Simile Search

So here is something I accidentally stumbled upon with the iPads and iBooks.

As I was reading through our novel for class, looking for examples of figurative language, I used the search tool and typed in “like.”

And a list popped up…of every use of the word “like” in the novel. Wow. That was easy.

I was going to make a worksheet with these examples, but decided to go a different route.

I had the students work in pairs. They typed in the word “like” and did their own search, clicking on each example to read and determine if it was a simile.

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The first page of hits when you type in “like.” It’s easy for us to pull out the similes just from these small excerpts, but a little challenging for my class.

When I realized that they were struggling with the various uses of “like” and this was too broad, I had to adjust my plans.

Instead, I had them search for a particular word. For example, I had them type in “spaghetti,” read the surrounding text, and explain the simile to me. Instead of identifying, we were observing, noticing, imagining, and connecting with great examples of figurative language.

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We spent some time recording the best similes, acting them out, and talking about the images they created in our minds.  For homework, they had 6 mentor sentences to imitate – all of which had similes.

The first example we did in class.

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The students simply changed it to:

My arms and legs get all tight and lash out like tree limbs

in a hurricane. 

Not a huge variation from the original, but they were headed in the right direction.

This activity opens the door to hundreds of fresh, new examples of figurative language.  Let’s face it, every teacher uses this worksheet on similes and metaphors. You know the worksheet I’m talking about. The first example reads:

“The baby was like an octopus, grabbing at all the cans on the grocery
store shelves.”

It pops up on the first page in a Google search.  The copyright is 2002, with a revision in 2004.   Kids have probably seen this worksheet more than a few times in their life.

And even if they haven’t, these sentences are pretty generic and certainly not authentic.  They don’t really demonstrate, in context, how an author is trying to create a mental image. Using examples from the text we are reading shows how figurative language can make our writing more interesting.

As always, this activity lead me to think of other possibilities…..

  • How about providing students with a list of vocabulary words and have them perform the search to see the words used in context?
  • Students could go a step further and use the “look up” or “define”  tool to write the definitions.
  • Students could take turns finding interesting words or examples and share the key search term with the class and students could easily find the specific example.  (If more than one hit comes up, it become a lesson in skimming and scanning.)

I am sure there are other ways to use this tool.  My students will probably teach me a few of their own!

Have you tried this before?

Do you have any suggestions for activities?

Share your ideas in the comments!

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2 responses

  1. You are SOO good at this! Simile and metaphor conspiring to make figurative muscles in young minds that grow up to be problem solvers who haven’t forgotten how to dream in the process. Lucky kids. Be well. Dan

    1. Thank you for always reading and appreciating, Dan!!

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