Songs To Teach Figurative Language


This is on if you’re so nerdy you must own it. I might just be that nerdy.

I’m getting ready to start figurative language lessons with my group of second graders. Last year, I used a song or two to help them identify the different types of figurative language. It worked. I looked really good when a student announced to her classroom teacher, “That’s an idiom!” simply because the teacher said the exact words that were in the song.

So I decided to try to find songs that would go with every type of figurative language. Then I decided to put them in a blog for the benefit of other teacher types who teach figurative language.

First, some definitions:

Figurative language (start with the basics, right?): language that doesn’t mean what it says. The opposite of literal.

Idiom: figurative language that is also a popular saying. (example: it’s raining cats and dogs)

Hyperbole: an exaggeration (example: it took me a million hours to do my homework)

Simile: compares two unlike things with “like” or “as” (example: the pillow was like a pancake)

Metaphor: compares two unlike things without “like” or “as” (example: the pillow was a pancake)

Now, to the songs. I’ve tried to choose songs that most kids in a public school setting will recognize. There is at least one example of figurative language in each song.


On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons

Hey Brother by Avicii (also works for hyperbole)

Sweet Pea by Amos Lee (has a simile too)


Everybody Loves Me by One Republic

Best Day of My Life by American Authors

Hall of Fame by The Script


It’s My Life by Bon Jovi (lots of idioms too)

Carry On by Fun (has some bad language and drinking and sex references. Maybe don’t use this one if you’re not a secondary teacher. Or pick out the figurative language.)

Gone, Gone, Gone by Phillip Phillips (this one has examples of every type of figurative language. I put it here for the “like a drum” line)

Smile by Uncle Kracker (lots of them)


Firework by Katy Perry

Immortals by Fall Out Boy (this one is a little obscure – look up the lyrics)

Love Runs Out by One Republic

Dirty Paws by Of Monsters and Men (also obscure)

I Lived by One Republic (less obvious but a great message – metaphorical jump, water, broken bones)

Viva la Vida by Coldplay (higher level on this one)

There are two other songs that feel like they should fit somewhere, but I didn’t list them in the categories because honestly, I don’t have a freaking clue what they mean. I’ll list them here in case you want to figure it out.

Little Talks by Of Monsters and Men

Fireflies by Owl City

I know there are probably a million more (hyperbole!) songs that have figurative language, but it’s late and I’m tired of thinking and searching. So add to the list in the comments.

Check out Round 2 for more songs!

6 thoughts on “Songs To Teach Figurative Language

  1. Pingback: What Did You Like? 2016 In Review | Allison Maruska

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  3. Pingback: More Songs To Teach Figurative Language | Allison Maruska

  4. Hey, have you ever seen a book called Quick as a Cricket by Audrey Wood? It has lovely pastel illustrations by her husband. I used to use it to teach simile and metaphor to fourth graders, but it’s really written with a younger audience in mind. Just a thought. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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