5 Winter Picture Books to Teach Figurative Language

In college, my beloved Reading Methods professor read us picture books at the beginning of class. As twenty-something-old college students, we relished those five-ten minutes it took for her to read a book. We could relax, get lost in something other than student teaching hours, seminars, and projects, and just enjoy a good story. When she read us a picture book for the very first time, she asked, “Did you enjoy that?” Our response was, “Of course, we did!” She went on to say that if we, as grown adults, enjoy a picture book this much, then don’t discount it for older elementary students, middle schoolers, or even high schoolers. It was one of those ah-ha moments I’ve clearly held onto ever since. Today, we are going to dive into 5 winter pictures books to teach figurative language.

As a teacher who has taught all three levels of students: elementary, middle, and high school, her philosophy has proven true as I have used picture books quite often to teach concepts, as a brain break, and to ignite a love of reading and writing in students.

Picture Books as Mentor Text

Picture books are being used as mentor text more and more. Just because a book is written for younger students doesn’t mean the author didn’t devote hours to that piece of writing, perfecting every word, every character, and every storyline. Just because it’s geared toward younger students doesn’t mean that the writing isn’t amazing. Using picture books to teach students how to write is the beginning of students connecting authentic, real-world literature to their own writing.

When teaching writing, I love to teach figurative language, a concept explored in literature classes as we analyze stories and novels. Think about your favorite author and you probably don’t think about how many similes or metaphors they used; however, you do think about how descriptive their characters were or how they got the setting just right for you to imagine it clearly. Great authors use figurative language so smoothly that you don’t even realize it. Figurative language takes descriptive writing to the next level. It adds a creative flair to help readers understand the words and descriptions even more clearly. That’s a writing skill I hope my students can grasp.

The following picture books can be utilized as wonderful mentor text to teach figurative language. Plus, they’re based in winter, so it fits in nicely with the season, and if your students are writing a winter story, these books will be great inspiration.

1. Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen

A Caldecott Medal winner, this book breathes figurative language. It is in almost every sentence. This book paints such a lovely, timeless, still scene of winter. It is a soothing picture book that students will enjoy and glean a lot from on how to use figurative language.

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Publisher’s Synopsis: Late one winter night a little girl and her father go owling. The trees stand still as statues and the world is silent as a dream. Whoo-whoo-whoo, the father calls to the mysterious nighttime bird. But there is no answer.

Wordlessly the two companions walk along, for when you go owling you don’t need words. You don’t need anything but hope. Sometimes there isn’t an owl, but sometimes there is. Distinguished author Jane Yolen has created a gentle, poetic story that lovingly depicts the special companionship of a young child and her father as well as humankind’s close relationship to the natural world. Wonderfully complemented by John Schoenherr’s soft, exquisite watercolor illustrations, this is a verbal and visual treasure, perfect for reading around and sharing at bedtime.

Examples of figurative language:

Simile: The trees stood still as giant statues. / Somewhere behind us, a train whistle blew, long and low, like a sad, sad song. 

Personification: A farm dog answered the train, and then a second dog joined in. They sang out, trains and dogs, for a real long time. And when their voices faded away, it was as quiet as a dream.

Alliteration: Our feet crunched over the crisp snow./ He looked up searching the stars.

Metaphor: The moon made his face into a silver mask. 

These are just a couple of examples from Owl Moon. This book is a wellspring of figurative language. 

2. Snowflakes Fall, by Patricia MacLachlan

Snowflakes Fall is a wonderfully descriptive picture book all about the beauty of snow, the winter season, the children who enjoy it, and even the blessings found at the end of the winter season. Not only does this book contain a blizzard of figurative language, but the deep meaning and motivation behind this book are also inspiring. 

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Publisher’s Synopsis: In Snowflakes Fall, Newbery Medalist Patricia MacLachlan and award-winning artist Steven Kellogg portray life’s natural cycle: its beauty, its joy, and its sorrow. Together, the words and pictures offer the promise of renewal that can be found in our lives—snowflakes fall, and return again as raindrops so that flowers can grow.MacLachlan and Kellogg, who are longtime friends, were moved to collaborate on a message of hope for children and their families following the tragic events in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012. Kellogg lived in Sandy Hook for thirty-five years—he raised his family there and was an active member of the community. With Snowflakes Fall, they have created a truly inspiring picture book that is both a celebration of life and a tribute to the qualities that make each individual unique.

Examples of figurative language: 

Personification: Snowflakes fall to sit on gardens and evergreen trees. / Frantic, icy snowflakes scratch the window glass./ Branches fly and shadows darken dreams. 

Simile: Snowflakes fall, drift, and swirl together like the voices of children. 

Alliteration:On its loved library, And its familiar flagpole 

3. Bright Winter Night, by Alli Brydon

This adorable picture book has beautiful illustrations, incorporates the forest animals working together as a team, and has rhyming words. All of these elements will intrigue students, but it also has some great examples of figurative language. 

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Publisher’s Synopsis: The forest calls, and creatures come: big and small, one by one. They sense there is a task to do as night descends, replacing blue. On one bright winter night, a group of woodland creatures emerges from the forest. Despite their differences, they start to build something together, using items found on the forest floor. What are they making? And how quickly can they build it? Something special is happening tonight, and soon the animals are off—in a race to catch a glimpse of one of nature’s most astounding wonders! With lyrical text and sparkling artwork, Bright Winter Night is a celebration of the joy and beauty of nature and the special gift of friendship and togetherness.

Examples of figurative language:

Metaphor: The wolf pack launches with a start and races through the forest’s heart. 

Onomatopoeia: The sleigh careens, the rabbits jump as the rest go BUMP BUMP BUMP. 

Personification: The colors dazzle, glow, and blaze-the flashes sizzle, shock and amaze!/ The magic in the winter’s air drifts all around them, everywhere. 

4. The Snow Dancer, by Addie Boswell

Not only are the illustrations gorgeous in The Snow Dancer, but the word choice is the perfect example of descriptive writing. The figurative language is also amazingly abundant in this story. Additionally, if you wanted to choose one book to focus on onomatopoeia, this one is it! 

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Publisher’s Synopsis: Young dancer Sofia wakes up to a quiet, white world—it’s a snow day! She makes her way outside to the neighborhood park, where a field awaits her, white and shining and open. It isn’t long before the rest of the neighborhood wakes its sleepy head—and the other kids make their way to the park, scattering all of Sofia’s beautiful silence. But with the help of a new young friend, Sofia is ready to show everyone what a snow dancer can do on a perfect day like this. With lyrical language and gorgeous art, this book sparkles with all the joy and beauty of a snow day.

Examples of figurative language: 

Personification: All through the night, they fell-frosting the rooftops, fluffing the sidewalks, laying fuzzy hats on the fire hydrants. 

Alliteration: She sniffed the cold, clean air. 

Onomatopoeia: Whooomph! She fell down the hidden steps./ Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. She hopscotched down the invisible sidewalk.  (There are so many more examples of Onomatopoeia!)

Simile: The sun shone like a giant spotlight. The soccer field gleamed like a giant stage. /Outside the world sparkled and glistened. 

5. Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter, by Kenard Pak

I love this series of books. Kenard Pak has a picture book that says goodbye to every season and hello to another. These straightforward books with gorgeous illustrations use personification for the entirety of the story, as parts of the season speak as if they are animate. Not only is there a plethora of personification examples, but the author uses other figurative language examples as well. 

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Publisher’s Synopsis: As leaves fall from their trees, animals huddle against the cold, and frost creeps across windows, everyone knows―winter is on its way! Join a brother and sister as they explore nature and take a stroll through their twinkling town, greeting all the signs of the coming season. In a series of conversations with everything from the setting sun to curious deer, they say goodbye to autumn and welcome the glorious first snow of winter in Kenar Pak’s Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter.

Examples of figurative language: 

Alliteration: Autumn afternoon/Setting sun/wispy winds/…Swept into the sky

Personification: Now that the wispy winds have come, we fall from the oak tree branches and are swept into the sky! (Leaves)/ Our pine-needle branches shiver in the wind while you sleep. (There are many examples of personification!)

Metaphor: Hello, snowflakes. Hello. We fall in a white, misty curtain and muffle all the sounds around you. 

Simile: Hello, clouds. Hello. We cover the sky like a downy, soft blanket. 

Activities: 

To further practice identifying and writing figurative language, check out this FREE Picture Book Figurative Language Activity we have!

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We also have Figurative Language Posters available in our store as well!

Click here to grab yours today!

Conclusion:

Using winter picture books as mentor text to teach figurative language is a great way to provide authentic examples for students. Picture books can be utilized for any grade level as a way for students to see real writing examples that have figurative language and to practice identifying figurative language. Also, winter picture books bring just the right coziness that makes reading so fun and delightful. 

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Teaching Descriptive Poetry in November

November is the perfect backdrop for poetry. With the constantly changing leaves that fall like snow, the dark and dreary smoke wisp clouds, and colorful foliage peppering the grey-green lawn, there are so many inspirational scenes to use for teaching descriptive poetry in November.

April is National Poetry month and what an exquisite time to usher in the genre of literature with the stage of spring, but fall in November is just as wonderful of a time to write poetry! From describing the fall scenery to describing what students are thankful for, to even tasking your class to describe a Thanksgiving dish, there are boundless opportunities for descriptive poetry.

Descriptive poetry does not necessarily tell a story like a narrative poem. This type of writing is meant to create vivid imagery in a reader’s mind. Descriptive poetry has certain key ingredients that students can utilize when writing a wonderful fall poem. Just like there are specific ingredients for pumpkin pie, there are certain ingredients to make up a well-rounded and well-written descriptive poem!

Key Ingredients:

  • Specific Word Choice
  • Adjectives
  • Figurative Language (Similes, Metaphors, Personification, Onomatopoeia, etc.) 
  • Imagery
  • Sensory Words

Step 1: Read Poems for Teaching Descriptive Poetry

When teaching descriptive poetry, the first step is for students to be inspired by authentic poems and to learn to recognize the key ingredients within those poems. (Having a healthy knowledge of the key ingredients first is crucial, of course. Check out our spooky figurative language activity to teach this key component.

Grab yours today!

It is best to read a poem multiple times with students. On the first reading, students take in the description the author is conveying and they can visualize the scene. On a second reading, with the teacher’s help, students can dissect the various adjectives and figurative language throughout the poem. They can circle the words that evoke vivid images and the specific word choice that shows the various five senses. Work together to find how the author showed fall instead of just telling about it. Ask your students: “How did the writer show us it was chilly instead of telling us it was cold outside?”

These autumn poems act as a mentor text to help students understand how to write a descriptive poem.

Here are some wonderful examples of descriptive fall poetry that can inspire students. Perfect for your students to read, color, and place in their notebooks. Click on the link below for 4 Autumn Descriptive Poems. 

Grab your FREEBIE Google Slides today!

Step 2: Prewriting

Once students have been able to read other fall poems and become motivated by the important components of descriptive poetry, I encourage students to get out in nature to observe and write about the fall season, if that is the topic of their poem. 

Just by getting outside and smelling the crisp air, watching the cascading leaves, and feeling the cool breeze, students will feel energized to write that descriptive fall poem.

Encourage your students to take a journal to write down whatever they see, smell, hear, and feel. By taking students outside, they may be able to include specific details in their writing instead of just remembering what fall is like from the inside of a classroom. 

As they observe and take descriptive notes, they can utilize that information to help them write their poems.

If students are describing what they are thankful for, have them make a list of all the aspects of the thing that they are focusing on or the many ideas/elements of life they are grateful for. Making a collage on Canva, a Pinterest board, or a physical collage with printed images of what they are thankful for helps them focus before they start writing the descriptive poem. 

If students are describing a Thanksgiving dish, have them look up images online, go home and taste that item, and do any research they can to fully describe it. Students focus on all the senses when it comes to that dish, not just the taste sense. Challenge students to use figurative language to make comparisons. Their favorite Thanksgiving dish of sweet potato casserole would have marshmallows as fluffy as clouds. Their favorite apple pie can taste like a symphony of cinnamon. 

Step 3: Write Poem

I have found it crucial to give students specific guidelines to help them write a wonderfully descriptive fall poem. When guidance isn’t given, I receive 3-line poems with 2 adjectives, and we don’t want that.

The guidelines I give students allow for creativity and freedom but it allows them to see a template as to what works best for a descriptive poem.

Guidelines:

  • 10 lines or more
  • Can be Unrhymed or rhymed
  • 1 or more metaphors
  • 1 or more similes
  • 1 or more personifications
  • 1 or more onomatopoeias
  • 1 or more alliterations
  • 3 Sensory Words
  • 5 Adjectives
  • Showing & Not Telling

Step 4: Revise and Edit

When students have finished their poems, I like to meet with them. First, we go over the guidelines. That’s when flexibility comes in. If their poem didn’t have exactly five adjectives but still did a wonderful job utilizing similes and metaphors and sensory words, then that’s okay. I express that to them. The guidelines are there as a template, but it doesn’t necessarily mean a descriptive poem needs all of those elements all the time. In fact, the poems we read, to begin with, did not even do that. 

Step 5: Publish, Illustrate, & Display

Illustrate and display! Descriptive poems should convey images in the reader’s mind of the fall season, so what better thing to do but illustrate what the writer is showing? I’ve had students complete watercolors of their fall poetry scenery. Students can simply draw and color what they wrote about, or even piece a collage together. Students can create a poster on Canva that shows what they articulated in their poems.

When I taught elementary school, I had a big tree display on my wall. It was our “Poe-Tree.” I would change the leaves on it depending on the season and place the students’ poems on the branches. By creating a “Poe-Tree,” and displaying students’ poems, the rest of the class can read them and become inspired too.

Our Gather Fall Bulletin Board Kit is also a perfect backdrop to display any Thanksgiving thankfulness poems or any other descriptive poems they write.

Conclusion

Just like a perfect slice of pumpkin pie, a descriptive poem contains certain ingredients to help make it all come together beautifully. This November is a wonderful time to teach descriptive poetry. Challenge your students to describe the scenery, what they’re grateful for, or a delicious dish. The fall is just as great a time to teach poetry as the spring. It may even become your favorite time to do so!

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Poetry Virtual Library

As an elementary librarian, I am always on the lookout for books that will interest my readers, keep them engaged, and at the same time, leave them wanting more. This sounds so simple on paper, but it is definitely a huge endeavor. With that, I have created a Poetry Virtual Library to share with you to kickstart Poetry Month all during the month of April.

Our Virtual Library includes some classics, such as Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen, and The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. In addition, it also includes some books that many might not think of as poetry since it looks more like a picture book than a typical poem. However, many, many picture books are actually indeed poems eloquently spread across 24 pages with lots of exciting illustrations along the way. Please enjoy our list of Poetry Books for the month of April.

Click here to grab your Poetry Virtual Library Google Slides today:

Book #1: Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Late one winter night a little girl and her father go owling. The trees stand still as statues and the world is silent as a dream. Whoo-whoo-whoo, the father calls to the mysterious nighttime bird. But there is no answer. Wordlessly the two companions walk along, for when you go owling you don’t need words. You don’t need anything but hope. Sometimes there isn’t an owl, but sometimes there is.

Distinguished author Jane Yolen has created a gentle, poetic story that lovingly depicts the special companionship of a young child and her father as well as humankind’s close relationship to the natural world. Wonderfully complemented by John Schoenherr’s soft, exquisite watercolor illustrations, this is a verbal and visual treasure, perfect for reading around and sharing at bedtime.

Book #2: 16 Words, by Lisa Rogers

Publisher’s Synopsis:

This simple nonfiction picture book about the beloved American poet William Carlos Williams is also about how being mindful can result in the creation of a great poem like “The Red Wheelbarrow”–which is only sixteen words long.

“Look out the window. What do you see? If you are Dr. William Carlos Williams, you see a wheelbarrow. A drizzle of rain. Chickens scratching in the damp earth.” The wheelbarrow belongs to Thaddeus Marshall, a street vendor, who every day goes to work selling vegetables on the streets of Rutherford, New Jersey. That simple action inspires poet and doctor Williams to pick up some of his own tools–a pen and paper–and write his most famous poem.

In this lovely picture book, young listeners will see how paying attention to the simplest everyday things can inspire the greatest art, as they learn about a great American poet.

Book #3: I Got the Rhythm, by Connie Schofield-Morrison

Publisher’s Synopsis:

On a simple trip to the park, the joy of music overtakes a mother and daughter. The little girl hears a rhythm coming from the world around her- from butterflies, to street performers, to ice cream sellers everything is musical! She sniffs, snaps, and shakes her way into the heart of the beat, finally busting out in an impromptu dance, which all the kids join in on! Award-winning illustrator Frank Morrison and Connie Schofield-Morrison, capture the beat of the street, to create a rollicking read that will get any kid in the mood to boogie.

Book #4: Water Can Be, by Laura Purdie Salas

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Water can be a . . .
• Thirst quencher
• Kid drencher
• Cloud fluffer
• Fire snuffer

Find out about the many roles water plays in this poetic exploration of water throughout the year.

Book #5: Wet Cement, by Bob Raczka

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Who says words need to be concrete? This collection shapes poems in surprising and delightful ways.

Concrete poetry is a perennially popular poetic form because they are fun to look at. But by using the arrangement of the words on the page to convey the meaning of the poem, concrete or shape poems are also easy to write! From the author of the incredibly inventive Lemonade: And Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word comes another clever collection that shows kids how to look at words and poetry in a whole new way.

Book #6: The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein

Publisher’s Synopsis:

“Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy.”

So begins a story of unforgettable perception, beautifully written and illustrated by the gifted and versatile Shel Silverstein. This moving parable for all ages offers a touching interpretation of the gift of giving and a serene acceptance of another’s capacity to love in return.

Every day the boy would come to the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches, or slide down her trunk…and the tree was happy. But as the boy grew older he began to want more from the tree, and the tree gave and gave and gave. This is a tender story, touched with sadness, aglow with consolation.

Book #7: Imagine, by Juan Felipe Herrera

Publisher’s Synopsis:

A buoyant, breathtaking poem from Juan Felipe Herrera — brilliantly illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Lauren Castillo — speaks to every dreaming heart.

Have you ever imagined what you might be when you grow up? When he was very young, Juan Felipe Herrera picked chamomile flowers in windy fields and let tadpoles swim across his hands in a creek. He slept outside and learned to say good-bye to his amiguitos each time his family moved to a new town. He went to school and taught himself to read and write English and filled paper pads with rivers of ink as he walked down the street after school. And when he grew up, he became the United States Poet Laureate and read his poems aloud on the steps of the Library of Congress. If he could do all of that . . . what could you do? With this illustrated poem of endless possibility, Juan Felipe Herrera and Lauren Castillo breathe magic into the hopes and dreams of readers searching for their place in life.

Want any more poetry? Grab our NEWEST Spring Bulletin Board with Spring Writing Prompts and Spring Writing Papers today.

Conclusion:

We hope you have enjoyed discovering so many beautiful poetry books. The next time you have a few extra minutes in your schedule, grab a poetry book or a eloquently written picture book to read aloud to your students, no matter the age. These few minutes of reading give them an escape and teaches tons of figurative language all in the same amount of time. As I always say to my older students when they say they are too old for such, I remind them that children didn’t write these beautiful stories, but grown ups who have learned to appreciate the magic of a well written story, or in our case, a poem.

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