Understanding the Use of Personification and Alliteration

Grade Level: 6th Grade

Pennsylvania Academic Standards
•  CC.1.3.6.D -  Determine an author’s purpose in a text and explain how it is conveyed in a text.
•  CC.1.3.6.E -  Analyze how the structure of a text contributes to the development of theme, setting, and plot.
•  CC.1.3.6.F -  Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in grade level reading and content, including interpretation of figurative language in context.
•  CC.1.3.6.I -  Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 6 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies and tools.
•  CC.1.3.6.J -  Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

Assessment Anchors
•  E06.A-V.4 -  Vocabulary Acquisition and Use

Eligible Content
•  E06.A-C.2.1.3 -  Determine how the author uses the meaning of words or phrases, including figurative and connotative meanings, in a text; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.
•  E06.A-V.4.1.2 -  Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. a. Interpret figurative language (simile, metaphor, personification, and hyperbole) in context. b. Use the relationship between particular words (e.g., cause/effect, part/whole, item/category, synonym/antonym) to better understand each of the words. c. Distinguish among the connotations (associations) of words with similar denotations (definitions) (e.g., stingy, scrimping, economical, unwasteful, thrifty).

Big Ideas




  • Alliteration: The repetition of initial consonant sounds in neighboring words.
  • Personification: An object or abstract idea given human qualities or human form
  • Figurative Language: Language that cannot be taken literally because it was written to create a special effect or feeling.


This lesson explores the use of personification and alliteration in fiction. Students will:

  • identify personification and interpret the effects of its use.
  • identify alliteration and interpret the effects of its use.
  • demonstrate the ability to use alliteration and personification in an original sentence and create an illustration that reflects personification.

Essential Questions

  • Why learn new words?
  • What strategies and resources do readers use to figure out unknown vocabulary?
  • How do learners develop and refine their vocabulary?


90 minutes/1.5 class periods

Prerequisite Skills


  • Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience Schoolby Mark Teague. Scholastic Press, 2002. This book portrays the main character (Ike, the dog) with clearly identifiable humanlike qualities in a humorous manner. (You will need multiple copies of this book.) Other examples include the following books:
    • Detective LaRue: Letters from the Investigation by Mark Teague. Scholastic Press, 2004.
    • LaRue for Mayor: Letters from the Campaign Trail by Mark Teague. The Blue Sky Press, 2008.
    • Old Winter by Judith Benét Richardson. Orchard Books, 1996.
  • Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut by Margaret Atwood. Key Porter Books, 2002. This is a picture book written in profound proliferation of purposely placed words with the /p/ initial consonant sound.

Teachers may substitute other books to provide a range of reading and level of text complexity.

Instructional Procedures

Focus Question: How does the use of figurative language impact the meaning of fictional text?


Part 1

Show students two different classroom objects (e.g., an eraser and a pencil). Then say, “This morning I had a weird conversation with an eraser and a pencil. During this discussion, they shared some unpleasant information about themselves. They told me that they were tired of constantly being used over and over again. They felt that they were beginning to look worn down and old. They wanted me to remind you to be more careful and thoughtful when using them.”

Say, “Use your background knowledge of figurative language and infer which type of figurative language I was demonstrating.” Have partners discuss why they think you shared this scenario with them.

Have students share their ideas on what type of figurative language they think was being depicted. Record their responses on a sheet of chart paper.

Guide students to understand that the type of figurative language you depicted was personification. Say, “Personification is giving human qualities to animals or objects. For example, I told you that the eraser and pencil were expressing their feelings, which we know cannot really happen. Therefore, the eraser and the pencil were being personified.”

Say, “We are going to read the book Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School, which focuses on personification.” Read the book to the class.

Distribute the Personification in Fiction worksheet (L-6-1-1_Personification in Fiction.doc) to each student. Provide small groups with a copy of the book Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School. Say, “You are going to revisit this book and record evidence of personification.”

Invite students to share their answers while you record them on the board/interactive whiteboard. Allow students to make any necessary changes or add information to their worksheets.

Answer: Ike—dog being personified

Possible text evidence:

  • writing letters to owner
  • talking and thinking like a human
  • having a conscience
  • lying
  • receiving an award and being known as a hero

Have students think about and discuss why authors might use personification in their writing. Say, “Why do you think authors use personification in fictional texts? What effect does the use of personification have on the meaning of a text?” Guide students to understand that personification makes a text more interesting and helps details come to life.

Part 2

Review alliteration. Say, “Another type of figurative language we are going to discuss is alliteration, which is the repeating of beginning sounds in a group of words.”

Write the following alliterative phrases on the board/interactive whiteboard and underline the first letter of each word:

  • flimsy fluff floats
  • slippery slithery snakes
  • babbling bouncing babies
  • crispy crunchy crackers

Have students read these phrases aloud and say them as quickly as possible. Students will find that these phrases are hard to repeat over and over because each word starts with the same initial sound.

Say, “Alliteration is the repetition of beginning consonant sounds. Alliteration allows us to manipulate or play with words while having fun with language. In fictional text or poetry, authors use alliteration to add rhythm and voice to their writing. Alliteration helps to emphasize the meaning in a text.”

Say, “Today we are going to read the book Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut, which demonstrates examples of alliterative word play.” Read the book to the class.

After reading the book, discuss some of the alliterative phrases that are used in the text. The following are some examples:

  • “wrinkly-wristed wise woman”
  • “For supper she fed Prunella some parsley and paprika soup, a pile of potted chicken and pickerel pancakes and some pepper and porridge preserve, on a pretty plate platted with pendulous poppies.”
  • “Princess Prunella is proud, prissy, and pretty.”

Say, “We are going to examine some other alliterative titles. Each word in the title starts with the same letter and makes the same sound. We will be using well-known tales to complete this activity.”

Write on a sheet of chart paper the following titles:

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears
  • Cinderella
  • Pinocchio
  • The Gingerbread Man
  • Hansel and Gretel
  • The Three Little Pigs

Encourage students to give a short summary of each tale. Then say, “With a partner, you will be completing the Tricky Twisted Tangled Titles worksheet (L-6-1-1_Tricky Twisted Tangled Titles.doc). You will match the original story title to the alliterative story title provided. You will also come up with your own alliterative title for one of the tales.”

Distribute the worksheet to each student. Walk around the room and observe how students are progressing.

When students have finished, have them share their answers with the class. Allow students also to share their original alliterative titles, which can be recorded on chart paper or the board/interactive whiteboard. Guide students to see how the use of alliteration creates emphasis and supports meaning.

Matching Answer Key:

Original title

Alliterative title

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Silky Skinned Sweetie Surrounded by Seven Small Souls

Beauty and the Beast

Brave Beauty Bedazzled by Beloved Beast

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Lost Little Lady Looks for Lodging


Pretty Person Put in a Pumpkin with a Prince


Lying Lad Longing for Lasting Life

The Gingerbread Man

Food Figure Flees Furiously

Hansel and Gretel

Crafty Con Artist Creates Candy Cabin and Causes Chaos for Careless Kids

The Three Little Pigs

Hogs Hinder Huge Hungry Hitman

Distribute a sheet of drawing paper to each student. Say, “You will write an alliterative sentence that uses personification. You will also make a drawing to illustrate your sentence.” Remind students that their sentences can be humorous, but they need to make sense. Tell students they may use words such as like, and, the, of, and to, which will allow them to create coherent sentences.

As an example, provide students with the following alliterative sentence:

Winter whispered quietly while white snow fell.

Ask students to suggest ways to illustrate the sentence.


  • Students who need additional opportunities for learning can read other books listed in Materials that use personification. Guide students to identify examples of personification in each text and explore how the use of personification affects meaning.
  • Have students who need practice in understanding alliteration work in small groups to read poems such as “Betty Botter” from Mother Goose or poems from Shel Silverstein’s books A Light in the Attic, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and Falling Up.
  • Using The Snowman and Sector 7, or other wordless books, encourage students who are ready to go beyond the standard to create alliterative sentences to tell the stories. Have students identify what object or abstract idea is being personified through the illustrations and explain how the personification supports meaning. Give students the opportunity to read their picture books to the rest of the class, using their alliterative sentences.

Suggested Instructional Strategies
• Active Engagement
• Modeling
• Explicit Instruction

W: Help students activate their prior knowledge of figurative language; then explore and apply personification and alliteration in fiction.
H: Engage students through a creative exercise that leads them to review the definitions of personification and alliteration.
E: Have students explore the use of personification and alliteration in literature and apply their knowledge of these literary devices by finding examples.
R: Help students extend their understanding of personification by working with a partner to match original titles with alliterative titles.
E: Allow students to apply what they have learned about personification and alliteration by writing alliterative sentences.
T: Allow for flexible grouping depending on students’ reading levels by offering a variety of materials to read, and allow for concepts to be extended in coordination with students’ learning levels.
O: The learning activities in this lesson provide for large-group instruction and discussion, small-group exploration, partner interaction, and individual application of the concepts.


Formative Assessment

  • During the lesson, focus on students’ ability to identify and understand the effect of personification and alliteration in fictional texts. Observe students and record anecdotal notes and information about their participation and knowledge of both personification and alliteration.
  • If necessary, review examples of personification in other LaRue books written by Mark Teague and other alliteration books (listed in Materials) with the class or with individual students or small groups.
  • Use the following checklist to evaluate students’ understanding:
    • Student demonstrates the ability to use the figurative language of alliteration and personification meaningfully in an original sentence.
    • Student creates an illustration that personifies an animal, object, or abstract idea.
    • Student composes a coherent, meaningful alliterative sentence.

Related Materials and Resources

  • “Betty Botter” by Mother Goose (www.enchantedlearning.com/rhymes/Betty.shtml )
  • A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein. HarperCollins, 2009.
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. HarperCollins, 2004.
  • Falling Up by Shel Silverstein. HarperCollins, 1996.
  • Sector 7 by David Wiesner. Clarion Books, 1999.
  • The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. Random House Books for Young Readers, 1999.