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Type of lesson: Vocabulary – Similes (through reading comprehension)
Level: Intermediate +
Aims: Presenting figures of speech (similes) in context; guessing the meaning of the similes in context; reading for the main idea (skimming); reading for specific information (scanning)
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Time: Approx. 90 minutes
Assumptions: Ss are familiar with reading comprehension (skim and scan reading), and guessing meaning of words in context. Ss may be familiar with the concept of similes and know some.
• A story. Source: theblcblog.blogspot.com/2007/02/more-simile-stories.html
• Handouts with text and activities
Note: for a list of similes check this link phrases.org.uk/meanings/36400.html
TESOL Lesson Plan: Teaching Vocabulary in Context
This is the story the students will read:
My friend Daniela told me the most incredible story last week. Of course, she’s as mad as a hatter, so you have to take everything she says with a grain of salt.
Now, the first thing you need to know is that she and her boyfriend Jeffrey are as different as chalk and cheese. He’s as sweet as pie, and she’s as happy as a cat with two tails to be with him. They were hiking in a national park when they suddenly came across a bear standing in their path as bold as brass.
As Daniela was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, it’s not surprising that she turned as white as a sheet and ran off as fast as greased lightning. Jeffrey, however, remained as cool as a cucumber, and just stood there on the path as quiet as a mouse. And wouldn’t you know it, as sure as God made little green apples, the bear slowly walked up to him. Jeffrey was as pleased as punch that the bear only sniffed him a bit, cuffed him hard across the head as playfully as a kitten, and ambled off. Jeffrey had been as helpless as a baby in the situation, but luckily he survived.
Step 1 – Introducing the concept of descriptive language and comparisons.
Technique: brainstorming – Interactive patterns: T-S; SSS (group work) – Time: 5 mins.
T writes the following words on the board and asks students in groups to brainstorm adjectives that describe the words.
pie cat kitten
Step 2 – Feedback and elicitation of the concept of descriptive language:
Technique: elicitation and discussion – Interactive patterns: T-S – Time: 5 mins.
Each group presents their adjectives to the rest of the class. Then T encourages a discussion on the function of adjectives and how they are used to describe nouns. T asks if those nouns can be compared: Are there any adjectives in the lists that can describe a cat the same way as a kitten? The concept of comparisons and how adjectives can be used to compare people or things is elicited from the students.
Step 3- Presenting the concept of similes through reading comprehension
Technique: skim reading – Interactive patterns: T-S; S (individual); SS (pair work) – Time: 10 mins.
T tells Ss they are going to read a story, and while they read it they have to focus on the following:
• underline the words they have described in the previous step (cat, pie and kitten)
T reminds Ss to read the text fast (skim through it) and that it is not necessary to focus on unknown words at this point. T checks answer.
T asks students to look at the text again and find the phrases that contain the words pie, cat, and kitten. T elicits the answers and writes them on the board.
as sweet as pie – as happy as a cat with two tails – as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs – as playfully as a kitten
T asks students what they think these phrases are (possible answers: descriptive phrases, comparative phrases), what they have in common (as…as), and if they know what they are called. T introduces the word simile and explains what a simile is (a way of describing an image so that the listener or reader can get a mental picture of what one is describing; it is a kind of comparison) and how it is formed (similes are comparison using ‘like’ or ‘as’; note that the similes in this text all follow the following structure: as + adjective + as to describe nouns, or as + adverb + as, to describe action verbs.)
Step 4 – Guessing the meaning of similes in context
Technique: scan reading through discussion and guessing the meaning of the phrases – Interactive patterns: SS (pair work); SSS (group work) – Time: 15 mins.
T explains that there are more similes in the story they have just read. Students have to read the story, identify all the similes and discuss with their partners what they think the phrases mean. Then, they have to present their ideas to the class.
as mad as a hatter
as different as chalk and cheese
as sweet as pie
as happy as a cat with two tails
as bold as brass
as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs
as white as a sheet
as fast as greased lightning
as cool as a cucumber
as quiet as a mouse
as pleased as punch
as playfully as a kitten
as helpless as a baby
As an optional activity, the students can scan read again and identify which words in the text are being compared or being referred to. For example,
as different as chalk and cheese is comparing Daniela and Jeffrey; as playfully as a kitten is comparing the way the bear cuffed Jeffrey across the head to a kitten doing the same in a playful way. Thus, the word ‘playfully’ is an adverb, describing a verb.
Step 5 – Understanding the story
Technique: scan reading through questions- Interactive patterns: S (individual); SS (pair work) – Time: 15 mins
T asks students to read the story and answer the following questions individually. Then, they can compare their answers to their partners’.
1- What did the writer mean by “take everything she says with a grain of salt”?
2- What did the writer mean by “And wouldn’t you know it, as sure as God made little green apples…”?
3- How did Daniela react when she saw the bear?
4- How did Jeffrey react?
5- What did the bear do?
The students present their answers to the whole class. T checks comprehension and corrects mistakes if necessary.
Step 6– Speaking about similes in other languages
Technique: discussion – Interactive patterns: SSS (group work) – Time: 10 mins.
T groups the students and asks them to discuss if they know of any similes in their own language and if there are some similarities with the similes they have learned in this lesson.
Step 7– Writing
Technique: Collaborative writing – Interactive patterns: SSS (group work) – Time: 20-30 mins.
Students in groups have to write a story using the similes they have learned in this lesson or any others that they may know. They can also look for more similes if they need them for their writing. Here is a good link for a list of similes phrases.org.uk/meanings/36400.html
Each group reads their stories to the class. They can compare their stories and identify how many new similes each group has used.