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Word Feast Elementary for Figurative Language
Ages: 7-10   Grades: 2-5

Ease frustration and end confusion for your students who interpret figurative language literally.  Each expertly crafted-lesson is designed to demystify the interpretation and use of this colorful language. 


  • Improve the ability to understand and use figurative language in oral and written communication
  • Understand communication intent
  • Improve social interaction
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*The CD contains the complete book.  All pages are printable.
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By the time typically-developing students reach second grade, they're using figurative language like pros.  Students with ASD and other language disorders misunderstand the communication intent of their peers, which often leads to social segregation. 

The lessons in Word Feast Elementary for Figurative Language will help your students access and apply figurative language in their communication and understand it when their peers use it.

Based on best-practice techniques, each lesson centers on a theme and includes:

  • targeted figures of speech
  • teaching tips
  • prior knowledge activation questions
  • controlled-level, context-rich reading passages
  • teaching activities that include interesting facts about how the phrase started
  • list of student-friendly meanings that include usage tips and correct/incorrect usage examples
  • answer key

Lesson themes include animals, school, food, sports, body parts, color, people, and many others.

Don't drop the ball or let your students fend for themselves when it comes to figurative language competence.  Word Feast Elementary for Figurative Language is chocked full of research-based, best-practice content and strategies.  It will perfectly complement your expertise and enrich your student's therapy experience.

Copyright © 2013

123 pages, answer key

The research base for specific forms of figurative language comprehension and usage is sparse, but "metaphor" and "metaphoric language" have been explored to some depth.  The types of figurative language presented in this book can be classified under the general umbrella of metaphor, and the evidence under that label is relevant to the series.

  • Vocabulary knowledge is strongly correlated to reading comprehension proficiency and school achievement.  Children who start school with poorly developed vocabulary skills will, without robust instruction, remain academically behind their peers (Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2002).
  • Reynolds and Ortony (1980) investigated the comprehension of similes and metaphors by second- through sixth-grade typical children.  They found evidence of an ability to understand figurative language by children at all grade levels when adequate contextual supports were provided (Seidenberg & Bernstein, 1986).
  • Many learning-disabled children appear to have the requisite abilities and strategies for metaphoric comprehension in their cognitive repertoires but fail to spontaneously and appropriately access and apply them when they should . . . learning-disabled children often fail to spontaneously identify the need to use appropriate, cognitive processing strategies that are well within their cognitive competence (Seidenberg & Bernstein, 1986).
  • Metaphoric competence reflects an individual's cognitive level, abstract reasoning ability, and linguistic competence.  The likelihood of [identifying] nonliteral responses [in figurative contexts] depends primarily on these competencies but is also influenced by an individual's familiarity with the specific figurative forms being studied (Lee & Kamhi, 1990).
  • The ability to understand the motives and intentions of others is essential.  Assisting children with ASDs to decode figurative language may improve their social skills in relating to others (Mackay & Shaw, 2004).
  • Understanding a speaker's communicative intention is a central goal of communication and involves going beyond the literal meaning of an utterance.  Children who do not understand these intentions have major communicative difficulties.  Often, they are rejected by their peers, further reducing opportunities for interaction.  Perhaps they struggle on with their frustration and confusion unnoticed, as the people around them continue to use figurative language.  Our closer attention to the specifics of their difficulties should help them when they try to work out the meanings and intentions in the figurative language of their communicative partners (Mackay & Shaw, 2004).

Word Feast Elementary for Figurative Language incorporates these principles and is also based on expert professional practice.


Beck, I.L., McKeown, M.G., & Kucan, L. (2002). Bringing words to life: Robust vocabulary instruction. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Lee, R.F., & Kamhi, A.G. (1990). Metaphoric competence in children with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 23(8), 476-482.

Mackay, G., & Shaw, A. (2004). A comparative study of figurative language in children with autistic spectrum disorders. Child Language Teaching & Therapy, 20(1), 13-32. doi: 10.1191/0265659004ct261oa

Reynolds, R.E., & Ortony, A. (1980). Some issues in the measurement of children's comprehension of metaphorical language. Child Development, 51, 1110-1119.

Seidenberg, P.L., & Bernstein, D.K. (1986). The comprehension of similes and metaphors by learning disabled and nonlearning-disabled children. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 17, 219-229.



Linda Bowers


Linda Bowers, M.A., SLP, is co-owner, co-founder, and researcher for LinguiSystems since 1977.  She loves to cook, travel, and be with friends and family.  She is the proud mother and grandmother of a wonderful daughter and two wickedly funny grandsons.


Our Word Feast Series is one of those therapy beasts that takes on a life of its own.  This third-in-the-series book has grown into a full-on whopper of figurative language, meant to tickle, teach, and titillate your students into learning colorful language (the good kind!) with gusto.  Gone are the worksheets of yore.  In with the pages of fun activities that will ramp up the enthusiasm only youth can show over learning new figurative language with which they can manipulate their ever-challenging environment. 


When we wrote the first two Word Feasts, we based them largely on the work of Beck, McKeown, and Kucan.  Their research, presented in Bringing Words to Life (2002), has inspired many other researchers and teachers to test the theory that more might be better.  By more I mean more challenge, more meaning, more color, and earnestness in presenting language to students to ingest, taste, and savor.  I wanted to challenge the notion that our students with language and learning disorders can't learn figurative language because it's too abstract, representational, and obtuse.  I wanted to find a way to capture their innate curiosity about the world and transfer that curiosity into discovering our bountiful language. 

The sixteen lessons presented in this book are divided into student-friendly themes.  Some themes are repeated because there are so many examples of figurative language in the themes that they deserved more exposure.  Within each lesson are metaphors, similes, hyperboles, idioms, clichés, alliterations, onomatopoeia, and personifications.  The lessons don't teach these types of figurative language per se.  Instead, the focus is on making the expressions so easy to understand and appealing that they will become a part of a student's automatic language repertoire.  In short, I really don't care if a student can tell a metaphor from a simile.  I just want the student to crave learning more.


Learning Activities
Each lesson follows a consistent pattern, more or less, of reading and thinking exercises which enhances learning by removing any question of unpredictability.  The lessons follow this formula with some exceptions:

  • Page 1:  New figurative language list, teaching tips, and activating knowledge
  • Page 2:  One or two reading passages
  • Page 3:  More reading passages or the start of the explanation of meanings
  • Page 4:  Continuation of meanings
  • Page 5:  Making Associations and other thinking activities
  • Page 6:  Finish the Thought and other thinking activities
  • Page 7:  In Your Own Words and other thinking activities

This formula will allow your students ample practice investigating and using their new figurative language and will allow you to expand the activities with your own creativity. 


Common Core State Standards
By grade 2, students are expected to understand and use alliteration.  By grade 3, students are gleaning meaning of expressions from context clues in narratives (especially fables, folktales, and myths) and poetry.  Grade 4 advances these skills by incorporating dramatization.  Figurative language takes a major role in making 4th grade drama and poetry more accessible to students.  Grades 5, 6, and 7 further promote the understanding and use of figurative language by emphasizing metaphors and similes while reading historical fiction and expository writing. 


SLP as Teacher and Cheerleader
Remember to read all the passages aloud to your students and pour on the enthusiasm and exaggeration.  Because our students may not readily "get" suprasegmentals, it's important to start each lesson this way.  As students become more familiar with figurative language, you can dial down the hambone routine!  Most of all, have fun with these lessons and make them your own.  Do whatever strikes your fancy as long as you engage your students in learning and embracing this most colorful aspect of our language.