A metaphor is a word or phrase that ​describes a ​person or ​object by referring to something that has ​similar characteristics, such as The assignment was a breeze. In this example, the assignment is compared to the ease of a breeze. Unlike similes, such as sharp as a tack, the words “like” or “as” are not used to make the comparison. Some common metaphors have become cliches or idioms, making them a popular topic of lesson plans about figurative language.

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Metaphors may not be as obvious as similes, but they are commonly used in both written and spoken English. Therefore, metaphor lesson plans should focus on explicit instruction on how to identify and interpret a metaphor. VocabularySpellingCity provides K-12 teachers with grade level word lists, interactive learning games and free printable worksheets to supplement metaphor lesson plans.

Metaphors and similes are often taught together in the second grade. Students are later tested on the figurative language concepts in the third grade. Elementary students learn to differentiate between the two: both metaphors and similes are comparisons, but while a simile describes a person or object as being like something else, a metaphor says a person or object actually is something else. Students can often identify metaphors by comparing the figurative meaning to the literal meaning.

In middle and high school, students are expected to interpret metaphors in context, such as prose or poetry, and analyze their role in the text. The intention of similes and metaphors leads the way to lessons on connotations and denotations as students interpret similes and metaphors in context. Students in grades 6-12 can use VocabularySpellingCity’s Paragraph Writing Practice to further explain the metaphors in text. Students may also use Paragraph Writing Practice to write their own metaphors.

A possible extension activity for students in grades 4-12 is a music metaphor medley. Many popular lyrics use metaphors, such as the hit song Firework by Katy Perry (“Baby, you’re a firework”) or the classic tune Hound Dog made famous by Elvis Presley (“You ain’t nothing but a hound dog”). Students may be assigned to search for metaphors in age-appropriate music and interpret what the artist is trying to express. Later, students may present clips of the songs and their interpretations to the class.

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

View Common Core State Standards Related to MetaphorsClose

Common Core State Standards Related to Metaphors

Distinguish the literal and nonliteral meanings of words and phrases in context (e.g., take steps).

Explain the meaning of simple similes and metaphors (e.g., as pretty as a picture) in context.

Interpret figurative language, including similes and metaphors, in context.

Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances, in word meanings.

Metaphors – Elementary School Examples
  • Her voice was music to my ears.
  • She is afraid of her own shadow.
  • The test was a piece of cake.
  • The couch potato watches TV all day.
  • You are my sunshine.

 K-5 Metaphors Practice Worksheet (MatchIt Sentences)

Metaphors – Middle School Examples
  • Snow covered the streets in a white blanket.
  • You are the apple of my eye.
  • The teenage boy’s stomach is a bottomless pit.
  • Many people believe time is money.
  • America is a melting pot of people from other countries.

 6-8 Metaphors Practice Worksheet (Sentence Unscramble)

Metaphors – High School Examples
  • There is an infinite spectrum of possibilities available to you.
  • She could not digest the shocking news.
  • Getting extra credit on a good report is the icing on the cake.
  • You are my knight in shining armor.
  • The valedictorian is the shining star of our school.

 9-12 Metaphors Practice Worksheet (WhichWord Sentences) provides word lists, printables, and interactive games and activities that give students the opportunity to learn to identify and interpret metaphors.

Try Crossword with the Elementary School Metaphors list.