K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

Students will demonstrate an understanding of metaphor by creating an original metaphor poem.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

1 hour


  • Copies of a poem which is a clear example of the use of metaphor. I use the poem, “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes.
  • Paper, pencil, chalkboard, or overhead.


  • Review what a metaphor is. Be sure students know the difference between a simile and a metaphor.
  • Discuss how to recognize a metaphor.


  1. Read aloud “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes. Discuss the comparison of life and a stairway. Make sure all of the students see the comparisons.
  2. Then I ask the students to think about other things one could compare to life. I put “Life is…” on the chalkboard and the students come up with possible comparisons. List 5 to 8 items, if at all possible. Among those we developed were “life is a roller coaster,” “life is a race,” etc.
  3. The students selected one from the list and together we expanded it by listing details. One class chose “life is a roller coaster” and we listed those things which could be considered as shared elements of both. For example, both have ups and downs; sometimes it is scary; there are slow times and fast times. We then took these various commonalities and created a five line poem on the board.
  4. Students then broke up into small groups and each student selected one of the “Life is…” comparisons from our master list, or came up with one of his/her own. The students brainstormed in the small groups so that each had a list of commonalities for his/her comparison.
  5. Once these lists were compiled, students then took the items and created a metaphor poem of 4 to 6 lines. Each student was able to create a poem by the end of the class period. This lesson is also helpful for students with limited English proficiency.


  • The completed poem was used to evaluate whether a student understood the literary term metaphor. The completed poem could not contain any comparison which had “like” or “as” in it.
  • At a later time, we read other poems and students were asked to identify the comparisons and decide if they were metaphors or similes. This was a way to see if students had retained the idea of a metaphor and could recognize one in another context.

Supplemental information


This lesson was just one part of a series of lessons on poetry and figurative language.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Language

        • Grade 6
          • 6.L.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. 6.L.5.1 Interpret figures of speech (e.g., personification) in context. 6.L.5.2 Use the relationship between particular words (e.g., cause/effect, part/whole,...
        • Reading: Literature

          • 6.RL.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 6

  • Goal 1: The learner will use language to express individual perspectives drawn from personal or related experience.
    • Objective 1.02: Explore expressive materials that are read, heard, and viewed by:
      • monitoring comprehension for understanding of what is read, heard, and/or viewed.
      • analyzing the characteristics of expressive works.
      • determining the effect of literary devices and/or strategies on the reader/viewer/listener.
      • making connections between works, self and related topics.
      • comparing and/or contrasting information.
      • drawing inferences and/or conclusions.
      • determining the main idea and/or significance of events.
      • generating a learning log or journal.
      • creating an artistic interpretation that connects self to the work.
      • discussing books/media formally and informally.
  • Goal 5: The learner will respond to various literary genres using interpretive and evaluative processes.
    • Objective 5.02: Study the characteristics of literary genres (fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry) through:
      • reading a variety of literature and other text (e.g., novels, autobiographies, myths, essays, magazines, plays, pattern poems, blank verse).
      • interpreting what impact genre-specific characteristics have on the meaning of the work.
      • exploring how the author's choice and use of a genre shapes the meaning of the literary work.
      • exploring what impact literary elements have on the meaning of the text such as the influence of setting or the problem and its resolution.