EL Support Lesson

Making Sense of Metaphors

Use this lesson to help your ELs identify and understand the meaning of metaphors. It can be a stand-alone lesson or used as support for the lesson What's a Metaphor?
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theWhat's a Metaphor?Lesson plan.
GradeSubjectView aligned standards
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theWhat's a Metaphor?Lesson plan.

Students will be able to identify metaphors in a textual context and identify their meaning.


Students will be able to recognise and use linking verbs in metaphors using word banks and sentence frames for support.

(2 minutes)
Graphic Organizer Template: Frayer ModelTeach Background Knowledge TemplateWrite Student-Facing Language Objectives ReferenceWriting Metaphors with Linking VerbsReading & Understanding MetaphorsVocabulary Cards: Making Sense of MetaphorsGlossary: Making Sense of Metaphors
  • Tell students that today they will be learning to identify metaphors. Write the content objective on the board in student friendly language, such as, "I can recognise and understand metaphors."
  • Write the word MetaphorIn large letters in the centre of a piece of chart paper and use it as a "brain dump."
    • Give students a minute of thinking time to silently consider what they know (or want to know) about metaphors.
    • Tell students to turn and talk to an elbow partner about what they know (or want to know).
    • Call on volunteers to share the background knowledge, examples, and questions that they shared with (or heard from) their partner.
    • Record student responses on the chart paper surrounding the word "metaphor." Add key facts to the brain dump to supplement student responses if needed (i.e., metaphors can be found in poems, songs, and stories).
  • Keep the "brain dump" displayed throughout the lesson and add to it as other questions arise. (Note: leave some blank space on the chart paper to be used at the end of the lesson.)
(8 minutes)
  • Display the card from the Vocabulary Card worksheet with the key term "metaphor" and review the definition with your students (a figure of speech that compares two unrelated things by saying they are the same).
  • Discuss the image on the card. (e.g., "This picture of a star and a diamond can help me understand the definition because, even though they are different, they have some similarities.")
  • Hand out four blank vocabulary cards (or blank index cards) to each student and explain that there are other vocabulary words we need to understand as we learn about metaphors.
  • Write the word Linking verbAnd its definition on the board (a verb that connects the subject and another noun or adjective). Invite your students to do a choral reading of the word and definition. Then, instruct them to copy the word and definition onto one of their blank vocabulary cards. Remind them to leave space for an image.
  • Have students draw a picture that will help them remember the definition (i.e., chain links or people holding hands).
  • Repeat the process with the key terms Alike(two or more things that are similar), Similarities(characteristics or traits that are like another) and Compare(to point out the likeness between two or more things). Then, invite several students to share their drawings for each key term.
(10 minutes)
  • Explain that most metaphors use a Linking verbTo make a comparison between two things.
  • Write the linking verbs "am," "is," "are," "was," and "were" on the board and tell students that these are some examples of linking verbs they will find in metaphors.
  • Write an example of a metaphor on the board, like, "When she swims, Pia is a fish!" Circle the linking verb "is" and point out that it connects the subject, Pia, with the noun, fish.
  • Display the top section of the worksheet Writing Metaphors with Linking Verbs and guide your students though the first sentence as an example.
  • Then, hand out the worksheet and instruct your students to work with a partner to complete the rest of the worksheet. Call on students to share their answers.
(10 minutes)
  • Tell your students that they will now be analyzing metaphors and explain that, in order to understand the MeaningOf a metaphor, we must look for similarities between the two things that are being compared.
  • Hand out the worksheet Reading & Understanding Metaphors. Read the directions aloud and review the example with the class.
  • Complete one additional example and model your thinking. (e.g., "This metaphor is comparing snow and a blanket. It says that the snow was covering the trees and I know that a blanket also covers things, like my bed. They are similar because they both cover things.") Circle the linking verb "is" and remind students that the linking verb is a clue about what two things are being compared.
  • Have students work with a partner to complete the rest of the first section of the worksheet. Instruct them to circle the linking verb in each metaphor before filling in the sentence frame. Then, call on volunteers to read their completed sentence frames aloud.
  • Review the directions for section two, then read the short story aloud as students follow along.
  • Instruct students to reread the story with a partner, looking for a metaphor as they read. Allow students to discuss the metaphor and complete the sentence frame task with their partner.
  • Invite two students to share their answers. Select student volunteers intentionally so that both metaphors are revealed (i.e., the vines were snakes; the water was a song). Ask students to identify the linking verbs in the metaphors they share from the story.


  • Provide additional sentence frames to support students during speaking tasks. (For example, "I want to know ____ about metaphors.")
  • Pre-teach additional grade-level vocabulary that students will encounter on the worksheets (i.e., "graceful," "total," "brilliant").
  • Support students in completing the Frayer Model for one of the key terms, like "metaphor."
  • Allow beginning ELs to use bilingual resources to define new words throughout the lesson.
  • Strategically pair beginning ELs with more advanced ELs or students who speak the same home language.


  • Encourage advanced ELs to compose sentences and responses without sentence frames, or with shortened sentence stems.
  • Allow advanced ELs to utilize a glossary, thesaurus, and dictionary for help with unfamiliar words.
  • Choose advanced ELs to share their ideas first in group and class discussions. Ask advanced ELs to add on, rephrase, or clarify what their peers say in class discussion.
  • Have advanced ELs repeat instructions and key vocabulary, summarizing important information for the class.
(5 minutes)
  • Write five examples of metaphors on printer paper. Number each metaphor with a unique number (1–5) and hang them around the room. (Note: These metaphors can be prepared prior to the lesson.)
  • Hand out a sheet of lined paper to each student and instruct them to number their paper 1–5.
  • Write a sentence frame on the board that reads, " _And _Are alike because they both ____." Tell students that they may use the sentence frame as support during the activity.
  • Have students count off to five, so that each student has an assigned number. Then, tell them to take their paper and pencil to the metaphor with their assigned number. (Note: Students may need a clipboard during this activity.)
  • Guide your students through a scoot activity using the displayed metaphors.
    • Instruct students to read the metaphor and write a sentence explaining its meaning. Remind them to use the sentence frame for support.
    • Tell students to record their response next to the number on their paper that aligns with the number of the metaphor (i.e., if they start at metaphor three, they should write their response next to number three on their paper).
    • After one minute, signal your students to move to the next displayed metaphor (i.e., if they are at metaphor number three, they should move to number four).
    • Continue the activity until all students have visited each of the five metaphors.
  • Collect students' scoot responses to gauge understanding.
(3 minutes)
  • Direct students' attention to the brain dump and explain that they will be reflecting on what they learned about metaphors. Give students a minute of thinking time to quietly review the brain dump.
  • Write several sentence stems on the board:
    • "Before the lesson, I wondered ____, but now I know..."
    • "A question I still have is..."
    • "Something I learned is..."
    • "An example of a metaphor is..."
    • "Some linking verbs are..."
  • Hand out a sticky note to each student and tell them to choose a sentence stem (or write their own sentence) to reflect on the lesson.
  • Invite students to add their sticky note reflections to the brain dump.
  • Read some of the student responses aloud and make connections to some of the initial understandings that were shared earlier in the lesson (i.e., draw arrows from the original responses to the new sticky note reflections).

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