What is personification?
In literature, you find a plethora of examples of personification. As an educator, you’re bound to come across it in your teaching, and your students will most likely ask you about it. But before students can recognize what personification is used for, they need to have a firm grasp of what exactly it is.
After they recognize it as a literary device, the next step would be to teach them to use it in their own writing. Personification adds flair and uniqueness to your writing, making it all the more interesting to read. It is an important skill set to acquire and consciously recognize, so you’re able to incorporate it within your work.
As young writers, you can help your students improve their style by introducing personification as a literary device that assigns human qualities and attributes to objects or other non-human things.
We have listed the meaning of personification, its examples, how it has been used in poetry and created a mock lesson plan to help you make your own.
Personification is a figure of speech in which a thing, an idea, or an animal is given human attributes. This gives non-human objects a personality or attributes of living creatures. It is a literary tool that adds interest and excitement to poems and stories.
Not only does personification refer to the ascribing of human qualities to non-human things, but it can also refer to the actions humans perform and are normally ascribed exclusively to humans.
Writers use personification in poetry or their writings, in general, to bring non-human things to life. For example, ‘the sky weeps’ we have ascribed the ability to cry to the sky, which is mostly a human quality. Thus the sky has been personified in the given sentence.
Anthropomorphism vs. Personification
Anthropomorphism is often confused with personification, as they have a lot in common. You should take time out with students to ensure they understand the differences and recognize both literary devices.
While personification is an attribution of human qualities and attributes to non-human things, we think of anthropomorphism as a step further to turn non-humans into humans -usually in outward appearance.
For example, George Orwell’s book animal farm gave human attributes to animals. So much so that it wasn’t an artifice, rather a reality where animals could talk and do just as humans could.
Why Should We Use Personification?
So what is the point of using personification if you can be straightforward with your writing? What does this artifice do? What is personification used for?
Students will have this question when you’re teaching them personification, so you’ll have to be ready to answer them. By humanizing non-human things, you bring them closer to the reader’s experience; the object becomes relatable. It evokes emotions for things they would have otherwise not given a second thought to.
Personification often works to make things more memorable. It is a powerful tool that creates vivid imagery and connections in the reader’s mind when used skillfully.
You want your young writers to emulate such a habit and learn it so skillfully that their writer improves tenfold. The students, too, will enjoy mixing up different elements and literary devices in their writings.
And whenever they come across a text that has such devices employed, they will understand why the piece was breezily read and enjoyable. This might propel them to use it in their lives as well.
Examples of Personification
Below we have listed some common everyday examples of personification that you will hear people say or see in books. But before that, we will try to answer when personification is usually employed?
When to use it
Personification is most widely used in poetry as it is a form of figurative language. That is also where most students first encounter it. However, it is also important to realize that we use personification almost daily in our speech, songs, and sometimes visual arts where non-human objects are depicted with human qualities.
Usually, personification is not used in formal, technical, or academic writing as it takes a non-serious or rather friendly approach to write. However, sometimes formal writing or speeches use personification to explain a complex idea or make it less abstract, so it becomes decipherable.
- Lightning danced across the sky
- The door protested as it opened slowly
- The over groaned as she pried it open
- The flowers were begging for water
- The thunder was grumbling in the distance
- The cactus saluted those who drove past
- The fire swallowed the entire forest
- The wind whispered through dry grass
- The skyscraper kissed the sky
- The full moon peeped through partial clouds
- The flood raged over the entire village
Personification in Poetry
Personification is used most frequently in poetry than any other form of writing. It connects people intimately with the thing that is being personified. Thus poetry is a perfect genre to explore the use of poetry.
When you introduce your students to examples of personification, the most easily relatable genre would be poetry. This is also most ideal for students to begin to experiment within their own works.
A few examples of personification in poems are
Two Sunflowers Move in the Yellow Room by William Blake
“Ah, William, we’re weary of weather,”
Said the sunflowers, shining with dew.
“our traveling habits have tired us.
Can you give us a room with a view?”
The sunflowers are being personified; they talk to William Blake and tell him that they want to be moved because they are tired of being outside.
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Wordsworth has given nature human qualities, as is customary of his writing. The poem talks about daffodils dancing and moving in the breeze, almost as if enjoying the wind pass through them in the field.
Activity to recognize personification in poems
As we previously discussed, poetry is the easiest and a surefire way to understand personification.
- Choose a poem that has employed personification to a noticeable extent as the first lesson.
- Read the poem together and have students identify the uses of personification
- Encourage students to share their thoughts on why the poet employs personification.
- Ask them how it contributes to the poem’s overall effect.
- Once you are sure they have understood personification, challenge them to come up with some of their original examples.
- You can do this by providing them a list of verbs usually associated with things people do.
- Then give a list of non-human things and objects and ask them to create examples of personification by matching words from each list.
With a little bit of practice, your students will become confident in recognizing personification in texts and understanding its impact.
Create a lesson plan
This lesson plan can guide you towards a more well-rounded plan that is specific to your class.
You can also learn how to create engaging lesson plans here.
1- identifying learning objectives
– Defining personification
– Using methods to comprehend personification in texts
– Identify personification in texts
2- Have an allotted time for the lesson
3- Decide the materials for the lesson
- Copies of poems that use personification
- Copies of excerpts used in the lesson
4- Introduce them to personification
5- Create an anchor chart with the students
6- When you’ve adequately practiced recognizing personification start an activity where students are instructed to highlight and find examples of personification.
How Do We Move Forward?
Often throughout history, people have used words like “vermin” or “rats” for their enemies. Stripping the other of their humanity makes crimes justifiable. Personification is the opposite. It humanizes non-human things to bring them closer to the reader’s experience.
All in all, personification is a powerful tool that can help people make subconscious connections in the mind of the reader.
If you want to read about other literary devices, check out our articles at digiteachers.