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As children progress through primary school, their understanding of language as a tool for communication deepens and expands. They learn not only to decode words and sentences but also to infer meaning from context and non-literal language. In Year 4, children are introduced to the concepts of literal and metaphorical meanings, which are critical for understanding and interpreting texts and communication more broadly.

What Does Literal Mean?

Literal language refers to words and phrases that have a straightforward, objective meaning. When we use literal language, we are communicating exactly what we mean. For example, if someone says, "I am holding a blue ball," we can assume that they are literally holding a ball that is blue in color.

For Year 4 students, it is essential to understand literal language in order to read and comprehend texts accurately. When reading a story or informational text, students must first identify the literal meaning of the words and sentences before moving on to inferential and critical thinking skills.

What Does Metaphorical Mean?

Metaphorical language, on the other hand, involves using words and phrases in a symbolic or imaginative way to create meaning beyond their literal interpretation. For example, if someone says, "I'm a little teapot," they are using a metaphor to describe themselves in a specific way. The speaker is not actually a teapot, but they are using the image of a teapot to create a comparison to their physical shape and movement.

Metaphors are prevalent in literature, poetry, and everyday language. Understanding metaphorical language is crucial for Year 4 students as they develop their ability to read and interpret texts more critically. If children can recognize metaphors and interpret their meaning, they can more deeply comprehend the themes and emotions expressed in the text.

Why is Literal and Metaphorical Meaning Important for Year 4?

Year 4 is a crucial time for children's language development. It is the stage where students become more proficient at decoding words and reading fluently. By teaching students the difference between literal and metaphorical meanings, teachers can help children deepen their comprehension of language and improve their reading and writing skills.

Additionally, students who understand metaphorical language are more likely to be effective communicators and critical thinkers. Metaphors can be used to express complex emotions and ideas in a concise, powerful way. By recognizing and utilizing metaphors, students can become more persuasive in their writing and more able to connect with and empathize with others.


In Year 4, students begin to develop a deeper understanding of language and its uses. By teaching them the difference between literal and metaphorical meanings, teachers can help children improve their reading and writing skills and become more effective communicators. With these skills, Year 4 students will be well-prepared to tackle more complex texts and communicate their ideas confidently and creatively.