Teaching Simile and Metaphor with the Grinch

He's as cuddly as a cactus, he's as slimy as an eel, and for some reason my students adore him. I had started a figurative language unit after Thanksgiving and my students all had a pretty good grasp on similes. They were really struggling with metaphors.  Really really struggling, and I was stumped on what to do.  I brought in a stuffed Grinch to use for the 12 Days of Elf-mas, and as I was setting him on the windowsill, a lesson idea came to me.  As with most days, I threw out the plan I had (what plan?) and hastily whipped up this one.

I began by holding up my stuffed Grinch and asking the students to tell me orally what they knew about him.  Most had seen the cartoon or live action movies before, and could tell me some basic background.  Some of my ELL's had seen him before, but couldn't tell me anything about him. 

 I played the cartoon version of the song (you can find it on youtube) to let them become familiar with it.  Then, I gave each student a copy of the lyrics (get them here: Fit to Be Fourth) and asked them to pay attention to the similes in the song.  We discussed them and wrote them on an anchor chart.  We had already discussed hyperbole when we studied Tall Tales, which helped out a lot with them understanding that some things are not literal.  I have a group of majorly concrete thinkers.  

To review metaphor, I split them up into teams and  played the song for a third time. While they were listening with the lyrics in front of them, I asked them to think about other comparisons made in the song that didn't use like or as.  Having the similes already displayed on the anchor chart let them make the visual connection between the comparisons.  They knew not to look for the "like or as" phrases, and to focus on the others.  

We regrouped and each team wrote a metaphor they had found on the anchor chart.  It was funny to watch them look up some of the words they didn't know, and phrases they couldn't visualize.  For "you have termites in your smile" I had one student look up termites and one look up smile, then imagine what would happen if we put those two together.  There are so many great descriptions in the song; I was able to check if my students were understanding sensory words like slimy, moldy, sweetness, and imagery like seasick crocodile.

As an exit slip, I had them choose whether they would rather have a brain full of spiders or be a rotten banana.  They told their partner which and why (amid much giggling) and then shared with the class.

The next day we reviewed the difference between simile and metaphor, referencing our anchor chart.  I then showed them this link, which teaches you how to draw the Grinch (and other characters! it's so cool!).  We watched it together, then I showed them my example.

Their mission was to draw the Grinch from the tutorial with any metaphor or simile from the anchor chart we made.  I was tempted to have them draw the Grinch AS a cactus, or AS a bad banana, but decided it would be better to have them use the tutorial.  

They came out so great!

 After we put our drawings on the door (did I tell you they took away my bulletin board? Story for another time) we did a "gallery walk" and each student shared his drawing and told whether it was a simile or a metaphor.  They loved this lesson, and their learning was evident when sharing their drawings.  I'll give them a formal "written" assessment later when we do personification, but this was just the thing to hammer those concepts home.  Thanks, Mr. Grinch!

I got my inspiration for this lesson from these fabulous bloggers: 


  1. Forgot to add that the showing of the link to the Grinch drawing video is a great way to model for ELLs and to scaffold your lesson plan if you have different levels of learners. Your Newcomers, Emergent can watch the video without completely understanding English. Thanks for sharing for I am going to use this with my students.


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