further show how authors use the figure of speech to paint a picture in their writing. For example, in Langston Hughes poem, “Dreams,” the writer uses personification and imagery to contrast a life with dreams and a life without dreams (“Hold fast to dreams / For when dreams go / Life is a barren field”).

VocabularySpellingCity can supplement personification lessons through ready-to-use K-12 word lists, interactive learning games, and free printable worksheets.

The term personification first appears in the sixth grade ELA Common Core Standards. However, early readers may first encounter personification in nursery rhymes, like “Humpty Dumpty” and in fairy tales, like The Gingerbread Man. In the primary grades, teachers can introduce a basic concept of personification.

At a young age, students are also exposed to anthropomorphic stories. Anthropomorphism is when an author attributes human characteristics and/or behaviors to animals. Fables, like The Tortoise and the Hare, and fairy tales, like Little Red Riding Hood, portray animal characters with human qualities. In second grade, students are expected to learn in depth about fables. Second grade teachers can incorporate an anthropomorphism lesson, as well as a personification lesson, into their fables unit of study.

In addition, students become familiar with the concept as they read literature and poetry in which authors use personification with inanimate objects (The sun smiled upon the earth), or with abstract ideas (The math problem refused to be solved). In upper grade levels, students will interpret personification in context as well as analyze the role of the figurative language within the text. Personification word study often focuses on the use of verbs, which are especially important in creating the human-like qualities. Students use personification in their own writing using VocabularySpellingCity’s Sentence Writing Practice or Paragraph Writing Practice.

Learn about more types of figurative language: hyperbole, idioms, metaphors and similes.

View Common Core State Standards Related to PersonificationClose

Common Core State Standards Related to Personification

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.3.5.a
Distinguish the literal and nonliteral meanings of words and phrases in context (e.g., take steps).

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.5.5.a
Interpret figurative language, including similes and metaphors, in context.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.6.5.a
Interpret figures of speech (e.g., personification) in context.

Personification – Elementary School Examples
  • The brown grass is hoping for rain.
  • The city never sleeps.
  • The sun played hide and seek with the clouds.
  • The carved pumpkin smiled at us.
  • The camera loves her.

K-5 Personification Practice Worksheet (MatchIt Sentences)

Personification – Middle School Examples
  • The palm trees were dancing in the wind.
  • The breeze whispered softly in the night.
  • Time waits for no one.
  • The pool beckoned to the swimmers.
  • The car’s engine coughed its last breath.

6-8 Personification Practice Worksheet (Sentence Unscramble)

Personification – High School Examples
  • Opportunity came knocking.
  • Still waters run deep.
  • Lightning danced across the sky.
  • The snow wrapped a white blanket around the campus.
  • The city rose before us.

9-12 Personification Practice Worksheet (WhichWord Sentences)

VocabularySpellingCity.com provides word lists, printables, and interactive games and activities that give students the opportunity to distinguish between literal and nonliteral language and interpret personification in written work.

Try MatchIt Sentences with the Elementary School Personification list.