What is a metaphor? A metaphor is a descriptive technique which is used to describe a place, person, object or action by referring to it as something else that has similar characteristics.

For example:

  • The girl has the heart of a lion.

Metaphors are figurative comparisons.  The girl does not literally have the heart of a lion, but she possesses similar qualities associated with a lion, such as being brave, strong and courageous.

Metaphors are different to similes, as they do not involve using the words ‘as’ or ‘like’ to compare two things.  Notice the difference in the example below:

  • The girl is as brave as a lion (simile).
  • The girl has the heart of a lion (metaphor).

Metaphors are common in creative writing and poetry, as they create interesting images of comparison for the reader.

When will my child start learning about metaphors?

Children first learn about figurative language during Key Stage 2, with metaphors typically being taught during Years 5 and 6.  Teachers will draw attention to metaphors when they appear in poems and stories that the class are reading.

Children should also be asked to start spotting metaphors themselves. Teachers might then initiate a discussion to explain why each metaphor was chosen. Exercises like this are helpful to start encouraging children to use metaphors in their own writing.

How to help children practice using metaphors?

Once children begin to understand that metaphors make descriptive writing more effective, it is helpful for them to practice using different metaphors for themselves.

When teachers mark a child’s work, they may encourage metaphors to be used by asking what an object in the child’s story could have been compared to.  This idea can be used at home, by asking children to write down a description of something they have seen that day as a metaphor.

Sometimes, it is helpful for children if metaphors are grouped into different topic areas, such as ‘weather’ or ‘body’ metaphors.  For example, ask your child to mind map all the words they can think of associated with the weather, and then demonstrate how words such as ‘sunshine’ and ‘breeze’ also have metaphorical meanings when describing something else. For example:

  • You are my sunshine.
  • This homework is a breeze.
  • Her loyalty clouded her judgement.

This exercise is also useful as it builds up a memorable way for children to learn new vocabulary.

How does Learning Street help children to develop their use of metaphors?

Learning Street teaches metaphors to children as part of many of our Key stage two (KS2) courses. We do this in a structured way and typically will introduce a topic, get children used to working with the topic and then we’ll revise the topic.  This structured approach works well and is a key difference between the approach we take and any books which tend to just touch on a topic before moving on.

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