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

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Learning outcomes

The students will brainstorm and plan before they write using literature books with various examples of figurative language needed to “hook” the reader. The students will also visit a website to experience online examples of figurative language within a story.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

2-3 days


  • Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
  • additional books that contain figurative language
  • notebook paper
  • web sheet
  • column paper for organizing and assessing knowledge of figurative language
  • writing folder with writing components and examples of figurative language
  • pencil/colored pencils
  • chart with writing components and examples of narrative language

Technology resources

  • Color monitor with access to the internet
  • Computers set up with the software: Kidspiration and Kid Pix Deluxe 3
  • Computers set up for keyboarding


The teacher will introduce various types of figurative language (simile, metaphors, onomatopoeia, etc.) and components of narrative writing (descriptive words-adjectives, power words-vivid verbs, and ways to say “said” when using dialogue) used to make the stories more interesting to read.


Lesson 1: Hooking the reader

  1. The teacher will discuss various ways to start a narrative that will “hook” the reader.
    • starting with onomatopoeia (Ex. “Kerplunk!”)
    • starting with a descriptive setting (Ex. On a warm and sultry evening in the forest…)
    • starting with a question (Ex. Have you ever been in a dark, dreary place with no one around…?)
    • starting with dialogue (Ex. “Mom…, where are you?”)
  2. Various examples will be shown on the overhead while students develop other ways to use the same type of “catchy” starts.The class will then search picture books for examples of the different types of hooks.

Lesson 2: Finding Figurative Language

  1. The teacher will introduce various types of figurative language that can be found on the narrative writing attachment (simile, metaphors, onomatopoeia, etc.)
  2. The students will listen as Stellaluna by Janell Cannon is read and discussed. Discourse among the students will be evident as the story is read and numerous examples of figurative language and writing components are observed.
    • settings (descriptive)
    • simile
    • onomatopoeia
    • various ways to say “said”
    • descriptive words (adjectives)
    • power words (vivid verbs)
  3. The students will then be given Figurative Language Chart to assist them while listening to the story.
  4. Discussion of the various writing components and figurative language will be examined. The students will get in groups and reread and discuss the story, Stellaluna, and write the examples of each component in the appropriate column on a handout. After the groups have completed the assignment, the class will come together as a whole and compare the findings of each group.
  5. The students will then go back into their groups and choose from different literature books containing various examples of figurative language and writing components. With the chosen books, the children will then “buddy” read the stories and search for examples and place their findings on a teacher created web or mapping activity sheet.
  6. As the groups complete and print their webs, they will turn them in to be evaluated.

Lesson 3: Followup Activity

The students may then go back to the computers in pairs and go to the Internet site: http://science.hq.nasa.gov/kids/imagers/intro/story.html and read the story Echo the Bat by Ginger Butcher. As they read the story, they can discuss the various components found in Echo the Bat. While waiting to go to the computer and read Echo the Bat, the others can create a haiku poem about bats using the information discovered while reading Stellaluna. The students may then wish to go into Kid Pix Deluxe and type their poem.

Independent Practice

A final activity would include giving the students a narrative writing prompt to see how well they use the components taught in this lesson. A rubric (xls | htm) to evaluate these narrative pieces is included.


  • Photocopy a various copies of “Reel’em In” writing sampler fish on card stock. Discuss whether or not the students have ever gone fishing. Tell the class that baiting a hook to catch a fish is like having a good beginning to a story. The fisherman catches a fish and decides if he wants to keep it or throw it back--the reader reads a story and decides if it is interesting enough to continue reading or “throws” it back (doesn’t read it).
  • Write various examples of “catchy” starts on the fish shapes and place them in an aquarium. The students will go fishing and “hook” a fish. With the catchy start that is caught, the students will write to a prompt while including the other components learned in the lesson.
  • Narrative Writing will be used as an assessment for this plan using the attached Rubric (scored on the 4-point scale as required for 4th grade students in North Carolina).

Supplemental information

Examples of books that can be used:

  • The Gold Coin by Alma Flor Ada (ISBN: 0689717938)
  • The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by A. Wolf by Jon Scieszka (ISBN: 0140544518)
  • Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey (ISBN: 014050169X)
  • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett (ISBN: 0689707495)
  • Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner (ISBN: 0064401324)
  • Arthur’s First Sleepover by Marc Brown (ISBN: 0316110493)
  • The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble (ISBN: 0140546235)
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (ISBN: 0064400557)
  • Chester, the Worldly Pig by Bill Peet (ISBN: 0395272718)
  • Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes (ISBN: 0688147321)


I thoroughly enjoyed working with the students on this writing activity. The attentiveness and enthusiasm shown by the students was exactly what I needed to make this lesson a success. The students worked very well together and had a desire to learn the information presented.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 4

  • Goal 4: The learner will apply strategies and skills to create oral, written, and visual texts.
    • Objective 4.07: Compose fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama using self-selected and assigned topics and forms (e.g., personal and imaginative narratives, research reports, diaries, journals, logs, rules, instructions).