Question: How do children develop the ability to understand figurative language?
Answer: By being exposed to it. By participating in games that involve the use of figurative language. One particular game in the African-American community is called “soundings,” in which participants engage in mutual insults. Example: Larry: “Man, you so poor your roaches and rats eat lunch out.” Reggie: “Well, you so poor the rats and roaches take you out to lunch.”
Comment: Makes sense. I would make the most of this finding by noting in books students read the use of figurative language. And I would note the students’ own use of it. RayS.
Title: “Cultural and Instructional Influences on Figurative Language Comprehension by Innercity Children.” A Ortony, EJ Turner, and N Larson-“Shapiro. Research in the Teaching of English (February 1985), 25-36.