Interpreting Figurative Language
Figurative language is a language that uses figures of speech that do not carry literal meaning. In other words, it is a way of saying something with intentions of communicating a different meaning. Commonly used in poetry, figurative language is meant to stimulate readers interpreting skills and create reality in the text by painting a picture in the readers minds. However, identifying or using figures of speech in the text poses challenges, especially to students because they often experience difficulties in interpreting them. When using figures of speech, learners often overuse them, thus creating ambiguity and confusion in the text. To use figurative language effectively, there is a need to be equipped with skills that necessitate easy identification and interpretation of figures of speech in the given text. Therefore, teachers ought to inculcate detection and interpretation strategies in students early enough for them to be able to use different figures of speech with ease and adequately.
When and How the Strategy or Skill Is Taught in School
In general, figurative language is exposed to children at a relatively tender age because people often use it in daily conversations. It means that figurative speech is a familiar phenomenon to children even before they attend school, but the majority of them may not be in a position to interpret figures of speech at this age. However, the scenario changes as they start attending school because, contrary to the home situation, the teacher assists learners in identifying and interpreting figurative language, helping them to become gradually more knowledgeable than before. After early childhood education, students are in a better position to learn the figurative language with the help of the teacher who introduces to them one figure of speech after another (Palmer, Shackelford, Miller, & Leclere, 2007). As children learn different objects in preschool, they will have less difficulty in identifying symbols or comparisons in childrens literature.
While teaching children figurative language, it is useful to start with simple figures of speech and explain them one by one while giving familiar examples. Using symbols that are familiar to children paints a picture in their minds and stimulates their ability to decipher the symbol (Boers, 2013). As children usually have a difficult time learning many complicated types of figurative speech, teaching them the common types, which are similes and metaphors, is less challenging because they can identify simple comparisons, as long as the symbols used are familiar to them. For the effective recognition of figures of speech within the text or context, teachers need to use certain strategies to facilitate their understanding (Boers, 2013). First, they should make it a habit to use one figurative speech, for example, a simile, in their daily conversation to familiarize students with its appropriate use. By doing so, children will also develop an interest in this particular figure of speech and will try to use it in their conversation.
To stimulate the interest of children in learning the figurative language, an instructor ought to incorporate pictures while teaching to create lasting pictures in their minds. For instance, the teacher can ask children to draw pictures of the objects in comparison while explaining to them the correlation between the two objects (Roe, Smith, & Burns, 2011). Consequently, they will be able to understand how different objects can be compared together to understand a different meaning. This will be an interesting activity because children like exciting exercises. Furthermore, to make the teaching more interesting, teachers can use puzzles to help learners to easily identify the objects in comparison (Palmer et al., 2007). It is much easier to give puzzle pieces for them to write examples of figurative language and ask them to match words with sentences that use the language. As a result, children will be in a good position to recognize figurative speech easily. When children successfully recognize a figure of speech in the text or context, the teacher should always appreciate them as an expression of motivation.
In relation to slow elementary learners, the instructor has to be patient in cases where students may not be able to absorb instructions as expected. In some cases, it takes some time for elementary learners to identify and appropriately use figurative language (Roe et al., 2011). Therefore, it is important to start teaching simple figures of speech before proceeding to complex ones. By doing so, students will avoid confusion that comes with the identification of various figures of speech. As it is common in poetry, exposing learners to poems with figurative language eases its identification and application, as well as stimulates interest in students to continue with the practice. Similarly, searching for phrases that have figurative speech and asking learners to interpret them by explaining how the meaning is different from the visual meaning contributes to a better understanding of the concept. In other words, reading poems that contain particular figurative speech in addition to thoroughly discussing them is an effective teaching strategy.
The Importance of Mastering the Strategy
Learning to use figurative speech is a significant step toward developing mature and rich writing style. In light of this, it is of value to note that mastering learning strategies facilitates the ability of learners to use figurative speech successfully (Fotovatnia & Khaki, 2012). Furthermore, developing skills, especially with the help of the daily practice, stimulates learners interest in striving with an aim of mastering interpretation of figures of speech. Systematic learning enables children to absorb better and enhances a deeper understanding, as well as the application of figurative speech. Comparatively, these strategies will make learning interesting, especially for young children, because incorporating figurative speech in daily conversation or songs stimulates their interest in learning. In essence, teaching figurative speech without strategies brings confusion among learners; thus, they might forget or misuse them.
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Negative Impact of Not Mastering the Skill
Generally, some students have difficulties in deciphering the figurative language, especially complicated speech, but with effective learning skills, learners have a better chance of identifying and using figurative speech in different contexts. However, a failure to master learning strategies leads to difficulties in using figurative speech appropriately due to the lack of interpretation ability (Fotovatnia & Khaki, 2012). For instance, a learner who has not mastered the skill will have difficulties identifying and interpreting a figure of speech in a given text. Moreover, children may overuse figurative speech in their writing, thus confusing readers with the ambiguity created in the case of such incidence. Similarly, the misuse of figurative language may occur when learners have not mastered learning skills and bring confusion in their written and spoken discourse. The lack of skills results in a slower rate of understanding even simple forms of figurative speech as learners interest in learning wanes.
Techniques That Might Be Used to Support a Student Having
Students having difficulties in identifying, interpreting, and using figurative speech need support. First, instructors can assist them by teaching how and when each device is used in a given context. This should be followed by giving them numerous examples in addition to explaining each at a time to give them a chance to digest the information systematically. Teachers should stimulate students interest to continue practicing on their own by giving them interesting examples. Once they recognize literary devices, teachers should take the opportunity to weave it into their writing as a way of reinforcing the newly acquired skill. In essence, incorporating figurative language in writing brings a different concept to learners, as well as stimulates their critical thinking. However, during the learning process, teachers should constantly encourage students so that they continue with daily practice as opposed to being tempted to give up prematurely due to the lack of motivation. Afterward, as learners become conversant with figurative speech, they might tend to overuse it. Thus, at this stage, it is advisable to teach that the restraint is vital, as this will help them regulate the use of figures of speech.
Other Important Aspects for a Teacher
After successfully teaching learners figures of speech, it is important to teach them reinforcement skills to retain knowledge and continue learning. For instance, teachers can assign poems and instruct children to rewrite them while removing any stylistic device (Cochran & Valentine, 2014). As a result, teachers are aiming at making students recognize the importance of figurative speech in literary works. Similarly, teachers can try to give them a poem that lacks stylistic devices and ask them to rewrite poems. However, this time, it is advisable to let them try adding figurative language to make the poem more interesting. By making learners realize that the use of stylistic devices to change the words literal meaning is interesting and enjoyable to both the reader and writer, students will develop an interest in reading materials that are rich in figurative language, thus expanding their scope of knowledge.
As a teacher, one also has the responsibility to monitor learners in their use of different figures of speech so that they use them appropriately without overusing or misusing some common ones. In addition, teachers should discourage them from using cliches in their speech, whether written or spoken. As the figurative speech is wide and incorporates things like imagery, onomatopoeia, and similes, among others, teachers should encourage their students to master one at a time to avoid mixing them in sentences. For instance, teachers can guide children in their learning by encouraging them to choose a particular figure of speech to handle it explicitly before moving to the next one. Significantly, one should also remember to appreciate learners who make efforts to incorporate figurative language in their speech and correct them appropriately if there is a need. This will further motivate them to learn more about using figurative speech correctly on the daily basis, as well as encourage others to make it a habit of using them. In the event of an exam, teachers should encourage students to read the given passage repeatedly to recognize hidden figures of speech before answering questions.
In essence, figurative speech helps people to understand the use of creative words to describe the setting, characters, and events in any given literary work. Comparatively, figurative language also enables readers to develop an image and establish the mood in the text. Therefore, learning how to interpret figurative language is a major step in understanding a wide range of literary materials. Though the identification of literary devices, particularly the complex ones, may be difficult for some learners, using skills taught in class assists in identifying and interpreting as well. As poems are rich in figurative language, learners need to be acquainted with them to recognize them. By interpreting poems, children gain an in-depth knowledge of interpretation and the use of different figures of speech. An exposure to different literary materials, for example, poems, novels, and short stories, increases knowledge of figurative speech, as these are good sources of different types of figures of speech and their appropriate use. Therefore, teachers should inculcate the culture of reading in students for them to acquire sufficient knowledge about figurative language.