Baby, You're a Firework: Making Meaning through Metaphor (and Simile) in Songwriting

Description: Some of the most effective literary devices used in song lyrics are metaphors and similes. Songs are hotbeds of comparison. That’s how we make sense of complicated emotional experiences like those outlined in songs.


Introduce Concept (10 minutes)


For this lesson, I played one of my songs that use metaphors of cages and walls to talk about someone who is emotionally shut off or unable to engage honestly. I talked about why I did that and what I was trying to get at. I also passed out copies of lyrics and invited them to ask questions.


Discuss Metaphors/ Similes (10 minutes)


Look at definitions and examples from songs and talk together about why the writer chose that comparison (handout in lesson plan attachment). 


Example (10 minutes)


I passed out copies of Katy Perry’s “Firework” (a song I thought they would likely be familiar with).


After listening to the song, we broke down some of the metaphors in it and talked about what she was trying to say. For example: What does she mean when she says, “There’s still a spark in you?” What do we think of when we think of sparks (enthusiasm, light, energy, etc.)? What about this being paired with the word “still”? Maybe its been a hard time but she’s trying to say you still have light inside you.


I also used this as an opportunity to talk about song structure: Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Bridge and after we talked about the characteristics of each part of a song, I asked them to identify these pieces in “Firework”.


We also identified the rhyme scheme in sections of the song.


Write (10-15 minutes)


I used another prompt I’ve used for poetry classes to get students started with metaphors and similes


My heart is like

(3 lines)


My eyes are like

(3 lines)


My soul is like

(3 lines)


In pairs, see if you can write a chorus.


Putting it together: Collaborative writing (20 minutes)


I actually ended up doing this in the next class because of time constraints.


Although students had some metaphors and similes from the last class, some were having a hard time coming up with ideas so I did an exercise called: 5 “Things” Song Prompts (see lesson plan attachment).


I had them list, without thinking too hard, five things in a bunch of categories.


Once students had some metaphors down, I had us experiment with turning them into choruses and verses on the board.


I gave them this form:


My heart is like a __________


My heart is like a __________



Here is one we came up with:


My heart is like a broken vase

Always spinning water on the ground

My heart is a hurricane

Always spinning me around


Putting all the pieces together (5 minutes)


After we wrote this together, I played some chords on my guitar and put it to a melody as an example and students were really impressed with how quickly you can shift lines to lyrics to a melody.


We also made up a silly song about missing socks. And one that was less silly where the socks really represented missing a person (this was when we were exploring personification as well). 



Theme: Breaking down metaphor and simile as tools for meaning-making in poetry and song lyrics Pedagogical goals: Students look at songs they already know as a way to locate metaphors Learn about metaphor and simile Create their own metaphors and similes and work their way toward a song chorus or verse

Education Level: 

Junior High




Lesson Plan

Time Frame: 

80 minutes

Required Materials: 

Paper, pencil, copies of the lyrics to Katy Perry's "Firework"

Literary model: 

"Firework" by Katy Perry

Lesson Plan: