Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Nose Like a Cherry: Understanding Similes & Metaphors

 Similes and Metaphors

Susan McHale, Margaret Salesky | Published: May 20th, 2022 by K20 Center


Students will identify metaphors and similes in text and understand why these literary devices are important. By the end of the lesson, students should be able to write a paragraph and include sentences using both similes and metaphors.  This lesson includes optional modifications for distance learning. Resources for use in Google Classroom are included. While this lesson is currently aligned only to 8th grade standards, it would be appropriate to teach in grades 7 through 8, adjusting standards as needed.

Essential Question(s)

What are metaphors and similes? How do we recognize them? Why do we use metaphors and similes in writing?



Through an activity using sticky notes, students will determine which statement is the least descriptive and which statement is the most descriptive.


Given the definition of metaphors and similes, students will be able to identify examples and then create their own examples with a partner.


Partners will identify metaphors and similes in an excerpt from Clement Moore's "Twas the Night Before Christmas." Students will write their own metaphors and similes to further demonstrate their understanding of figurative language.


Students will think of someone they admire and write a description of that person. They will include at least one metaphor and one simile as part of that person's description.


The "Twas the Night Before Christmas" handout and the Extend activity describing a person they admire will serve as the two assessments of this lesson.


  • Sticky notes (two per student)

  • Similes and Metaphors student handout (one per student)

  • "Twas the Night Before Christmas" student handout (one per student)

  • Answer key to "Twas the Night Before Christmas" handout

  • Teacher presentation slides

  • Student access to internet and devices (optional)


Introduce the lesson by showing slide 3. These are the guiding questions for the lesson. Ask if anyone can answer the first question, "What are metaphors and similes?" If there are any responses, validate the correct answers. If no one can answer the first question, tell students this is what we will discuss today.

Lead students in a Sticky Bars instructional strategy. Pass out one sticky note to each student. The sticky notes should all be of the same color. Display slide 4. Have students write their names at the top of the sticky notes. The four sentences should also be on the board or on chart tablet paper hanging around the room (see previous Teacher's Note). Display slide 5 and read the four sentences aloud. Ask students this question: Which sentence is the LEAST descriptive of Leeza's feelings? Students are to choose one. On their sticky note, students write the reason they are choosing that sentence. Next, students place their sticky note in the column that matches their sentence, either on the board or on the chart paper.

Based on the sticky bars that were created, visually determine which sentence students chose most often and read aloud the reasoning for their choice. Most should have chosen, "Leeza cried." because it is the least descriptive of Leeza's feelings. If there are other choices, read aloud the reasoning and discuss.

Pass out a second sticky note to students and display slide 6. Like before, these sticky notes should all be the same color (but a different color than the first note). Ask students which sentence seems to be the MOST DESCRIPTIVE of the four. Ask students to write their name on the sticky note and the reasoning for their sentence choice, then place this second post-it note in the column matching their chosen sentence.

Most likely, the majority of students will choose either sentence two or four. These sentences use a metaphor and a simile to describe Leeza's feelings. Read aloud some of the reasoning behind the choices of these two sentences. If any students chose sentence one, read aloud their reasoning as well.

Explain to students that both sentences two and four seem to offer more descriptive explanations of Leeza's feelings because they use elements that give us a visual picture of the amount or force of her tears.


Pass out the student handout about metaphors and similes. Read aloud the explanation on the handout and the definitions for each. Ask students to look at the sentences about Leeza's tears. Ask students, "Which sentence contains a simile?" (Answer: sentence four). Have students write this sentence in the example box corresponding to simile on their handout. Now ask students, "Which sentence is a metaphor?" (Answer: sentence two). Have students write this sentence in the example box corresponding to metaphor.

Next, use an Elbow Partners strategy to pair students for discussion. After students have partnered, display slide 7. Ask elbow partners to discuss the three sentences and determine which sentence contains a simile and which one contains a metaphor. Have elbow partners write their answers in the appropriate example box on their handout. Call on pairs to identify the sentence they chose that contains a simile. (Answer: "Leeza's hair was as golden as morning sunshine.") Reinforce the idea that Leeza's hair is being compared to something very different—sunshine. Ask partners to share which sentence contains a metaphor. (Answer: "Leeza's hair was golden curly ribbons.") Again, call on students to identify what Leeza's hair is being compared to in this sentence. It is ribbons.

Show slide 8. Explain that Leeza is a toddler and on a crying spree! Ask elbow partners to compare the word "young" with something different to describe Leeza's age. Partners will discuss and create one sentence that is a simile and one sentence that is a metaphor to describe Leeza as young. Allow fifteen to twenty minutes for this activity. Once partners are finished, have them first share their simile sentence with the class. Some of these examples could be placed on the board as partners share out. Check for understanding and clear up any misconceptions.

Next, have partners share their metaphor sentence. Again, check for understanding and clear up any misconceptions. Ask partners to write their example or examples that were shared with the class in the corresponding box on the student handout. If the class as a whole has difficulty coming up with examples on their own, create an additional opportunity to practice with similes and metaphors (see below).


Keep students with their partners. Tell students that next, they will identify an author's use of metaphors and similes. Pass out to all students the excerpt of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" by Clement Moore.

Give students the background for this poem. Clement Clark Moore wrote this poem about Christmas Eve as a gift for his family in 1822. Its original title was "A Visit from St. Nicholas." He never intended to publish it, but a family friend submitted it to a New York newspaper that changed the name to "Twas the Night Before Christmas." And the rest is history.

Proceed to slide 9. Read aloud the directions on the handout. Read aloud the excerpt from the poem, or ask a volunteer to do so. Student partners are to underline any metaphors or similes that they observe and also write the metaphor and simile phrases from the excerpt of the poem in the space provided. As pairs, they are also to add to Santa's description in the explanation box using at least one simile sentence and at least one metaphor sentence to describe Santa or St. Nicholas.


Ask students to think of someone they admire. It may be someone they know, a celebrity, or a person from history. Ask them to think about the qualities they admire most about this person. Is it courage? Is it honesty? Is it someone who is hard-working? Or just a friend not afraid to stand up for someone else? Students are to provide a picture (optional) and a description of this person including at least one simile sentence and one metaphor sentence. An example of this assignment is provided on slide 10.

Present slide 10 as an example of a well-written description of a person who is admired. Ask students to identify the simile (courage like a lion) and the two metaphors in the paragraph (heart was a lamb; Ghandi was a giant among men).


The "Twas the Night Before Christmas" student handout and the written description of the person they admire will serve as assessments for this lesson.