CommonLit Secondary Classrooms 7 Short Poems with Figurative Language For Middle and High School Students

Incorporate poems with figurative language into your upcoming poetry unit and boost student reading comprehension with assessment and discussion questions.

Got an upcoming poetry unit? CommonLit offers dozens of poems that will inspire your students. You can use these poems to build your ELA curriculum and amplify student reading comprehension with CommonLit’s reading assessments and discussion questions. In this blog post, we’ll share 7 short poems that include figurative languages, such as alliteration, metaphor, motif, personification, simile, and onomatopoeia, for grades 6-12.

Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein (6th Grade)

In this poem for 6th graders, the speaker describes a place where the sidewalk ends that adults cannot see, suggesting an imaginary world that only children can enter.The author uses similar sounding words that shift from positive to negative throughout the poem. You can assess students’ understanding of Shel Silverstein’s use of figurative language in the poem with CommonLit’s assessment questions, including Assessment Question 5: “How does the alliteration in line 9 contribute to the description of ‘this place’?”

Screenshot of "Where the Sidewalk Ends,” a poem with figurative language.

Identity” by Julio Noboa (7th Grade)

In this poem with figurative language, the speaker identifies with the life of a weed that breaks “through the surface of stone, to live.” Instead of a flower that is “praised, handled and plucked by greedy human hands,” the speaker would rather be a “tall, ugly weed” if it meant they could “stand alone, strong, and free.”

CommonLit’s reading assessment will challenge students with text-based questions, including, “How does the speaker’s description of the flowers develop the meaning of the poem?”

Love and Friendship” by Emily Brontë (8th Grade)

In this poem for 8th graders, Emily Brontë argues that friendship lasts longer than love. She compares love to the wild rose-briar that thrives only in the warm weather and friendship to the holly-tree that can endure the long, cold winter.

A screenshot of figurative language in the poem “Love and Friendship.”

This short poem is an excellent choice to demonstrate the use of metaphors to describe love and friendship. In a classroom discussion, ask students Discussion Question 1: “According to the text, what are the qualities of the holly-tree? And how does that answer the question: What is friendship? Cite evidence from this text, your own experience, and other art or literature in your answer.”

Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost (9th Grade)

In this poem that incorporates figurative language, the speaker describes the transformation of colors as the seasons shift. The speaker notices other things that change with the passage of time, like daylight.

Rich with alliteration, imagery, and metaphor, this poem brings nature to life through personification. You can lead a classroom discussion on Robert Frost’s use of figurative language in the poem with Discussion Question 2: “The speaker personifies nature by using the pronoun ‘her.’ Why does the speaker do this? What connection is the speaker making between nature and people?”

Sonnet XVII” by Pablo Neruda (10th Grade)

In this poem for 10th graders, the speaker explains that he loves his partner not for their bright and glittering parts, but for their dark and deep qualities.

 Screenshot of “Sonnet XVII,” a short poem with figurative language.

The author of the poem connects uncommon representations of love to highlight the theme of the poem. You can assess if students understand how Pablo Neruda incorporates juxtaposition as a figurative language in the poem through the short answers they provide for Assessment Question 4: “The speaker juxtaposes the ways they do and do not love their subject in this poem. How does this emphasize the theme of ‘Sonnet XVII’”?

Because I Could Not Stop for Death” By Emily Dickinson (11th Grade)

In this poem for 11th graders, the speaker takes a carriage ride with Death, passing by different parts of the town before she reveals that she’s been riding with Death for centuries.

Emily Dickinson makes death sound less fearsome by portraying it as a person in this poem. Students can exercise their knowledge of figurative language by exploring the author’s personification of death with Assessment Question 2: “What effect does the speaker’s use of personification have on the theme of the poem? Cite evidence in your answer.”

Morning in the Burned House” by Margaret Atwood (12th Grade)

In this short poem for 12th graders, the speaker envisions her childhood home burned. Although everything is damaged by the fire, the moment is peaceful in her vision.

Margaret Atwood uses fire, an element of destruction and rebirth, as a representation for the passage of time. You can gauge students’ understanding of Atwood’s motif in this poem with Assessment Question 5: “Throughout the poem, the speaker uses fire as a motif. What does this motif likely represent in the poem?”

Next Steps

Are you a teacher looking for more great poems with figurative language? Browse the CommonLit Library or come to one of our webinars!

If you are an administrator looking to leverage CommonLit in your school or district, our partnerships team can help. We offer benchmark assessments, professional learning, and more!