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Figurative Language

Figurative language can bring any topic alive for students. It provides the reader or listener with a mental image of an idea or comparison. For this reason, it's one of the most popular teaching and motivation tools. For example, a science teacher might demonstrate how the heart is like a pump. A librarian might compare looking for information on the Internet to searching for a needle in a haystack.

Analogies, metaphors, and similes are three types of figurative language that can easily be integrated into the learning environment. Other examples include alliteration, cliche, hyperbole, image, or personification,


An analogy involves comparing two things that contain some similarities, then broadening the comparison through logical inference.

Teachers often use analogies to assist students in inquiry-based learning activities. For example, an analogy may provide inspiration for an investigation or a context for learning. Students may be asked how a cell is like their school or photosynthesis is like making pizza.

According to Callison (p. 101), "an instructional analogy is an explicit, nonliteral comparison between two objects, or sets of objects, that describes their structural, functional, and causal similarities".

try itExplore Private Eye. This project explores the use of analogy, changing scale, and theorizing in learning.


A metaphor is comparing two things by using a word or phrase in a way that it's not normally used to visualize an idea.


A simile is a figure of speech that makes a comparison between two unlike things using the words like or as.

try itExplore 42eXplore: Figurative Language to explore additional terms, definitions, examples, and resources

LambLamb's Latitudes
I LOVE figurative language. This is reflected in the titles of my presentations, books, and even the examples in the WebQuests for this course. Identify a lesson online that could use some "spice". Adapt the lesson idea by incorporating an analogy in some way.

Key Words



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