What is a Simile?
A simile is a literary device that compares two things interestingly and vividly. Words like “like” and “as” are used to compare the two subjects. For example, “He was as quiet as a mouse” or “She smelled like a rose.”
Simile Examples for Kids
Writers often use similes to make their writing richer and give readers a good picture of what’s being described. Here are a few examples you can share with kids:
- As cold as ice.
- As light as a feather.
- Cool as a cucumber.
- American as apple pie.
- They’re like two peas in a pod.
- Sleeping like a log.
- Life is like a box of chocolates.
These simple examples for kids demonstrate the effective imagery this figurative tool can create. When written in sentence form, similes are equally effective. Take a look at this descriptive writing example where the similes are included in bold:
The cracked earth was as dry as sandpaper. Suddenly, lightning forked in the sky like fluorescent veins. The sky darkened to a moody gray, and thunder roared like an angry lion. Rain sluiced down from the sky, drenching the parched earth.
You’ll notice that many similes and metaphors (which we’ll talk about later) are references to nature. This makes sense if you think about how long the English language has been evolving. We’ve always had the natural world as a point of reference and used it for inspiration. Let’s look at some more examples:
- As warm as the sun.
- Trembled like an earthquake.
- Flowed like a river.
- As bright as a shining star.
- As calm as a lake.
- Tall like a tree.
Similes involving comparisons to animals are very common and popular with young learners in English lessons. Let’s look at a few animal simile examples for kids:
- Swim like a fish.
- Fight like cats and dogs.
- Busy like a bee.
- Brave as a lion.
- Fast as a cheetah.
- Happy as a pig in mud.
- Wise as an owl.
Your students may also enjoy a simile activity themed around wildlife. It’s handy for practicing how to write similes and developing creative writing and handwriting skills.
What’s the difference between similes, metaphors, and analogies?
Similes, metaphors, and analogies are figurative devices that interestingly compare different things. They can be used in both speech and written forms. However, certain differences make it easier to identify which is which.
We’ve seen how a simile uses words such as “like” and “as” to compare things. On the other hand, a metaphor is a figure of speech where an idea or object is used directly in place of another to suggest a likeness. Instead of saying, “She is like a rose,” a metaphor will state, “She is a rose.” Comparison words such as “like” and “as” are not used in metaphors. It’s up to the audience to interpret the sentence as a comparison instead of a literal meaning.
Like similes and metaphors, an analogy is a comparison to show the similarities between two things. However, an analogy makes a comparison only for reason to offer an explanation or to support an argument. Unlike similes and metaphors, analogies are used more for rhetorical reasons than as a figure of speech. A simile might say, “He grew as quickly as a bean plant,” to imply that he grows quickly and tall. An analogy would state, “Children are like bean plants in a garden – you need to nurture and feed them, so they can grow.”
A metaphor is something, a simile is like something, and an analogy explains how one thing is like another and helps explain them.
– Robert Lee Brewer
How do we teach and use similes in language?
We’ve learned that similes are comparison phrases that find similar characteristics in two objects and compare them, always by using the words “like” or “as.” Now it’s time to explore how we can use similes in our writing, especially in creative genres.
Teaching Similes in the Classroom and at Home
The key purpose of using similes is to enrich and create vivid imagery in our writing. Similes also allow children to practice their creative writing, develop their observational skills, and work on their handwriting skills.
Fortunately, there are plenty of easy and effective techniques that teachers and parents can use to teach children the use of similes. This kind of literary device is often found in poetry, along with metaphors.
Here are a few tips and tricks on working with similes in the classroom when teaching ELA:
- Poetry is a fantastic way to introduce similes to elementary school students. The shorter and more creative format helps to encourage them to use similes when it comes to their writing.
- Show your students a picture from a story. Ask children to identify a feature from that picture and then draw a comparison to that feature. For example, if a child chooses a picture of the moon, they may pick out similes such as the moon was like a face, coin, or plate.
- Work on distinguishing similes from metaphors using an upper-grade activity such as our Sorting Worksheet or Mystery Simile Animals. These are only two of the many worksheets you can use alongside your lessons on literary devices. Plus, these worksheets provide an opportunity to help explore simile examples for kids.
- You might like to learn about Kenning figurative phrases in poetry. These phrases are at least 1300 years old! Or, why not look at some famous simile poems? You’ll find plenty of similes and metaphors in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Robert Burns’ A Red, Red Rose, or “Hope” is a Thing with Feathers by Emily Dickinson. As you read the poems, why not ask your students which examples of figurative language can they find?
Teaching Similes Using Examples in Literature and Music
Students learning about figurative language can look for the appearance of similes in various formats. After all, reading and considering similes helps students learn how similes can be used effectively in writing.
There are plenty of examples where similes can be found in written text or verbal speech. Let’s look at a few:
Similes Found in Poetry
Daffodils by William Wordsworth
“I wander’d lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills.”
A Red, Red Rose by Robert Burns
(Note: The poem spells “Love” as “Luve” as part of its Scottish dialect)
“O my Luve is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve is like the melody
That’s sweetly played in tune.”
Twinkle Twinkle nursery rhyme
“Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.”
Similes Found in Literature
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
This is a lovely picture book you can use to introduce even young children to similes.
“Then the owl pumped its great wings and lifted off the branch like a shadow.”
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
“Edmund saw the drop for a second in mid-air, shining like a diamond.”
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
“Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.”
Similes Found in Songs
Roar by Katy Perry
In this song, Katy compares herself to various animals, using a famous phrase from boxing.
“Now I’m floating like a butterfly,
Stinging like a bee, I earned my stripes.”
Mean by Taylor Swift
“You, with your words like knives
And swords and weapons that you use against me.”
My Shot from the musical Hamilton
“Hey yo, I’m just like my country
I’m young, scrappy, and hungry.”
Plus, you can explore many other songs for their use of interesting similes and metaphors. You could look at Candle in the Wind by Elton John, Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan, I’m Already There by Lonestar, Hound Dog by Elvis Presley, and more.
Why not also ask your students for simile examples they may find in literature and songs?
Where do similes fit into the State Standards?
Similes and metaphors are often studied together at the upper elementary level in English Language Arts. Many third-graders should be old enough to understand the structure of similes and metaphors. Learning to identify different figures of speech will help their reading comprehension, especially in poetry and fiction, where figurative language is often found.
In fourth grade, the Common Core State Standards (ELA CCSS 4.5.a) notes that students need to learn to “explain the meaning of simple similes and metaphor…in context”. In fifth grade, students are expected to be able to “Interpret figurative language, including similes and metaphors, in context (ELA CCSS 5.5.a).”
With practice, children can develop their understanding and application of figurative language, such as similes. They will be able to see how similes, and other tools like metaphors and analogies, will help bring their writing alive. You can always use visual aids and reminders like our reference cards to recall the different figurative language tools or take our pop quiz on this important (and creative) ELA topic.
Similes are one of the literary devices to keep in any writer’s toolkit that will help elevate creative and persuasive writing beyond the literal.