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TeachNet Grant: Photoshop Figurative Language!
Matthew Valia

Berta Dreyfus IS 49
101 Warren Street
Staten Island, NY 10304

Grades: 6-8
About the Grant:

This four part unit teaches students about figurative language and allows them to focus closely on the text of poetry by engaging them in a detailed artistic endeavor in Adobe Photoshop. Students will be amazed how quickly they will be able to develop new Photoshop skills while learning about similes, metaphors and onomatopoeia.

The unit begins with an introduction to figurative language. I provide a lesson plan format where the teacher engages students in a mini-lesson that teaches about figurative language. After students understand the basics of the poetic form, they will follow along with three screencasted video tutorials that make learning Photoshop easy by focusing on the basics and then more specifically the skills necessary to complete a figurative language collage.

The final tutorial uses the poem "The Fish" by Elizabeth Bishop as the central subject of a collage. Students read through the poem pull out similes from the text. They type them into the collage and format them in a tight collage. The formatting emphasizes the key "like/as" parts of the text to allow students to show evidence they understand what a simile is.

After the tutorials are done, students can choose their own poem and create and print a collage they can share back with their classmates.

How This Grant was Adapted:

As long as a teacher or student has access to a computer with the Internet, they can take part in this unit.  English Language Arts teachers will find they can leverage their own skills as a poetry teacher and infuse technology into those lessons with the help of the screen captured video tutorials.  Even if the teacher has no experience using Photoshop, the videos will take them through - step-by-step.  

Project URL



Students will be able to: 

  1. Understand why an author uses figurative language
  2. Write and find examples of similes, metaphors and onomatopoeia
  3. Open a Photoshop document and create a blank canvas at a high resolution
  4. Be proficient with the text and move tool on the toolbar
  5. Be proficient with the layers and the history panel
  6. Be proficient with adding, formatting and rotating text
  7. Understand how to save their final collage
Websites Used


Standards Addressed:

English Language Arts - Writing: Middle School - Students will be able to produce a response to literature

English Language Arts - Literature: Middle School - Students will be able to respond to non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and drama using interpretive and critical processes.

Lesson 1:

Introducing Figurative Language

All information and materials are located at http://mrvalia.com/TeachNet2.html

Explain to students that figurative language is a method a writer uses to explain or describe something in a flashy and interesting way - usually by comparing it to something else.

Figurative language gives a writer a chance to show what he or she is describing instead of just saying what exactly what it is.

List some types of figurative language.

In this unit we will work with metaphors, similes and onomatopoeia

Each of these three elements could be a lesson on its own, so follow the format below to engage each student.

Explain a simile is a comparison with like or as

Give examples

Have students write their own similes

Share similes with class Read a poem with similes pointing them out and ask students what they add to the poem

Write poem with boring comparisons and have students enhance it by adding similes

After similes are complete, you can move on to lessons two through four which introduce Adobe Photoshop and show students how to make a simile collage poster.

You can also repeat the introduction of metaphors, onomatopoeia and other figurative language and save the Photoshop collages as a finally project.

Lesson 2:

Photoshop Basics

All information and materials are located at http://mrvalia.com/TeachNet2.html

Before students can work with text, they should understand a few Photoshop basics.

The video will show how to: 

Setup a new document

Use the move and text tools on the toolbar

Work with layers panel

Working with the history panel

Save a file

Lesson 3:

Working With Text in Photoshop

All information and materials are located at http://mrvalia.com/TeachNet2.html

After you and your students have finished learning the basics, it is time to move on to working more specifically with the text tools.

The next video will show you how to add special color, font and blending effects to the text in the collage.

Lesson 4

Creating the Final Collage

All information and materials are located at http://mrvalia.com/TeachNet2.html

Now that you and your students understand how to work with text, we will create the final project.

The next video will show you how to take the Elizabeth Bishop poem "The Fish" and use it to create an artistic simile collage.

Matthew Valia is a New York City computer teacher at Berta Dreyfus IS 49.  He is licensed as an English Language Arts teacher and also holds a NY State certificate as an Educational Technology Specialist. He is currently finishing a second MA degree in Educational Communication and Technology.  Matthew's thesis project will explore how video games can be created that will help inform students about the setting and characters in non-modern novels.

You can find out more at

All documents are online at 



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