A Fun Way to Teach Similes

by Bruce Lansky

When I was a student, I understood that poets sometimes used similes to describe sunsets, clouds, and snowflakes, but I didn't really care. I never got in the habit of using metaphors and similes in my writing (and speaking) until I began writing poetry.

I recently wrote a poem about similes, which was published in If Pigs Could Fly...and Other Deep Thoughts, that seems to crack kids up. After they read it, they start to understand the power of similes. If you use tired, old similes, you sound corny and predictable. If you use fresh, new similes, you sound clever and witty—which is a pretty good reason for any kid to use fresh similes whenever possible.

Here’s the poem:


Poor as a church mouse.
strong as an ox,
cute as a button,
smart as a fox.

thin as a toothpick,
white as a ghost,
fit as a fiddle,
dumb as a post.

bald as an eagle,
neat as a pin,
proud as a peacock,
ugly as sin.

When people are talking
you know what they'll say
as soon as they start to
use a cliché.

© 2000 Bruce Lansky, reprinted from If Pigs Could Fly...and Other Deep Thoughts with permission of Meadowbrook Press

When I first read this poem to kids, I was struck by the fact that it made kids laugh. Apparently, some kids have never heard these expressions, even though they are as old as the proverbial hills.

Although some of the similes will be familiar to your students, I think they’ll understand that using boring, predictable similes makes the speaker (or writer) boring and predictable.

With that established, here’s the creative exercise: Reproduce this poem for your students without the last word in each line. Have them fill in the blanks. Their assignment is to complete at least one stanza with fresh, new similes that use the following rhythm and rhyme pattern:

da DUM da da DUM da (A)
da DUM da da DUM (B)
da DUM da da DUM da (C)
da DUM da da DUM (B)

To make it easy for you and your students, here’s the altered poem (now titled "Clever").


As poor as a _______.
As strong as an ______,
As cute as a ______,
As smart as ______.

As thin as a ______,
As white as a ______,
As fit as a ______
As dumb as a ______.

As bald as an ______,
As neat as a ______,
As proud as a ______,
As ugly as ______.

Use fresh similes when
you speak and you write,
so your friends will think you are
quite clever and bright.

Before you offer this project to your students, why not try it yourself? Share your results with your students.

Have fun!

Bruce Lansky

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    If Pigs Could Fly...