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
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
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.
you are interested in inviting Bruce Lansky to your school, click
these funny poetry books, click on the covers!