What Is a Simile Poem?
Simile poems are simply poems that are built around an extended simile or a series of similes. Once you’ve taught your students that similes are comparisons using ‘like’ or ‘as’, tasking them to write simile poems is an excellent way for them to consolidate this understanding through hands-on practice.
How to Write a Simile Poem
Writing a simile poem is as easy as…
Before setting your students the task of writing a simile poem, you need to assess that they have a clear understanding of the purpose of similes and the mechanics of how they work.
Start by ensuring your students understand that similes:
1. Create images in the reader’s mind by connecting two seemingly unconnected things
2. Make a direct comparison of two things using ‘like’ or ‘as’
To do this, have your students practice writing some standalone similes first to allow you to assess whether they have this understanding.
Let’s take a look at some more fun activities you can do with your students to reinforce their understanding of similes:
- Have students read poems and circle the similes they find
- Read a poem to the students and have them raise their hands every time they hear a simile
- Hold a Simile Bee where you provide the contestants with a word, and they have to come up with a simile using that word.
Once you’ve ensured everyone has a firm grasp on what a simile is and how to compose one, your students are ready to move on to writing their simile poems.
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How to Get Started Writing a Simile Poem
Simile Poem Writing Stage 1. Choose a Subject to Write About
The task of a poet is to give the reader new and fresh insight into the world around them. The first thing the student needs to do is choose a topic to write about.
This isn’t always easy, so you should have some suggested topics available to help kickstart your students’ pens should they struggle to come up with their ideas. This will allow them to get to the task at hand quickly. Here are some suggestions for suitable topics you may wish to share with your students:
- Romantic love
- A famous person
- Specific emotions
The more advanced the students are, the more abstract the subject can be. While younger students may need to write about tangible things such as a person or an animal, older students may be up to the challenge of writing about such things as feelings and emotions and the like.
A good rule of thumb to follow here is that if the student is writing about something more ethereal, they may wish to make their comparisons with more concrete objects. This helps reader comprehension by climbing down the ladder of abstraction.
Conversely, when the student is writing about something more concrete, they can compare it with something more theoretical or universal. That is, they climb up higher on the ladder of abstraction.
Simile Poem Writing Stage 2. Brainstorm Ideas
Once the student has chosen the subject of their poem, it’s time to brainstorm. Encourage the student to unload all the ideas in their head onto the paper in a free-flowing and non-judgemental manner.
Now is the time for the student to silence the inner critic. Not all ideas will make it into the final poem, so there is no need for students to screen the worthiness of each and every idea as and when they arise.
The selection and editing process can all be done at a later stage. Right now, it’s most important that the page becomes a dumping ground for every half-baked idea that enters the student’s head – this is the source of real creativity.
As the students gather their ideas, they can begin to build them into similes, making a comparison using ‘like’ or ‘as’ between the subject or an aspect of the subject and their brainstormed idea.
Soon, the student will have gathered together a collection of similes on their subject. Now it’s time to turn those disjointed similes into a cohesive whole.
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Simile Poem Writing Stage 3. Structure the Poem
After the brainstorming exercise above, students should be left with a chaotic jumble of ideas on the page (or pages). Now is the time to bring some order to the project before writing poems that use similes.
There is no specific set structure to simile poems, so this is entirely up to the student’s discretion. Sometimes the content and ideas will suggest a clear structure or order to the student; at other times, the choice of organizational logic will be arbitrary.
Of course, simile poems can be written in free verse with no regard given to the length of stanzas, rhythm, rhyme, etc.
However, conforming to some set structure can help students craft their work and avoid the occasional tendency for student poetry to degenerate into a dirge.
It can be helpful to suggest some suitable structures to students to get them started. For example, couplets and quatrains can be basic structures that offer a solid framework for students to hang their words on without being overly restrictive.
Simile Poem Writing Stage 4. Edit and Arrange
By now, the student will have decided on a subject to write about, gathered up a host of ideas and transformed these into workable similes, and built some cohesive structure on which to hang everything. The final finishing touches are now all that is required to polish the embryonic poem into a full-grown masterpiece!
At this stage of the process, please encourage your students to play around with what they have so far. Students can experiment with the order of their lines, images, and stanzas. They may like to remove words, alter, substitute, and fuse elements of their work to find the most poetically pleasing version possible.
When all this is done, then a final proofread for spelling, punctuation, and grammar is in order.
Writing any form of poetry can be a lot of fun for students. But, for some students, poetry is the most daunting form of writing they can be asked to undertake.
Poetry can be difficult to pin down. It can be more difficult for some students to grasp the purpose of this genre of writing than it would be to grasp the purpose of instruction writing or a chronological report, for example.
For this reason, tasking students with a specific focus for their poetry-writing endeavors, in this case, similes, can go a long way to encourage them to approach poetry writing with a sense of experimentation and creativity.
By following the process above, even the most reluctant of poets should be able to produce a worthy simile poem.
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The content for this page has been written by Shane Mac Donnchaidh. A former principal of an international school and English university lecturer with 15 years of teaching and administration experience. Shane’s latest Book, The Complete Guide to Nonfiction Writing, can be found here. Editing and support for this article have been provided by the literacyideas team.