Personification a type of figurative language that gives human qualities and characteristics to non-human objects, concepts or ideas. When we personify a non-human we make it more "person-like."
Let's compare two sentences, the first one doesn't use personification and the second one does.
Sentence 1: No Personification
"The wind blew the leaves off the tree."
Sentence 2: Using Personification
"The brutal wind bullied the tree into giving up its leaves."
In this example wind is being personified.
In the above example it is the brutal wind that bullied the tree. These are very human descriptions...brutal is a descriptive adjective and bullied is a very descriptive action verb.
Teaching tip: The best way to help students recognize the use of personification in text is to directly teach them to pay particularly close attention to adjectives and verbs.
Why do writers use personification?
In the above example, the first sentence is very straightforward. It is also a very hum-drum, rather boring sentence. The second sentence using personification really captures the feeling of what is happening and creates much stronger visual imagery. The wind is not a gentle, easy breezy one. It is a bully that is taking the tree's leaves by force. This is why figurative language is so incredibly powerful. It can convey a lot quickly and do it in a much more interesting way.
Recognizing personification must come before students can start incorporating it into their own writing. Introduce personification with targeted illustrated examples such as those in the Personification Picture Pack.
Once students have a much better understanding of the concept, then it's good to show personification in context. Again, poetry is a great teaching text because many poems are generally short. I have compiled a collection of short exemplar poems with photographic picture support specifically for teaching personification. Here are just a few of the poems from Mentor Poems for Teaching Personification:
Across the narrow beach we flit,
One little sandpiper and I;
And fast I gather, bit by bit,
The scattered driftwood, bleached and dry.
The wild waves reach their hands for it,
The wild wind raves, the tide runs high,
As up and down the beach we flit--
One little sandpiper and I.
Death went up the hall
Unseen by every one,
Trailing twilight robes
Past the nurse and the nun.
He paused at every door
And listened to the breath
Of those who did not know
How near they were to Death.
Death went up the hall
Unseen by nurse and nun;
He passed by many a door
But he entered one.
The old bridge has a wrinkled face.
He bends his back
For us to go over.
He moans and weeps
But we do not hear.
Sorrow stands in his face
For the heavy weight and worry
Of people passing.
The trees drop their leaves into the water;
The sky nods to him.
The leaves float down like small ships
On the blue surface
Which is the sky.
He is not always sad:
He smiles to see the ships go down
And the little children
Playing on the river banks.
The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
The Sun courted Water,
Earth’s loveliest daughter,
And strove to abduct her in vain:
For, when he had caught her,
And to the clouds brought her,
Home she came running in rain.
-John B. Tabb