Teaching Personification in Literature: A Guide
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. What is personification in literature?
  2. Why teach personification?
  3. How to introduce personification
  4. Activities for teaching personification
  5. Examples of personification in literature
  6. Evaluate student understanding
  7. How to address common challenges

Whether you're a seasoned educator seeking to infuse a new spark into your literature lessons, or a novice teacher wanting to make sure your students grasp key literary concepts, teaching personification in literature can be a remarkable journey. Our guide will equip you with practical personification in literature teaching resources and strategies that will help your students engage more deeply with texts and enhance their critical thinking skills.

What is personification in literature?

So, let's start with the basics. Personification is a literary device where non-human things are given human characteristics. This could be anything from animals and plants to inanimate objects or abstract ideas. It's a way for writers to create vivid, imaginative descriptions that can make their stories or poems come alive.

Here's a quick rundown of what personification is all about:

  • Human characteristics: Think of personification as a fancy dress party for all the non-human elements in a story. Just like you might put on a superhero cape or a princess tiara, personification outfits non-human elements with human traits. This could be as simple as a tree 'dancing' in the wind, or as complex as Time 'healing' all wounds.
  • Literary device: Personification is one of many tools in a writer's toolbox. It's just as important as metaphor, simile, and alliteration, and it's something you'll see a lot of in literature. It's a way to add depth and dimension to a story, and it can make a big difference in how readers connect with the text.
  • Sensory experiences: One of the great things about personification is how it can engage the senses. When you read about a 'whispering wind' or a 'roaring river', you can hear those sounds in your mind. This makes the reading experience more immersive and memorable.

Understanding personification is a key step in engaging with literature on a deeper level. Armed with the right personification in literature teaching resources, you can guide your students towards a richer understanding of the texts they read and the world around them.

Why teach personification?

Now that we've answered the "what", let's tackle the "why". Why is teaching personification important? How does it help our students? The answers to these questions reveal the profound impact personification can have on students' understanding of literature and their creative skills.

Here's why teaching personification matters:

  • Boosts creativity: Personification encourages students to think outside the box. It's not every day you get to imagine what a sunset might say if it could talk, or how a raindrop might feel as it falls from the sky. These kinds of exercises can light a creative spark in students, helping them become more imaginative thinkers.
  • Enhances understanding: By giving human traits to non-human things, personification can make abstract or complex ideas more relatable and understandable. This can be especially helpful when dealing with challenging texts or concepts.
  • Improves writing skills: Learning about personification isn't just about reading—it's also about writing. When students understand how to use personification, they can incorporate it into their own writing. This can help them express their ideas more clearly and creatively, improving their overall writing skills.
  • Deepens engagement: Personification can make reading more enjoyable. Instead of simply reading about inanimate objects or abstract ideas, students get to meet a host of interesting characters and see the world from different perspectives. This can make reading more engaging and fun.

With the right personification in literature teaching resources, you can help your students unlock these benefits. Whether you're teaching a classic novel, a contemporary poem, or anything in between, personification is a valuable tool to have in your teaching toolkit.

How to introduce personification

Introducing personification in a fun and engaging way is key to getting your students excited about this literary tool. Here are some steps you can follow:

  1. Define personification: Start with a clear, simple definition. For instance, you might say, "Personification is when we give human qualities or actions to something that isn't human, like an animal, an object, or even an idea."
  2. Give familiar examples: Next, provide examples that your students can relate to. Common phrases like "the sun smiled down at us" or "the wind whispered through the trees" can be a great starting point.
  3. Encourage creativity: Ask your students to come up with their own examples of personification. You can make this a fun, interactive activity by splitting the class into groups and having each group present their examples.
  4. Connect to literature: Now that your students understand what personification is and how it works, you can start connecting it to the texts you're studying in class. Look for examples of personification in the literature you're reading, and discuss why the author might have chosen to use it.

Remember, the goal is not just to teach students what personification is, but also to help them understand why it's a powerful tool in literature. With the right personification in literature teaching resources, you can make this literary device come alive for your students.

Activities for teaching personification

Once you have introduced the concept of personification, it's time to solidify the learning with some interactive activities. Here are some personification in literature teaching resources that you can use to engage your students:

  1. Personification Charades: Write various examples of personification on slips of paper. Have students draw a slip and act out the personification. The rest of the class should then guess the example. This game combines movement, creativity, and critical thinking.
  2. Personification Collage: Have students create a collage using images they cut from magazines or printouts. The collage should depict an example of personification, such as "the sun is smiling," by using pictures of the sun and a smiling face.
  3. Personification Story Writing: Encourage students to write a short story or paragraph that includes at least three instances of personification. This would help them apply the concept in a creative way.
  4. Create a Comic Strip: Students can create a comic strip where the main character is a non-human object or animal that has been personified. This is a wonderful way to foster creativity while reinforcing the concept of personification.

Teaching personification can be a lot of fun with the right activities. Not only will these activities engage your students, but they will also provide them with a deeper understanding of how personification is used in literature.

Examples of personification in literature

It's often much easier to understand and appreciate personification when you see it in action. This is why it's a terrific idea to provide your students with examples from actual literature. Here's a list of a few examples that you can use as personification in literature teaching resources:

  1. Emily Dickinson's "The Train": In this poem, the train is personified as a horse. Lines like "I like to see it lap the miles" and "And stop to feed itself at tanks" create a vivid image of a train as a living creature.
  2. William Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud": Wordsworth personifies daffodils in this classic poem. He writes, "Tossing their heads in sprightly dance," giving the flowers human abilities.
  3. Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken": Frost brings a road to life by suggesting it has the power to make someone feel regret. "I shall be telling this with a sigh / Somewhere ages and ages hence," Frost writes.
  4. George Orwell’s "Animal Farm": This entire book is an example of personification. The farm animals are given human characteristics, thoughts, and speech to bring them to life and convey a deeper message.

By studying these examples closely, students can better grasp the power and beauty of personification. They can see how authors use this technique to breathe life into their writing and make their descriptions more vivid and relatable.

Evaluate student understanding

Now that you've introduced personification, given examples from literature, and engaged your students in activities, it's time to assess what they've learned. Evaluating student understanding is a key part of the process and should be included in your personification in literature teaching resources.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to assess understanding is through direct questioning. You can ask students to identify examples of personification in a piece of text or to explain what personification is in their own words. This gives you a direct insight into their comprehension.

Another method is through written assignments. Have students write a short paragraph using personification, or ask them to rewrite a passage replacing literal descriptions with personified ones. This allows you to gauge their ability to apply the concept creatively.

Lastly, group discussions can be a powerful tool. Split the class into small groups and have them discuss different instances of personification they've come across. This not only deepens their understanding but also enhances their communication and teamwork skills.

Remember to provide constructive feedback throughout this process. Encouraging their efforts and guiding them through their mistakes fosters a positive learning environment and helps them grasp the concept more effectively.

How to address common challenges

Teaching personification in literature can come with its own set of challenges. The abstract nature of the concept can sometimes be difficult for students to grasp. But don't worry, you're not alone in this journey, and there are effective ways to navigate these hurdles.

One common challenge is confusion with other literary devices, like metaphors or similes. To tackle this, ensure to highlight the unique attribute of personification - giving human qualities to non-human entities. Keep reinforcing this point; repetition will help it stick.

Another hurdle could be the lack of creativity while using personification. Encourage your students to think outside the box by providing them with a variety of examples. Show them that personification isn't limited to just objects but can also be used for abstract ideas, like 'Time sneaked up on me.'

Lastly, students might struggle with identifying personification in literature. This can be addressed by exposing them to multiple examples and including detection activities in your personification in literature teaching resources.

Remember, patience is key. Understanding personification is a process, and each student will progress at their own pace. Keep the learning environment supportive and open, and you'll see them mastering personification in no time!

If you're intrigued by the concept of personification in literature and want to explore the process of creating unique, memorable characters, check out the workshop 'Creating Characters: The Design Process' by Kit Buss. This workshop will provide you with valuable insights and techniques for designing compelling characters that will bring your literary work to life.