Hyperbole is a figure of speech that livens up stories, creates humor and interest, and is fun to read. Examples of hyperbole include intentional exaggerated and creative sentences like:
- It is raining cats and dogs.
- I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.
- His brain is the size of a pea.
Some students will realize immediately that hyperbole is a figure of speech not intended to be taken literally. Examples of hyperbole may be ridiculous, or even impossible. Students who have difficulty understanding figures of speech will need to be taught how to interpret these statements while reading.
Hyperbole can be humorous, and is often used by comedians. Poetry and non-fiction writing includes hyperbole for exaggeration, to make a strong statement, or to elaborate. Writers use hyperbole as a way to show, not tell, readers what is happening. It provides a great deal of description in one sentence, and is often very dramatic.
One way to introduce this figure of speech is to ask students to read a sentence that include hyperbole and discuss with partners or small groups what mental picture the statement creates, and what they think the statement actually means. Do this exercise several times. Some common examples of hyperbole are:
- Time flew faster than the speed of light.
- She was so embarrassed she thought she’d die.
- The suitcase weighed a ton.
- I told them a million times I wouldn’t buy the car.
- I have a million things to do today.
- My grandpa is as skinny as a toothpick.
- The trip costs a bazillion dollars.
- He could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard the news.
- Betty is older than the hills.
- My son sleeps like a log.
- My husband snores louder than a freight train.
After discussing the visual images the sentences create in their minds, ask students to illustrate or act out one example of hyperbole to share with the class.
Another way to introduce hyperbole to students is through picture books. Some stories that include good examples of exaggeration and humor are:
- The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians, by Carla Morris. (Peachtree Pub Ltd (J), March 31, 2007): Humorous story about a boy who is befriended by librarians who introduce him to the world around him through books.
- Paul Bunyan, by Steven Kellogg. (HarperCollins, June 17, 1985): Wild exaggerations abound in this classic tall tale.
Using picture books allows students to both listen to hyperbole in text, and see the visual images the exaggeration suggests.
Find more ideas for teaching students about hyperbole in It Figures!: Fun Figures of Speech, by Marvin Terban. (Sandpiper, October 18, 1993): A teacher resource for grades 4-6. Look for it in your library, or Amazon.com. Click the book below for more information:
Context Clues and Figurative Language: 35 Reading Passages for Comprehension is a Scholastic grades 4-6 teacher resource. I use this with students who need additional practice. The passages are very short, and the activity works well for a quick mini-lesson with a small group. This book is available on Amazon.com. Click the book below for more information: