LinguiSystems home
Spotlight on Figurative Language 6-Book Set
Ages: 8-14   Grades: 3-9

In-depth lessons in figurative language help students understand and use abstract expressions.  Your students will detect shades of meaning, communicate clearly, and add richness to their verbal expression.


  • Identify, comprehend, and use idioms, similes, metaphors, indirect language, and multiple meanings in conversation, writing, and reading tasks
  • Enrich and make verbal expression similar to peers
Book on CD
Add to Cart
Add to Cart
*The CD contains the complete book.  All pages are printable.
** This is a Cloud E-Book that is accessible from any device with Internet access. .

This Spotlight series help upper elementary and junior high students comprehend and use figurative language in communication, reading, and writing.  As their confidence builds they'll start using a variety of language forms to add expression to their own verbal and written communication.

The abstract aspects of figurative language are spelled out with clear explanations and examples for students with language disorders.  Each book uses the successful formulate of the Spotlight series:

  • lessons in general developmental progression
  • step-by-step advancement to build success and motivation
  • a wide variety of curricular content as well as daily life experiences
  • uncomplicated grammar
  • current, age-appropriate topics
  • a pretest/posttest

Each book targets a specific figurative language skill area.  The books may be purchased as a 6-book set or individually.  The 6-book set consists of:

Copyright © 2012

Each book: 40 pages, Answer Key

The research base for specific forms of figurative language comprehension and usage is sparse, but "metaphor" and "metaphoric language" have been explored to some depth.  The types of figurative language presented in these books can be classified under the general umbrella of metaphor, and the evidence under that label is relevant to the series.

  • Reynolds and Ortony (1980) investigated the comprehension of similes and metaphors by second- through sixth-grade typical children.  They found evidence of an ability to understand figurative language by children at all grade levels when adequate contextual supports were provided (Seidenberg & Bernstein, 1986).
  • Many learning-disabled children appear to have the requisite abilities and strategies for metaphoric comprehension in their cognitive repertoires but fail to spontaneously and appropriately access and apply them when they should . . . learning-disabled children often fail to spontaneously identify the need to use appropriate, cognitive processing strategies that are well within their cognitive competence (Seidenberg & Bernstein, 1986).
  • Metaphoric competence reflects an individual's cognitive level, abstract reasoning ability, and linguistic competence.  The likelihood of [identifying] nonliteral responses [in figurative contexts] depends primarily on these competencies but is also influenced by an individual's familiarity with the specific figurative forms being studied (Lee & Kamhi, 1990).
  • The ability to understand the motives and intentions of others is essential.  Assisting children with ASDs to decode figurative language may improve their social skills in relating to others (Mackay & Shaw, 2004).
  • Understanding a speaker's communicative intention is a central goal of communication and involves going beyond the literal meaning of an utterance.  Children who do not understand these intentions have major communicative difficulties.  Often, they are rejected by their peers, further reducing opportunities for interaction.  Perhaps they struggle on with their frustration and confusion unnoticed, as the people around them continue to use figurative language.  Our closer attention to the specifics of their difficulties should help them when they try to work out the meanings and intentions in the figurative language of their communicative partners (Mackay & Shaw, 2004).

Spotlight on Figurative Language incorporates these principles and is also based on expert professional practice.


Lee, R.F., & Kamhi, A.G. (1990). Metaphoric competence in children with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 23(8), 476-482.

Mackay, G., & Shaw, A. (2004). A comparative study of figurative language in children with autistic spectrum disorders. Child Language Teaching & Therapy, 20(1), 13-32. doi: 10.1191/0265659004ct261oa

Reynolds, R.E., & Ortony, A. (1980). Some issues in the measurement of children's comprehension of metaphorical language. Child Development, 51, 1110-1119.

Seidenberg, P.L., & Bernstein, D.K. (1986). The comprehension of similes and metaphors by learning disabled and nonlearning-disabled children. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 17, 219-229.


Linda Bowers, Paul F. Johnson


Linda Bowers has been a speech-language pathologist since 1973 and co-owner, co-founder, and researcher for LinguiSystems since 1977.  She loves to cook, travel, and be with friends and family.  She is the proud mother and grandmother of a wonderful daughter and two wickedly funny grandsons.

Paul F. Johnson has developed products and software for LinguiSystems since 1990.  He is the author or co-author of many LinguiSystems products, including titles in the Spotlight, 50 Quick-Play, and No-Glamour series.  He has particular interests in developing critical thinking, social, and communication skills in children and adults, and feels that solid written and verbal communication skills are not only essential to social and career success, but lead to more fulfilling lives and relationships.

He lives in rural Illinois with his amazing wife and their three ridiculous children.  In his spare time, Paul reads a lot, plays the guitar, and is an avid gardener and cook.


For years, researchers in psychology and language have conducted studies around the development of figurative language.  Many of them investigated the comprehension of figurative language in children and adolescents, but few looked at its use or expression, except for a handful during the 1970s through the 1990s.  These studies were conducted in the affective domain, that is, subjects were asked to describe various levels of emotions to see if they included metaphors, similes, and the like.  Results of these studies showed that the deeper the emotion, the more likely the subject was to use figurative language and/or robust vocabulary (Fainsilber & Ortony, 1987; Fussel, 1992; Moss & Fussell, 1995; Gibbs & O'Brien, 1990).

To the language-impaired teen understanding unique and idiomatic expressions is confusing at best.  The goal of therapy for these students is, ultimately, to make figurative language a part of their expressive repertoire.  If expressing figurative language is too difficult, we can at least teach them to understand it so that they "get it" right along with their peers.

Have fun with the Spotlight on Figurative Language 6-Book Set and deviate from it whenever you can to enrich your adolescent's language!

Linda & Paul


Fainsilber, L., & Ortony, A. (1987). Metaphorical uses of language in the expression of emotions. Metaphor and Symbolic Activity, 2, 239-250.

Fussell, S.R. (1992). The use of metaphor in written descriptions of emotional states. (Unpublished manuscript). Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.

Gibbs R., & O'Brien, J. (1990). Idioms and mental imagery: The metaphorical motivation for idiomatic meaning. Cognition, 36, 35-68.

Moss, M.M., & Fussell, S.R. (March, 1995). Interpersonal communication of emotional information. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Southeastern Psychological Association, Savannah, GA.