Elementary Fun and Inspiring Poems with Figurative Language for Elementary Students

Students working on CommonLit assignments on their laptops.

Introduce your students to figurative language with these 6 poems from CommonLit’s digital library.

CommonLit’s free online reading program offers a wide selection of poems to help students exercise their critical thinking skills and build their reading comprehension. In this blog post, we’ll share 6 engaging poems for elementary students and highlight some teaching tips that will build their knowledge on figurative language, including imagery, metaphor, personification, onomatopoeia, simile, and symbolism.

Thank You, Sleep!” by Carolyn Dee Flores (3rd Grade)

After feeling sick, the speaker expresses their gratitude to sleep for making them feel better. This fun poem exemplifies onomatopoeia with rich sound words, like “a-choo” and “ticktock.”

After students finish reading, have students watch this video to learn more onomatopoeia words. Then, challenge students to use onomatopoeia in a writing project, or ask them to use three onomatopoeia words during the school day.

Tsunami” by JonArno Lawson (3rd Grade)

In this poem about nature, the speaker describes a tsunami, comparing it to a ghost. The speaker uses similes to describe how a tsunami forms.

Measure students’ reading comprehension and understanding of similes with Assessment Question 4: “What does it mean when the speaker compares the wave’s movement to a ghost (Lines 4-6)?”

The Impossibles” by J. Patrick Lewis (4th Grade)

The speaker of the poem asserts that one cannot grow a garden of dreams without planting wishes. Using metaphors, the speaker describes how impossible things can become possible.

As students read, have them take notes on what type of things the speaker says you cannot do. Then, have students use their notes to answer Assessment Question 4: “What does the speaker mean when they say that your imaginations can take ‘long vacations’ in castles in the air (Lines 9-12)?”

Reading Lesson: "The Impossibles" by J. Patrick Lewis

The Clock Man” by Shel Silverstein (4th Grade)

When the Clock Man asks a child how much he would pay for an extra day, the child says they would not pay anything because they have many days ahead. As the child grows up, the Clock Man asks the same question, and their answer changes. Silverstein blends symbolism and personification in this poem to depict time and its value.

Assess students’ comprehension of these literary devices with Assessment Question 3, “What does the clock man represent in this poem?”

Eating in Silence” by Pamela Huber (5th Grade)

Using her grandma’s recipe, the speaker helps her mother make lasagna for dinner. As the family eats, the speaker wonders if her parents remember her grandma teaching her the recipe. This poem incorporates imagery and simile to describe the process of making lasagna.

Ask students to take notes as they read the text and identify the figurative language the speaker uses to describe cooking. After they finish reading, students can use their annotations to support their answer for Assessment Question 4: “Reread lines 4-6: ‘and we sprinkle / parmesan and asiago on the top – / and it falls like pollen on a field.’ How does the simile contribute to the tone of the poem?”

Dear Sky” by Naomi Shihab Nye (5th Grade)

Written in the form of a letter, the speaker of the poem thanks the sky for being a friend and connecting them to children all over the world who look up and see the sky. The author of the poem personifies the sky by writing a letter to it.

While they read, have students take notes on how Nye gives human qualities to the sky. Then, ask them to use their annotations to answer Assessment Question 5: “Why does the poet give the sky human qualities?”

Next Steps

Looking for more great poems for elementary students? Check out our CommonLit library!

If you’re interested in learning all about CommonLit’s free digital literacy program, join one of our upcoming webinars!

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