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Activities for Teaching Literary Terms

The idea of teaching literary terms to another group of middle-grade kids might make you want to forego lesson planning and watch a movie instead. Luckily, this is not an either/or proposition. There are many fun and interesting activities that can be used to teach literary terms. 

Teaching (or learning) any list of terms can sound like a daunting chore! However, using the right methods can make it much more fun. If you don’t have enough time to prepare for a lesson – just use online helpers. For example, you can teach 3 types of irony in literature with the assistance of StoryboardThat materials. And if you have more time, you may engage in a thorough preparation. Some of the best activities to use in teaching literary terms include games, physical-movement activities, debate, and writing exercises.

Tips to Help You with Teaching

Here’s a short list of some of the methods many educators have found most useful when working with middle-grade students:

1. Literary charades

This is a great activity for practicing literary terms in a fun, hands-on way. Simply divide the students into teams and assign each team a list of literary terms. Then, have them act out those terms for their teammates to guess! For example, if one team is assigned “onomatopoeia,” they may act out the sound of a train – with lots of whistling and chugging.

2. Book scavenger hunt

Create a list of specific literary terms (or examples of them), and hide copies all around your classroom or school library. Give each student a copy, and then set them loose to search for the terms. As they find each one, have them write down the definition so that you can review it later. This is a great way to make students more aware of important literary terms and improve their reading comprehension skills at the same time!

3. Debate

Using debate is another great way to practice literary terms. Divide students into teams, and have one student from each team take the role of “pro” while the other portrays the “con.” Then, give them a list of different arguments related to a specific term, such as “personification” or “conflict.” Students can choose which side to argue, and the team with the strongest points wins!

4. Storytelling

This is a great activity for practicing the figurative language. Have each student choose one or two different literary terms (such as simile or metaphor), and then have them write or tell a story that includes examples of those terms. This is a fun way to get students thinking about how different literary terms can be used in writing, and it can also be a great way to work on their creativity and writing skills.

5. Create card sets

Making your own card sets for literary terms can be a fun way to reinforce what students are learning. Simply print out definitions of different terms – or even just examples of how they can be used in writing – and then use them to play games such as Go Fish or Crazy Eights. The benefit of this approach is that you can create specific card sets for any topic of the lesson and use any terms you need. Moreover, depending on how you’ll use the cards, this option works great both with younger and older students. Just pay attention to their response and their reactions to this activity and modify it if necessary.

6. Class readings

This is a great way to reinforce different literary terms in a fun, engaging way. Simply choose plenty of short stories and poems for students to read aloud, and then listen to how they use the different terms as they read. If you don’t want to choose all the written works yourself, there are many resource lists available online that can help.

7. Picture books

Some literary terms are best understood when they’re illustrated. For example, you can use examples of personification and onomatopoeia by showing picture books to students. This is a great way to help them understand how these terms can be used in writing, and also allows them to get visual examples of the concepts!

Though teaching literary terms may seem like a chore at first, with the right methods it’s something that middle-grade students will actually look forward to doing. And when you see the positive impact it has on their reading and writing skills, you’ll be glad that you made the effort!