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Lesson Plan

Finding Figurative Language in The Phantom Tollbooth

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Finding Figurative Language in The Phantom Tollbooth

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four to eight 40-minute class sessions
Lesson Author

Lisa Hinton

Parkton, Maryland


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Instruction and Activities


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Read the text The Phantom Tollbooth

  • Use the Internet to gather information and determine the literal meaning of unfamiliar words and phrases

  • Determine the figurative meaning of words and phrases using context clues from the story

  • Identify figurative language in the novel The Phantom Tollbooth

  • Learn the proper MLA format for citing sources

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Instruction and Activities

1. After reading Chapters 1 and 2, students access the Figurative Language Chart included with this lesson. This chart can be provided to students as an e-mail attachment or posted to the school-based server. Remind students to save the chart to their hard drive (in a personal folder) or a disk before beginning this activity.

2. Tell students to open the chart in a word processing program and look at the first example, "in the doldrums."

3. Students view a PowerPoint presentation: Welcome to the Doldrums. The PowerPoint presentation explains how sailors do not like to sail into the doldrums because there is not enough wind. The information for the presentation was gathered from various websites. If students still do not understand the phrase, they may search for more information about the doldrums on the Internet using a selected search tool. Both the literal and figurative meanings of "in the doldrums" are already included on the figurative language chart as an example for students. They can use this example as a guide for their own additions to the chart.

4. Provide students with the definition of figurative language: Figurative language is a tool than an author uses to help readers visualize what is happening in the story. Give each student one copy of the Figurative Language Resource Page. Explain that may different types of figurative language can be found in the novel, The Phantom Tollbooth. Allow students to use this resource page while completing the figurative language chart.

5. While reading The Phantom Tollbooth, students complete the figurative language chart by finding the word or phrase from column 1, searching the Internet for the literal meaning (see WEB RESOURCES for appropriate websites), and using context clues from the story to determine the figurative meaning. Assign students one chapter of the novel to read each night for homework. While reading, students should note the page in the book where they found the word or phrase. Internet research can be scheduled during class time to allow students to find the literal meanings of the words they found during their reading. The figurative meanings can be completed in class or at home.

6. After completing the examples provided on the chart, students identify 5 to 10 additional examples of figurative language used in the book and add them to their chart. Again, they should use the Web resources provided to determine the literal meaning of the word or phrase and context clues in the story to determine the figurative meaning.

7. Students create a separate Works Cited page to be included with the completed figurative language chart. They can access the Landmarks Citation Machine website to learn how sources are properly cited in MLA format. The Works Cited page will be evaluated based on the resources used, whether appropriate or not, and if resources are correctly cited.

8. After completing the chart and Works Cited page, each student compares his or her chart with another student and adds any additional examples of figurative language to the chart. After the charts have been revised, students save them to their folders on the hard drive or to a floppy disk. They can print a hard copy, e-mail an electronic copy, or provide the teacher with the floppy disk for evaluation.

9. A final whole class discussion focuses on the examples of figurative language found in the story. Each student should share at least one example from his or her chart with the rest of the class. During this discussion, you can informally assess students' understanding of figurative language.

10. Ask students how understanding the figurative meanings of words and phrases made reading the story a more pleasurable and interesting experience for them. Record student responses on the board or on an overhead projector.

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  • This lesson may be used with other children's novels. The novels should include examples of figurative language that can be readily identified. The chart may be changed to include a column for simile and metaphor or other types of figurative language.

  • Students can send Norton Juster an e-mail or letter describing how figurative language made The Phantom Tollbooth more interesting and enjoyable for them. In the letter, they should provide a few of their favorite examples of figurative language from the story.

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  • Evaluate students with a Figurative Language Rubric. The rubric is based on whether students correctly identified the literal and figurative meanings of words and phrases, how many additional examples they were able to find and record, and the resources that they used.

  • Figurative language chart answer key

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