Simile and metaphor

It is important that students understand the metalanguage of poetry as this provides them with a language for deconstructing poetry and for articulating their interpretation and analysis of poems.

Teachers should consider the ability level of their students when deciding which techniques to focus on in the teaching of a poetry lesson or unit. Following is an extensive list of poetic techniques.

  • alliteration
  • allusion
  • apostrophe
  • assonance
  • caesura
  • connotation
  • consonance
  • diction
  • dissonance
  • emotive language
  • enjambment
  • figurative language
  • hyperbole
  • imagery
  • irony
  • metaphor
  • motif
  • narrative voice
  • onomatopoeia
  • oxymoron
  • paradox
  • persona
  • personification
  • refrain
  • rhetorical questions
  • rhyme
  • rhythm
  • simile
  • symbol
  • tone

A simile is used to compare two things using the words 'like' and 'as'. Examples include: 'She is as bright as a light' and 'They fought like cats and dogs.'

A metaphor is when something through comparison becomes another thing. Examples include: 'She is a light' and 'he has a heart of stone.'

Activity 1 – analysing a poem with students

Choose a poem to deconstruct with students. Model how to annotate the poem by identifying the language techniques the poet uses to shape and convey meaning. Once the language techniques have been identified, discuss the effect of these techniques on meaning. Write statements about the techniques to model the TIE strategy for students.

T : Identify the technique
I : Illustrate with examples
E : Explain its effectiveness


The considered use of metaphors in the opening stanza of Alfred Noye's 'The Highwayman', 'The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees', creates a sense of how uninviting the setting is, suggesting trouble ahead for the Highwayman.

Image: An example of poetry analysis

Ask students to choose a poem and use the TIE technique to analyse it. Then they can write an analysis of HOW the poet uses language to shape and convey meaning for the reader.

Activity 2 – modelling poetry techniques

Choose a Poem with examples of the poetry technique you are focusing on – eg. Similes. Students should read each stanza and circle the similes they find. To show an understanding of the technique, students write a short paragraph to explain what each simile compares.

Additional resource

Famous poets

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