Standard Lesson

Lonely as a Cloud: Using Poetry to Understand Similes

4 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Four or five 60-minute sessions
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Many students approach poetry writing with fear and trepidation. Literature can provide a scaffold for students to use when approaching a new writing task and can help create an environment that increases the opportunity for student success. In this lesson, students identify similes in poetry and gain experience in using similes as a poetic device in their own work.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • A poetry link is a writing suggestion, statement, or assignment that stems from an original text.

  • By examining models, students can make their own reading-writing connections. They use these models-playing with the meaning, form, and elements of the original-as a springboard for their own writing.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

Materials and Technology

  • Willow branch or photo of a willow tree

  • Ginkgo branch or photo of a ginkgo tree

  • "A Red, Red Rose"

  • Poetry books

  • Mirrors of various sizes

  • Dictionaries and thesauri

  • Writing notebooks

  • Writing and drawing tools

  • Reflection journals/learning logs

  • Chart paper

  • Overhead projector and markers




1. Gather an assortment of poetry books and literature samples using similes. A few example poems are listed under Resources, but you may choose other selections from your personal, classroom, school, or public libraries.

2. Place mirrors around the classroom.

3. Create book bins for every three or four students in your class with at least one dictionary and one thesaurus per bin. You may also want to include a few poetry books in each book bin.

4. If you have classroom computers with Internet access, bookmark the simile poems listed in the Resources section, as well as Said What? Similes.

5. Make one copy of "Willow and Ginkgo" and the Self-Assessment Task Sheet for each student. You may also want to make one copy of the Simile Poem Brainstorm sheet for each student.

6. Make overhead transparencies of "Willow and Ginkgo" and "A Red, Red Rose" or write these poems on chart paper.

7. If possible, find a willow branch and a ginkgo branch to bring in for display. If not, bring in photographs of these types of trees (online images are listed in the Resources section). Keep these materials out of sight until the middle of Session 1.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Gain knowledge by defining the term simile

  • Apply this knowledge by identifying examples of similes in literature and poetry

  • Practice analysis by examining the purpose and effect of similes in poetry

  • Synthesize their knowledge by using a graphic organizer to create their own similes and then incorporating these similes into their own writing

Session 1

1. If your students have writing notebooks or rough draft books, have them take out their books and turn to the first empty page. If not, distribute blank sheets of paper to students and have them fold the paper into quarters.

2. Explain that willow and ginkgo are two different types of trees and tell students that you will be reading a poem called "Willow and Ginkgo." Ask students to draw a picture in the top left section of the paper showing what they think a willow tree looks like and a picture in the bottom left section of what they think a ginkgo tree looks like. Reassure them that this is only a guess and they will not be graded on the accuracy of their drawings.

3. Read the poem "Willow and Ginkgo" aloud. You may choose to display the overhead or chart paper copy of the poem as you read.

4. Remind students that poets use a variety of word techniques when writing poems. In this lesson, they will be studying similes. According to, a simile is "a figure of speech in which two essentially dissimilar things are compared, often in a phrase introduced by like or as, as in 'How like the winter hath my absence been' or 'So are you to my thoughts as food to life' (Shakespeare)."

5. Reread the poem aloud, asking students to focus on the similes the author uses. You may ask students to put their heads down on their desks and close their eyes while they listen, which may help them to focus on listening for the similes. Each time they hear a simile, they could indicate with a raised hand.

6. At this point, if you have been conducting this lesson orally, display the overhead or chart paper copy of the poem. Invite students to come up to the overhead or chart paper and underline the similes.

7. Once five or six of the similes have been underlined, distribute copies of the poem and have students underline all of the willow similes in one color and all of the ginkgo similes in another color.

8. Remind students that one of the reasons authors use similes is to paint a picture with words.

9. Have students read aloud the willow similes and then ask them to draw a picture of a willow tree in the top right section of their papers, using the author's words to help them add detail to their picture.

10. Then have students read aloud all of the ginkgo similes and draw a picture of a ginkgo tree in the bottom right section of their paper, again using the author's words to help them add detail to their picture.

11. When students are finished, they can share their completed work in a small group or with the whole class. Display also the actual branches from a ginkgo and willow tree or use the online images of these trees (see Resources).

12. Have students discuss, with a partner or as a whole group, if or how their drawings changed after listening to the poem. Post the reflection question:
Did the similes help you to "see" the gingko and willow more clearly? Why or why not?
13. In a reflection journal or learning log, have each student record the dictionary definition of simile, and then his or her own definition of simile. Have them copy one example of a simile from "Willow and Gingko" and write their own thoughts on the reflection questions from step 12.

Session 2

1. Review the definition of simile.

2. Read aloud "Willow and Ginkgo" again. Explain that authors can use similes to describe almost anything-things in nature, feelings, actions, and even themselves. Depending on how well you feel your students are grasping the concept of a simile, you may wish to read several simile poems from the Resources list, asking students to identify similes during and after you read as you did during Session 1.

3. Tell students that in this session they will be writing similes of their own. Have students open their writing notebooks or rough draft books to the next blank page or distribute the Simile Poem Brainstorm sheet. If using student notebooks, have students draw a graphic organizer similar to the one on the Simile Poem Brainstorm sheet.

4. Ask each student to think of a topic for his or her simile poem. The poems can be about themselves or about another topic, such as a pet, favorite season, or sport. In each of the seven boxes, ask students to write one physical or character trait describing the topic (e.g., long legs, curly hair, brown eyes). Those students who are writing about themselves may choose to use the mirrors for inspiration.

5. Ask students to develop each trait into a simple simile (e.g., eyes as brown as chocolate). If you have struggling students in your class, you may have them choose only four of the traits to develop into similes. For students who require a further challenge, invite them to create two similes for the same trait.

6. Have students look for similes at Said What? Similes. This page contains a list of similes in alphabetical order. Some students may also wish to visit the poetry websites below to look at how other authors have used similes to enhance their poetry.
7. Circulate while students are working. If a student is unable to complete the assignment independently, you may wish to have him or her work with a peer or form a small group for further instruction.

8. When students are finished, ask them to submit their Simile Poem Brainstorm sheets to you. Check that they have included at least seven simple similes that are appropriate. Make sure that all students have completed the assignment before you begin Session 3.

Session 3

1. Return to students their completed Simile Poem Brainstorm sheets from Session 2.

2. Put a copy of "A Red, Red Rose" on the overhead. You may read it aloud or choose a student to do so.

3. Underline the simile in line 1: "O my luve's like a red, red rose." The author could have stopped there, but instead he adds, "That's newly sprung in June." Discuss with students why they think the author added to his description.

4. Ask students to identify another example of this technique of adding on to the simile to make it more descriptive (lines 3 and 4).

5. Ask a student to share one of his or her similes with the class. Use it as an example to develop further. For example, if the simile is "My eyes are as blue as the sky," you may develop it into "My eyes are as blue as the sky on a cloudless summer day."

6. Have students develop their similes into a rough draft of a poem.

Session 4

1. Have students read their completed rough drafts to a partner. The partner can offer suggestions for the student to use when revising his or her poem.

2. Have students revise and edit their poems. Make sure that each group of students has ready access to dictionaries and thesauri.

3. Ask students to submit their completed rough drafts to you for final editing. You may wish to conference with individual students as they are working or when they complete their poems.

4. Remind students to put the date on their completed drafts and place them in their student writing folders.

Session 5 (optional)

1. Have students publish their final simile poems. You may have them use a word processing program on the computer or write out a good copy on lined or blank paper.

2. Encourage students to decorate their poems with borders, illustrations, or photographs that relate to the topics of their poems.


  • Compile all completed pages into a class book. Circulate the book to staff members, family, and friends of the students. Include a page where readers can respond in writing to the authors.

  • Compile a list of all their brainstorming work on similes to be stored in the writing center as a resource.

  • As students are reading self-selected books, they can use sticky notes to mark any passages where they find an interesting simile and then share it with the class later.

  • Assign students to write another poem in the style of "Willow and Ginkgo" that uses similes to describe and compare two similar items.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Informally assess students' comprehension of similes during class discussion. Do students correctly identify similes in the poems you read aloud? Are students able to underline the similes in "Willow and Ginkgo?" You can also look at the definitions students wrote in their journals.

  • Check the Simile Poem Brainstorm sheets and the students' poems to make sure that students are able to come up with similes and extend them. Do students use similes appropriately in their poems?

  • Have students complete the Self-Assessment Task Sheet.