In a Manner of Speaking: Figurative Language and the Common Core
Figurative language is woven through the elementary and middle school Common Core standards beginning very early. Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standard #4 requires that students learn to "Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone." As students move through the grades they progress logically from identifying words and phrases that suggest feelings (first grade), to distinguishing literal language from nonliteral language (third grade), to working specifically with metaphors and similes (fifth grade), and analyzing how a writer's word choices impact the meaning and tone of a text (sixth grade). Working with the standard at one grade level is dependent upon the foundational work done in previous grades.
The term “figurative language” refers to a set of tools or devices employed by writers to move beyond the literal meaning of a word or phrase or to add special effects—things such as alliteration, personification, hyperbole, imagery, simile, and metaphor. In this article we will offer some teaching suggestions and resources and take a look at some books that can be used with younger learners as they move toward a working knowledge of figurative language—specifically metaphors and similes.