More Than Rhyme: Poetry Fundamentals   Western Reserve Public Media
Why Teach Poetry? Resources Teacher Materials Watch Online Introduction to Poetry Tools Used in Poetry Applying the Tools
Tools Used in Poetry

Hyperbole and Understatement



Students will use hyperbole and understatement to draw attention to the topic.


Standards Addressed

Reading Standards for Literature 7-12

  • 7th/8th grade Craft and Structure, number 4

  • 7th/8th grade Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity, number 10

  • 9th/10th and 11th/12th grade Craft and Structure, number 4

  • 9th/10th and 11th/12th grade Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity, number 10



  • Class sets of note sheets to help students follow lesson (distributed earlier)

  • A chalkboard, overhead transparency, Elmo or Smart Board to help with note-taking

  • Copies of the poems

  • Optional: audio of “Five Hundred Miles” by The Proclaimers and “Grenade” by Bruno Mars (some lyrics in “Grenade” are not safe for school — make sure it is an edited version)



  1. Pass out note-taking materials.

  2. Have students make a visual image of a new student walking into the class. The person’s gender is up to them. First, have them imagine the student looking like a normal, everyday teen in that building. Impressions? Then have them overdress the student in whatever way they deem appropriate (too many clothes or too fancy or too risqué). Impressions? Then have them underdress the student (too prim, too little, too mousy). Impressions? Discuss how going in either direction beyond the norm can draw attention. Then introduce hyperbole and understatement and their definitions. Stress that both draw attention to something and thereby fit as poetic tools.

  3. Point out that often hyperbole can mean to be serious, but just end up being silly: “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse and then start looking for its rider,” or “I was so scared I was sweating buckets.” Use the lyrics of “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers as an example. Realistically, what girl would want a man who’d just walked a thousand miles and then fell at her door? She’d have to pick up, wash, feed, doctor and administer to him, and then put him to bed to sleep for two days. Examine the opening lyrics of “Grenade” by Bruno Mars for the same idea. Does anyone in the room want this man after he’s done all that? Determine that hyperbole is meant to catch attention but perhaps not be taken literally.

  4. Examine the effect of understatement. Have students describe understated wedding bands as opposed to their opposite. Discuss the line “Houston, we have a problem” and its effect. What do perfume and understatement have in common? When a pro football player scores a touchdown, which is more effective in calling positive attention to himself: hyperbole or understatement in his celebration?

  5. Read and discuss the poems together.


Formative Evaluation

Have pairs of students pick a product and create advertisements for it. Each pair must design one ad that uses hyperbole and one that uses understatement. Then they should share and compare, discussing the power of each. Copyright© Northeastern Educational Television of Ohio, Inc. All rights reserved.
Hyperbole and Understatement Personification Enjambed Lines and Word Placement Comparisons Imagery Excerpt From “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” Exceprt From “Grenade” “A Red, Red Rose” “The Constant Lover” Juliet’s Lines From “Romeo and Juliet” “Useless Things” “The History Teacher”