7 Fun Figurative Language Activities For High School Students

Figurative language is like a magic wand for words! It transforms the dull and mundane into something magical and enchanting. With figurative language, one can make an ordinary sentence soar like a bird, dance like a flame, or sparkle like diamonds. It’s like adding secret spices to a recipe, giving words a unique and flavorful twist that makes them stand out from the crowd. Whether you’re describing a sunset as “a canvas painted by the gods” or a river as “a ribbon of silver,” figurative language brings your words to life and makes them more memorable.

For high schoolers, mastery over figurative language can bring a unique set of skills. Be it expressive arts, communication, or articulation, figurative language is a must. While worksheets do help, the below-mentioned classroom activities can give a slightly tough competition to them, in terms of learning and fun. So, do check them out!

Activities to brush up figurative language skills 

From geography activities to lunchtime activities, most activities focus on making the kids well-versed in a certain concept. Similarly, Figurative language is meant to make communication fun, so, here are some activities that will make the learning process fun in itself!

1. Metaphor matching game

Metaphor matching game

The metaphor-matching game asks students to work in pairs or small groups to match common expressions with their underlying metaphors. 

To prepare for the game, students have to compile a list of expressions such as “life is a journey,” “love is a rose,” etc. Then, they have to write each expression on a separate card and write the corresponding metaphor on another card (e.g. “life is a journey” would have “journey” as its metaphor). After jumbling up the cards, students can take turns drawing one card from each pile, trying to match the expression with its metaphor. If they get it right, they keep the cards. If not, they return the cards to the pile and draw again. The student with the most cards at the end of the game wins.

 2. Simile scavenger hunt

Simile scavenger hunt

The simile scavenger hunt would be amongst the most loved games by high schoolers. In this activity, students work individually or in teams to find examples of similes in literature, media, or daily life. 

Each student/team is given a list of common similes (e.g. “as easy as pie,” “as fast as a cheetah”) and would be asked to find and write down the source (book, movie, song, etc.) and context of each simile they find. When they’re done, ask students to share their findings and discuss why the simile was used in each context.

3. Personification poem

Personification poem

A personification poem can be the perfect way to indulge students in artistic expressions of words. In the activity, students have to write a poem that personifies an inanimate object or idea. 

Starting with students brainstorming a list of inanimate objects or ideas they could personify (e.g. the moon, wind, time). Next, the students would have to choose one item from their list and write a poem that gives it human qualities, thoughts, and emotions. Students can be encouraged to use vivid imagery and figurative language in their poems. When they’re done, students can be asked to share their poems with the class and discuss the use of personification in each one.

 3. Hyperbole challenge

 Hyperbole challenge

The hyperbole challenge wants students to get all hyped up and write short scenes or speeches exaggerating a situation to the point of absurdity.

The activity can be kickstarted by giving students a list of common hyperboles (e.g. “I’ve been waiting for an hour,” “that backpack weighs a ton”). Then, ask them to write a short scene or speech that incorporates one of the hyperboles in a way that is obviously untrue. The hyperbole challenge inspires students to be creative and funny and when they’re done, ask students to share their scenes or speeches with the class and discuss the use of hyperbole in each one.

 5. Irony role-play

Irony role-play

Involving drama and dialogues, the irony role play can be a great way for students to learn the expressive side of figurative speech. In the irony role play, students act out a scenario that demonstrates situational irony. 

Teachers can give students a list of common scenarios that often involve irony (e.g. a plumber’s house has leaky pipes, and a traffic cop gets a speeding ticket). After students have chosen a scenario from the list, they can be asked to create a short skit that demonstrates situational irony. When they’re done, students can perform their skits for the class and discuss the use of irony in each one.

 6. Symbolism slideshow

Symbolism slideshow

Symbolic knowledge is an important aspect of life. So, in this activity, students would be involved in the presentation on the use of symbols in art, literature, or politics.

To begin the process,  students have to brainstorm a list of symbols that are commonly used in art, literature, or politics (e.g. the American flag, the cross, the hammer, and the sickle). Next, they have to choose one symbol from their list and create a slideshow that explains the symbolism of the symbol, its history, and examples of its use in art, literature, or politics. Students must be encouraged to use images and examples to support their explanations. When they’re done, they can present their slideshows. 

 7. Idiom interpretation

Idiom interpretation

Idioms can be a very enriching addition to a high schooler’s vocabulary, and what better than an activity to help them engage with the concept. In this activity, students interpret the meaning of idioms in context and explain their figurative meaning. 

Students can start by creating a list of common idioms (e.g. “to pull someone’s leg,” “to let the cat out of the bag”) and write short sentences that use each idiom in context. Then, they can work in pairs or small groups to interpret the meaning of each idiom based on its context and explain its figurative meaning. When they’re done, students can be asked to share their interpretations with the class and discuss any differences or similarities in their interpretations. This activity can be done in a written format or as a class discussion.

Why is it called Figurative Language? Can I call it something else?

Figurative language has a long-standing history in literature, poetry, and everyday speech for centuries, adding interest and meaning to language, and making it more memorable and engaging. Why one may ask? The answer is simple, figurative language goes well beyond the literal meaning of words and phrases, making expressions of speech more profound and rich. 

In literal terms, figurative language refers to the use of words or expressions in a non-literal sense to add depth, interest, and creativity to written or spoken language. It can help convey meaning and emotions in a way that is more imaginative, evocative, and memorable than simple literal language. 

While figurative language is the most commonly used term, it can also be referred to as a literary language, imaginative language, metaphorical language, symbolic language, or even non-literal language. These terms refer to the same concept of using language in a way that goes beyond its literal definition to add depth, meaning, and interest. Different fields of study or specific contexts may use different terms, but they all refer to the same basic idea of using language in a creative and imaginative way.

Summing up

Figurative language can be a valuable tool in our linguistic arsenal that can bring life and emotion to our words. Whether it’s through metaphors, similes, or personification, figurative language helps us connect with people on a deeper level, creating memorable moments and leaving lasting impressions. So with the help of these activities,  let your imagination soar, for the sky’s the limit when it comes to expressing yourself creatively.

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