Writers have many tools at their fingertips. Hyperbole is one of my favorites. It is an exaggeration meant to make a point in a figurative and imaginative way. Used correctly, it can add a comedic element and make your writing come alive. Consider which is more interesting to read:

George is hungry.

George is hungry!

George is so hungry he could eat a cow.

George is so hungry he could eat a cow, a horse and an elephant.

Yes, using an exclamation point can help emphasize how hungry George is, but it doesn’t really add anything interesting. When you write that George is so hungry he could eat a cow, the reader gets a mental image of a giant cow and can literally see how hungry George is. When you add the horse and the elephant, you really drive the point home. This guy must be starving.

Hyperbole is a great way to show and not tell. Instead of simply telling your reader, you want to show what is happening. By showing and not telling, you keep the reader entertained and the pages turning. Here’s another example.

Mary ran as fast as she could to catch the bus.

Mary ran so fast that she left skid marks on sidewalk.

Using these exaggerations helps the reader draw a mental picture which will bring your story to life. In addition to being more interesting to read, hyperbole is more interesting to write. Just imagine how silly you can get. Part of teaching hyperbole should be demonstrating how playing with language can be fun. After all, coming up with enormous exaggerations can hardly be considered work.

Here are three suggestions to make hyperbole come alive in your classroom.

  1. Write a sentence and ask your students to re-write it using hyperbole.
  2. Hyperbole Charades. Use flashcards to write 10 examples of hyperbole, or have your students each write one card. Mix the cards well and let the child whose turn it is pick one. He or she will pantomime the phrase until someone guesses correctly.
  3. Reading. As a homework assignment, have your students bring in examples of hyperbole from books, magazines or the newspaper and share them with the class. Sports sections are a great place to look.

When you use these suggestions, time will fly faster that the speed of light and your students will have so much fun that they won’t even want to take a break for recess.