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Figurative language is like sprinkles on a cupcake.

Before class, the teacher prepares several of interesting images. A different image is placed on different pieces of paper (one per group).

In class, the teacher first explains the difference between similes and metaphors. Students are put into groups of two or three. Groups are given the images and asked to write a simile and metaphor to describe the image. After 2-3 minutes, the groups pass their paper to the next group. This continues until groups receive practice writing at least 4-5 different metaphors and/or similes. To check the assignment, the teacher selects one of the images from the class to display and groups describe it with metaphors and similes.

This activity is an excellent warm-up and is a great way to allow students to think about incorporating figurative language into an upcoming descriptive essay.

Destination Unknown

Before class, the teacher should write down travel destinations of the country/region being studied (or more generally, international cities/sites) on small slips of paper and place them in a hat. In class, the teacher asks each student to draw a piece of paper out of a hat without showing it to anyone. Then the students write down three to four descriptive clues starting from hardest to easiest. They should then fold the paper accordion style so that only one clue is showing. Then the students pass the paper to another student. The student should read the clue and write down a guess of the destination. Next, they should pass the paper to another student who reads another clue and writes down a guess. Finally, the paper should be returned to the writer who reads the clues and reveals the correct answer to all students. This is a stimulating, quick way to review places and accompanying vocabulary. 

Story Building

The teacher presents a basic layout for a story (e.g. introduction, character development, plot climax, dénouement) then gives students a sheet of paper with each category and a prompt on it. The students write the first section (e.g. setting: a kingdom), sketch an image of their writing, then fold the paper so the writing is not seen. The paper is then passed to the next student who writes in the second piece (e.g. describe main character: a princess) and so on until the story is complete. The paper is then passed back down the row of authors so each can read the completed story. 

Wiki Story

Wikis are online tools enabling anyone to modify an internet page created for a collaborative purpose (e.g., Using a wiki as part of a course allows teachers and learners to make instant changes to the same document, visible to all online. This technology can help stimulate writing by providing material to which to respond in multiple ways. For example, have students choose a famous person or character from the target culture. Students then collaborate to write their persons’ journal as if they were living today. They can also record their reaction to material they come across as they explore the world.

With Napoléon Bonaparte, for instance, student A may include a picture and a small backstory on Napoléon and how he came to travel to today. They can summarize a newspaper article about Lady Gaga’s concert in Paris and Napoléon’s reaction and belief she is the leader of the world. Then student B updates the journal and explains how Napoléon figured out that Lady Gaga isn’t ruling on the planet and summarizes the current political situation in France. Student B includes a story of how Napoléon went to a restaurant and discovered the cake mille-feuilles. The recipe is included. And so forth. At the end of the term, stories can be printed into a little souvenir book.