What is a simile? A simile is a literary device which describes something by comparing it to something else, using the words ‘like’ or ‘as’.

For example:

  • The man was as tall as a giraffe.
  • Her eyes shone like stars.

These similes are used to emphasise and exaggerate the features that the people already have, such as their height and bright eyes.

Similes are different to metaphors, as metaphors do not use the words ‘like’ or ‘as’ to compare two things.  Notice the difference in the example below:

  • Her eyes shone like stars (simile).
  • Her eyes were stars (metaphor).

Similes and metaphors are used to make descriptive writing more exciting and create a vivid picture in the mind of the reader.

When do children learn about similes?

  • Similes are introduced into the Key Stage 2 curriculum as teachers start to point them out in poems and stories.
  • When children are comfortable with what a simile is, they will often be asked to find the similes themselves in a poem that their teacher has provided.

How are children taught to use similes?

To start children writing their own similes, teachers might provide them with visual aids to get their imagination going. For example, the children might be given a picture of the sun and then asked to write down all the things it looks like. Children might answer that it looks like a gold coin or like fire. This creates the simple simile:

  • The sun is like a gold coin’.

To improve on a simple metaphor, teachers will ask prompt questions, such as ‘How does the sun look like a gold coin?’, hopefully creating an improved simile, such as:

  • ‘The sun shimmers like a gigantic gold coin in the sky’.

How to help children use more similes?

One way to help children is to get them to practice using similes as a way of improving sentences. You could ask them to replace a simple adjective in a sentence with a simile. For example:

  • ‘The woman was sleepy’ could become ‘The woman was as sleepy as a sloth’, or
  • The two boys were brave’ could become ‘The two boys were as braves as lions’.

As they re-write the sentences, children will begin to understand how similes can improve their descriptive writing by making it more interesting. The standard of their work will improve as they start to naturally include similes in their writing.

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

We introduce children to similes as part of our KS2 courses. Like most topics, we cover this area in a structured way to ensure children really understand similes and can use them in their written work.

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