Making Comparisons with Simile and Metaphor — A Poetry Lesson Plan

This lesson plan uses descriptive examples to explain how to distinguish between simile and metaphor. Students will analyze poem excerpts to identify comparative phrases and pinpoint occurrences of similes and metaphors. Then, they will create their own similes and metaphors to explore how poets choose whether to use a simile or metaphor in a specific poem.

What’s a Simile? What’s a Metaphor?

Similes and metaphors are poetic techniques that let us compare two different things in a descriptive way. Here are some examples.

Similes

  • I was standing perfectly still, like a statue.
  • The cafeteria stew was as tasteless as mud.
  • By tomorrow, our house will be as clean as a whistle.

Metaphors

  • My sister likes to go to bed early, but I’m a night owl.
  • You’re such a chicken.
  • Life is a roller coaster of emotions.

Have you noticed the difference between similes and metaphors? A simile uses the word “like” or “as” to help make the comparison. (You can remember this by how the word simile looks like the word “similar.”) On the other hand, a metaphor directly compares two things by saying that one actually is the other.

Exercise 1

Read each poem excerpt. Underline the comparative phrase, and tell whether this comparison is a simile or a metaphor.

The Base Stealer (by Robert Francis)

Poised between going on and back, pulled
Both ways taut like a tightrope-walker…

 

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (by William Wordsworth)

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills…

 

Hope is the Thing with Feathers (by Emily Dickinson)

“Hope” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all…

 

Sea-Fever (by John Masefield)

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife…

Exercise 2

Write 5 different similes about yourself. Here is one example:

When it’s time for dinner, I’m as hungry as a tiger!

Then, change your similes into metaphors. Your example might look like this:

Last night at dinner, I was a tiger attacking my food!

Now look at the similes and metaphors that you have created. Which of your ideas works best as a metaphor? Which ones work best as a simile? Explain why you think so.


ADDITIONAL INFO