Poetry: Finding Figurative Language

Previous posts have talked about ways to help your children recognize and identify figurative language in stories.  Because poetry has to paint a picture or share a feeling in a small number of words, poems are often full of figurative language.  This makes poetry a great opportunity to further your children’s study of the types of figurative language.

There are six main types of figurative language: onomatopoeia, alliteration, personification, idioms, hyperbole, and similes and metaphors.  There are some wonderful poems that illustrate these concepts for children.


  • “The Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe – This poem is filled with fun words like “jingling” and “tinkling” and “tintinnabulation.”
  • “The Rusty Spigot” by Eve Merriam – Describing the sound of water splashing out of an old spigot fills this short poem with sound words.
  • “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes – A highwayman rides throughout this poem, and we can hear the sound of his horse in the poet’s words.


  • “The Siege of Belgrade” by Alaric Alexander Watts – Not only is every line in this poem alliterated, but every line uses a different letter of the alphabet!
  • “Birches” by Robert Frost – This slightly longer poem about birch trees is filled with words that start with “b.”


  • “The Cat and the Fiddle” by Mother Goose – This simple nursery rhyme is a perfect way to introduce personification to your children.
  • “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth – The poet’s experience with nature is pictured as actions taken by the objects around him.
  • “She Sweeps With Many Colored-Brooms” by Emily Dickinson – A sunset is pictured in this poem as a housewife sweeping away the day.

Similes and Metaphors

  • “An Emerald is as Green as Grass” by Christina Rossetti – This poem uses similes to describe different gemstones to objects in nature.
  • “Hope is the Thing With Feathers” by Emily Dickinson – Metaphors are used in this poem to compare hope to a feathered bird.

Point out examples of figurative language that you come across as you read poetry with your children.  Talk with them about why the poet would have chosen that type of language to portray his message.  Your child will begin to have a deeper understanding of the poems that you are reading with him.

What poems to you use to teach figurative language to your children?

Photo by:  Steve Johnson

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