Poetic Devices

Figurative language is used when a writer describes something using comparisons that go beyond literal meaning. The words mean more than what they say on the surface. This gives the writing a fresh look at a common subject. Figurative language is not meant to be interpreted in a word by word sense. The objects that are being compared are different in enough ways so that their similarities, when pointed out, are interesting, unique and/or surprising. Figurative language is used in poetry and fiction, as well as in everyday speech.

Poetic Device



A simile is a comparison between two unlike things that have something in common. A simile always uses the words like or as to make a comparison.
  • It's been a hard day's night and I've been working like a dog - The Beatles
  • My heart is like an open highway - Jon Bon Jovi
like two peas in a pod
like Christmas in summer

snow was like a blanket
my love is like a red, red rose
deer ran like the wind

as hungry as a bear
as nutty as a fruitcake
as quick as lightning
as slippery as an eel
as solid as a rock
as stubborn as a mule
as sturdy as an oak


A metaphor is a figure of speech comparing two unlike things that have something in common. The comparison is made without the use of like or as.

Patty was a raging tiger when she lost her lunch money.

During the night the forest was a dark, frightening battlefield.

Activity 1 - Oral Practice with SmartBoard

  1. Stanley Yelnats was as nervous as a cat with a long tail in a room full of rocking chairs as he rode the bus to Camp Green Lake.

  2. Zero was a mole as he dug his five-foot deep hole.

  3. X-Ray was misnamed for he was really as blind as a bat.

  4. Squid was a wounded animal on the inside even though he taunted Stanley about receiving letters from, and writing to, his mother.

  5. Magnet fingers were sticky jam as he stole Mr. Sir's sunflower seeds.

  6. Caveman smelled like a skunk after days of not bathing.

  7. Armpit was as tough as leather when he pushed Stanley to the floor when Stanley forgot to call him by his nickname.

  8. Zigzag had a heart of stone when he would not apologize to Stanley after hitting him in the head with a shovel.

  9. The Warden's nails were deadly weapons after she painted them with rattlesnake venom.

  10. Kate Barlow was as gentle as a lamb, while Kissin' Kate was as tough as nails.

  11. Sam's medicinal remedies made from onions were pure gold to the people of Camp Green Lake.

  12. Charles Walker thought he was a tycoon since his family was the richest in Green Lake.

  13. Elya Yelnats' luck was poisoned meat that he passed down for generations to his family.

  14. Madame Zeroni's rage was a curse after Elya broke his promise to carry her to the top of a mountain.

  15. Stanley Yelnats I was as happy as a rat with a gold tooth when he reached the summit of top of the thumb shaped mountain.

  16. Mr. Sir was meaner than Oscar the Grouch when he had to replace smoking with eating sunflower seeds.

  17. Mr. Pendanski's mean streak was as sure as death and taxes.

  18. Clyde Livingston's foot odor as deadly as a revolver.

  19. Derrick Dunne was as mean as a bull approaching a matador.

  20. Mrs. Yelnats was as worried as a surrounded bank robber.

Activity 2 - Oral Practice with SmartBoard - Listen to "The River" by Garth Brooks.

  1. Highlight similes in blue and  metaphors in red from "The River" by Garth Brooks.

    You know a dream is like a river, ever changing as it flows.
    And a dreamer's just a vessel that must follow where it goes.
    Trying to learn from what's behind you and never knowing what's in store
    makes each day a constant battle just to stay between the shores. 

            And I will sail my vessel 'til the river runs dry.
            Like a bird upon the wind, these waters are my sky.
            I'll never reach my destination if I never try,
            So I will sail my vessel 'til the river runs dry.

    Too many times we stand aside and let the water slip away.
    To what we put off 'til tomorrow has now become today.
    So don't you sit upon the shore and say you're satisfied.
    Choose to chance the rapids and dare to dance the tides.


    There's bound to be rough waters, and I know I'll take some falls.
    With the good Lord as my captain, I can make it through them all.



Review -- Write the  rhyming pattern in "The River".

Written Practice

Write simile or metaphor to show which poetic device is being used in each item.

  1. _____________________ Camp Green Lake is as dry as dust.

  2. _____________________ The boys who were sent to Camp Green Lake were hardened criminals.

  3. _____________________ Katherine Barlow thought her schoolhouse was as pretty as a picture after Sam repaired everything.

  4. _____________________ Stanley's cot smelled of sour milk as he laid his head on the pillow.

  5. _____________________ After a day of digging in the hot sun the boys were like limp dishrags.

  6. _____________________ Mr. Sir's voice was thunder when he yelled for Stanley to return with his truck.

  7. _____________________ God's thumb was paradise to Stanley Yelnats I.

  8. _____________________ The onions tasted like sweet nectar to Zero and Stanley.

  9. _____________________ The lizards were absolute death if they bit you.

  10. _____________________ The judge who sentenced Stanley was as understanding as a person who speaks another language.

Listen to the song "Longer" by Dan Fogelberg.

Longer than there've been fishes in the ocean
Higher than any bird ever flew
Longer than there've been stars up in the heavens
I've been in love with you.

Stronger than any mountain cathedral
Truer than any tree ever grew
Deeper than any forest primeval
I am in love with you.

I'll bring fires in the winters
You'll send showers in the springs
We'll fly through the falls and summers
With love on our wings.

Through the years as the fire starts to mellow
Burning lines in the book of our lives
Though the binding cracks and the pages start to yellow
Ill be in love with you.

Longer than there've been fishes in the ocean
Higher than any bird ever flew
Longer than there've been stars up in the heavens
I've been in love with you
I am in love with you..
  1. Which poetic device is used throughout this song (poem)?

  2. What is being compared?

  3. List examples.





Response cards with definitions for rhyme, simile, metaphor, alliteration, personification, and onomatopoeia http://home.att.net/~TEACHING/langarts/poeticdev.pdf

Web http://home.att.net/~teaching/langarts/poetry.pdf