A step-by-step guide for how to teach RL.4 in middle school ELA.
It’s figurative language time, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE figurative language.
I love creating resources for it, and I love teaching it.
When we teach students about figurative language, it feels like we are finally providing them with a key to really understanding how language can be used to make people feel.
It is what helped make Shakespeare great. It is a foundational element of music and poetry and generally has a beautiful quality that people are drawn to.
As we begin diving into how to teach RL.4 in middle school ELA, we will talk about how to deconstruct the standards, what terms to focus on when working through figurative language instruction, and we’ll also identify some activity ideas for continued work on this standard!
As we start talking about how to teach RL.4 in middle school, let’s start with the learning targets!
For each standard, we like to identify some key goals. Here are the 3-5 learning targets that we used to develop our RL.4 resources.
6th Grade Standard: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices, including sensory language, on meaning and tone.
6th Grade Learning Targets
- I can explain the author’s meaning when given figurative words and phrases.
- I can explain the author’s meaning when given connotative words and phrases.
- I can understand the effect of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.
7th Grade Standard: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds (e.g., alliteration) on a specific verse or stanza of a poem or section of a story or drama.
7th Grade Learning Targets
- I can interpret the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text: Connotation & Denotation.
- I can determine the meaning of figurative language (e.g., simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole, idiom, symbolism, irony, imagery)
- I can identify sound devices (e.g., alliteration, assonance, consonance, onomatopoeia, rhyme, rhythm, and repetition) and determine how rhymes and sound repetitions influence a text.
8th Grade Standard: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts
8th Grade Learning Targets
- I can detect the meaning of figurative and connotative words and phrases using context clues.
- I can analyze the impact of word choice in relation to the meaning and tone of a text.
- I can analyze the impact of analogies and allusions in relation to the meaning and tone of a text.
Growing through Middle School
This standard is a really interesting one because the change from 6th to 7th grade is so specific, and then it gets more general again in 8th grade.
In 6th grade, students are just trying to figure out the meaning of both literal and figurative words, and they are paying attention to meaning and tone, but in 7th grade, the standard all of a sudden becomes much more specific to sound devices like alliteration and repetition and how they are found in texts. The standard writers also specifically identified the need to work with poems or dramatized texts.
Then in 8th grade, the standard becomes more vague again. They mention a few new figurative language concepts like analogies and allusions but don’t specify any types of writing to work through.
I find this breakdown interesting, and it also means that the way we teach in 7th grade needs to be a little more focused on poems and dramatized works than in 6th or 8th grade.
In our 7th grade RL.4 resource, we include several activities based on a few of the more difficult figurative language types, such as telling the difference between consonance, assonance, and alliteration) and we use more poems in the activities as well.
Literal Language vs. Figurative Language
One of the key components of this standard is the use of literal and figurative language in texts and stories.
Literal language is using words for their exact meanings. We often think of these as their denotative definitions.
Figurative language is phrasing that goes beyond the literal meaning of the words to get a message or point across. These meanings are connotative and sometimes specific to a place or culture.
As literal and figurative language (words and phrases) are present in all 3 standards listed for middle school, this language should be used and discussed often. In fact, figurative language work could be a daily occurrence in your class through digital activities, transition activities, or even bell ringers.
Figurative Language Terms for Middle School ELA
Resources for teaching RL.4
When picking resources to help teach RL.4, you’ll want to make sure the resource teaches, practices, and reviews the standard at the appropriate level for the students you’re teaching.
Each of our resources for this standard…
…works through the standard using grade-level-specific passages and activities that help the student develop the standard completely.
The resources include a lesson/activity for each specific learning target or concept and also include assessments, posters, and answer keys.
Activities and Projects for Practicing and Assessing RL.2 in Middle School
- In all three of our grade level resources for the RL.4 standard, we spend time on both connotative and denotative meanings of words in a variety of contexts with growing rigor at each grade level.
- Using imagery to draw a picture. In our 7th-grade resource, students are asked to use the language of the passage to create a drawing of the scene. This type of activity helps students to zoom in on the details and the way the scene is described through the vocabulary used.
- Figure of speech work is important in the RL.4 standard, so we have a quick activity in our 8th-grade RL.4 resource that gives students a chance to identify some phrases that they may come across in other texts.
- Choosing the RIGHT word practice is a great way to understand how language can change a text. In our 8th-grade resource, we have included an activity where students are asked to change a single word in a statement to make it stronger and more expressive.
- Describing a scene with figurative language is a fun way for 6th-grade students to practice writing metaphors, similes, hyperboles, and personification examples. Provide students with an image, and ask them to write one of each type of figurative language listed for the image.
- Song lyrics and poetry are also great for figurative language work, and you can do a lot of the same work we do in our resources alongside poems and music!
Ensuring your students understand and master the standards is a tough ask, but having good resources at your fingertips can make it so much easier.
Figurative language is a part of reading that needs ongoing instruction, practice, and review, and we have loads of resources in The Sparkly Notebook store that students can use to practice identifying figurative language.
Click on the images below to take a closer look!