Elements of Style

Fourth-graders at Ridgeline Academy take a Closer Look at Figurative Language

Question: The phrase,“Roaring Round-Up at Ridgeline,” represents what kind of literary device —  hyperbole … alliteration … metaphor? Don’t know? Fourth-graders at Ridgeline Academy have it figured out. “Alliteration,” replies a smiling Mackenzie Bailey.

The Academy’s fourth-grade teachers, Mr. Merloe, Mrs. White and Ms. Lane, are wrapping up the first Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) unit and the students are proud to share what they’ve learned.  “ ‘Wrapping it up’ – now, that’s an idiom,” says fourth-grader Daniela DeMarco authoritatively.

Looking for irony?  “Isn’t it ironic that the fire station burned down?” offers fourth-grader Michael Edwards all lit up.   Students were attentive while learning the ins and outs of our colorful and playful language.

Princeton University student and columnist, Sarah Sakha, visited classrooms and further demonstrated the beauty of figurative language. “The way we speak never ceases to simultaneously amaze and confuse me,” Sarah remarked.

Sakha’s message to the class included an interactive presentation and these words:

“In fourth grade, I was taught different figures of speech in order to enrich how I speak and write, since I was told that direct, literal language was uninteresting and too common.  However, as I grew up, I have been taught to speak and write more directly, simply, and to the point, without decoration, so that anyone can understand what I’m trying to say. Yet, when I read beautiful classic literature from centuries ago, I can’t help but notice the figurative language that makes the words come alive.”

Her comments illustrate the evolution of language and language instruction.  Our use of language is always changing, and that’s the fascination of language.  It’s dynamic.  Over the span of centuries, we have gone from focusing on written language as an instrument of the elite to a more democratic approach to the written word.

Thus, the downside is that language has rapidly evolved, we have lost our appreciation for and value of well-developed, diverse, rich language that very much includes figurative language – similies, hyperboles, and idioms.  I have come across “college-speak” and slang, which discourages us from a more thoughtful and playful treatment of words.

We have been desensitized to how we speak and how generations of people before us made literature and public speaking true art forms. “Figurative language makes our words come alive, making them dance across the page (an example of personification) into our minds and hearts,” Ms. Sakha shared.

Sarah continues to light up minds with her positive, engaging and professional manner.   Ms. Sakha returns to Princeton University this fall and will serve as senior columnist for the school paper.   To learn more about her award winning writing visit;

Playing with words, while playing on words – Go Figure.

Note:   if you are interested in sharing your creative talents with the fourth-grade classroom(s) please contact Stacey Lane directly at (602) 367-6748.  It is these types of presentations that inspire, encourage and connect with students, perhaps even a budding journalist, such as it did Sarah Sakha, when she attended elementary school.