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How I Work on Figurative Language Goals in Elementary Speech Therapy

Updated: May 8

Using storybooks and graphic organizers makes targeting figurative language goals in speech therapy a -- ahem -- piece of cake!

*Free download below*

Figurative language goals feature prominently on the IEPs of our speech therapy students, am I right? And this makes sense, given that figurative, or nonliteral, language can be super confusing for kids with language-based difficulties.

As SLPs, we listen more critically to language and are often very attuned to what elements in language are causing our students' comprehension to break down. Figurative language is a big one and it's everywhere.

Ever seen that bemused look on some kids' faces when one of their peers tells a joke? Or when a teacher uses an idiom? Or when they come across some metaphorical language in text?

I have found that these kids who are struggling with figurative language really want to crack the code on the confusing language they are hearing, and, in doing so, it opens up a whole new world of flexibility around language. Total win-win.

As you may already know, StoryWhys is based on a fundamental set of graphic organizers (you can find them here) that kids grow increasingly adept at using the more they work with them.

Here are the 3 StoryWhys graphic organizers I use to help tackle my kids' figurative language goals:

1. The "sayings" graphic organizer

Long before kids need to learn the difference between a simile and a metaphor, they are already encountering a ton of figurative language, often through idioms.

I find adults who aren't language specialists may not even be aware that they're using confusing, nonliteral language around students. Whenever I need to, I'll tell my student, "That's a saying. It sounds like one thing, but it actually means something different."

We then use this graphic organizer to explore what the saying is, what it sounds like it means, and what it actually means. It can get pretty fun to ham it up and draw a picture of what it sounds like it means! This free download is a book companion for The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater, a story that is filled with idioms - try it out for yourself!

With some of my students, we'll gather a collection of sayings that we keep in a binder so we can review their meanings and practice using them. Here's an example of a sayings page I created with a student:

a sayings page for figurative language

StoryWhys comprehensive book companions have figurative language sections that feature sayings that you can explore the meanings of. Some great ones are:

This FREEBIE, for The Big Orange Splot, also has a TON of sayings in it. You can download it here.

2. The Venn diagram graphic organizer

While similes are more straightforward, metaphorical language can really baffle kids, language impaired or otherwise! A strategy I have found that has worked to support my students' comprehension of metaphors is using the StoryWhys Venn diagram.

Check out this completed Venn diagram page from the book companion for Last Stop on Market Street. It helps to illustrate the metaphor, "The bus sighed and the doors swung open."

figurative language activity with venn diagram

What's most important is that kids determine the commonality, or the middle part of the Venn diagram; the key to the meaning of the metaphor is what the two elements have in common.

Books I love to use to target metaphor comprehension are Last Stop on Market Street and Come On, Rain!

3. The Feel/Think/Say graphic organizer

Finally, I have to give a shout-out to the hilarious Amelia Bedelia books; they feature so many ways that language can be misinterpreted, often due to figurative language, but also multiple-meaning words. It can be helpful for kids who are confused by figurative language to highlight situations where Amelia interprets the language one way, even though the speaker intended it another way. And the fact that it is often very funny is a total bonus!

Here's a StoryWhys Feel/Think/Say graphic organizer that helps students explore character thoughts and feelings when Amelia misinterprets the saying, "tap your toes;" the conductor is suggesting that Amelia tap her toes to the beat of the music, while Amelia thinks he is telling her to touch her toes.

a graphic organizer to help with misunderstandings due to figurative language

You can get the book companion for Bravo! Amelia Bedelia here.

And if you're interested in a super fun (and verrry easy to implement) way to target more figurative language goals, check out this post about my Joke of the Week!


Did you enjoy this blog post? Subscribe below to get the latest blog posts, which feature lots of speech therapy ideas for busy SLPs who want to provide fun, impactful, and meaningful speech-language therapy.

Have you heard? StoryWhys now offers the Speech and Spell series of resources. I am always trying to tie articulation work and spelling together in my therapy and I've never found any good resources out there to help me do this. So I made my own! Many more speech sounds and spelling rules to come. They'll be 50% off for 48 hrs when new resources are added to the StoryWhys store. Find them here.

Did you know book companions can be among the best speech therapy materials for elementary students? Explore all of the StoryWhys book companions for speech therapy in my store. You'll find comprehensive book companions that target many different language skills or Spotlight Series book companions that focus on one type of skill, all using high-quality, beloved storybooks.

And get your FREE, 71-page book companion for speech therapy on the free download page.


link to StoryWhys homepage

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