How to Teach Metaphors to Children

Handy Tips on How to Teach Metaphors to Children Easily

Need some handy tips on teaching metaphors to children in your language class? This article has the answer for you. Try them out!
Penlighten Staff
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2018
If there's one thing that can drive language teachers crazy, it's teaching children the different figures of speech. Figurative language is something very intricate and beautiful, but unfortunately, there are not many who truly appreciate the beauty and necessity of it, even though they may be using it in their daily lives. Among figures of speech, there's one that has quite an amount of confusion associated with it: metaphors! Some of the FAQs regarding metaphors are given below:
Q: What is a metaphor?

A: It is an indirect comparison made between two things.

Q: But isn't a simile the same?

A: No, a simile is a direct comparison, while a metaphor is an indirect one.

Q: Examples??

A: Simile Example: She looked as fresh as a flower!
Metaphor Example: Her fresh thinking was much appreciated!
You'll come across such confusions arising in the minds of children often. So, this Penlighten article will give you some ideas that you can use to teach metaphors to children. Use them right at the beginning, so that there's no room for confusion later on when they get to more complicated figurative language.
Revise Similes
As much as we try our best to try to tell kids that similes and metaphors are not the same, we all know that the difference is very, very, slight and understandably a little tricky to understand, especially by children. So, in order to make them understand this slight distinction better, you can first take a few classes to revise similes. When you do this, you need to highlight the most important point that characterizes a simile: the use of the word 'as' or 'like'. Give them ample examples of similes first, and then, slowly begin to introduce metaphors to them. This way, they'll get a grasp of what exactly a simile is and when this is fresh in their minds, you can show the difference between a simile and a metaphor more clearly. For instance, first give them an example of a simile like
She was as sly as a fox.

and then, convert it into something like,

The sly fox that she was, she cheated on her test.
From more such examples, you can make them understand how the meaning remained almost identical, it's just that an indirect comparison is being made instead of using the word 'as'.
Simple Associations
Children can be molded in any way you want, if you know how to appeal to them. Teaching them metaphors is also similar to that, in a way. You need to know what exactly will appeal to them and frame your teaching program in a way that is suitable. So, what you can do is find out some interesting cartoons, characters, etc., that are the current favorites among the kids in your class. Now, study one character properly and come up with simple metaphors that can be used to associate with this particular character. Once they understand these associations, it will become much easier to teach them as they will be able to relate to them.
Stories with Characters
Children are blessed with a very vivid imagination. A great way to teach metaphors to children can be devised by capitalizing on this vivid imagination that they have. As a class assignment, ask them to come up with a story that has human characters. It can be any kind of story and can be with or without a moral. Just make sure that it has human characters. Now, after they're done with their stories, you can ask them to use the simple associations that you must have taught them (see point mentioned above), and simply replace the human characters with other animate or inanimate characters that display or exhibit the same characteristics and traits. This way, they'll see that the same traits can be attributed to another entity, and thus learn that they are, in their very basic form, metaphors because they are just being indirect to other entities which are the major carriers of those particular characteristics.
Definition and Examples
If all else fails, then you'll have no choice but to resort to the most widely used method of teaching. You'll have to simply state the definition and explain it to them. Use suitable metaphor examples like the ones mentioned here. Using good examples to explain is the only way that they're going to understand. Be creative, and use funny examples. They're children after all.
Using these methods will definitely help you to get your point across. Be innovative in your approach to the whole concept, and they'll absorb it much faster and understand it better. Happy teaching!