Week 3: Using Figurative Language


  • The difference between figurative language and literal language is that figurative language makes a comparison using unlike things that share qualities. Literal language means exactly what it says.
  • This is a good place to push past cliché. Watch out for idioms (figures of speech), and try not to use them in the examples you give. Your kids will want to give you examples of simile and metaphor that are basic. Deep is a place for original language, not “fast as a cheetah” or “raining cats and dogs.” How can you make it your own and say it in a way that’s never been heard before? Show your writers that figurative language is much more than just idioms.

Today’s goal

  • Use figurative language to describe [choose one for your lesson:] a person, object, or idea.

Target exercise ideas

  • Do this T-chart exercise with your kids in order to get this abstract concept across (brought to you by Deep’s founder, Catherine Killingsworth)
  • Songs can work in your favor. Pick a couple popular songs right now and type up the lyrics without any figurative language, translating it into literal, then ask your kids to guess the song. For the reveal, play a segment of the song itself. Use these illustrations to spark discussion.
    • Variation: Ask kids to choose their favorite song right now and find a figurative phrase in its lyrics. What is the artist really saying? What’s the meaning of this phrase? Get ready for some wobble moments, though, and don’t be afraid to point out when something is not actually a figurative phrase.
  • Literal Charades: Pair kids up and give each youth a figurative phrase to act out, without words. Let the partner guess, then switch. Make the distinction between literal: acting out/meaning what you say and figurative language. Looking for some examples of figurative phrases? Check out this list.
  • Idiom Remix: If your kids are stuck on idioms, remix them as a group. What does the idiom mean? Remix it in a new way that’s never been heard before.
  • For reference, check out Cure for IDK pg. 46, 52, 62



Reading ideas

Something with lots of figurative language and interesting, challenging comparisons.

Writing prompt ideas

  • A [person]: Imagine someone you love experiencing an intense emotion, like Toni did with her dad. Describe their expressions using figurative language. Try weather, objects, animals, musical instruments, etc.
  • B [object]: Choose a random object from a grab bag and personify it. Give it a voice, a life. What would it say if it could talk? What is it’s purpose? Its life goal? Biggest struggle?
  • C [idea]: What weighs you down? Make a list and use comparisons to show us how heavily these things weigh on you. / What lifts you up? Make a list of things that make you happy, and compare them to objects that are lightweight.

Sharing/performance ideas

  • Headliners: Make sure all Deep authors know what it’s like to be heard by designating one author to “open” the workshop and another to “close” by reading one of their works-in-progress. Celebrate with a roar of snaps at the end of sharing.