The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Metaphorically Speaking---If You're Not a Teacher, This Post Will Cure Insomnia

        Earlier this week I did a workshop for Gateway Writing Project's writing festival for 3rd-5th graders. There were kids and (yikes!) teachers in the two sessions I facilitated.

photo by MR38

     In the fast fifty minutes we had together, we worked on extended metaphors. This is what happened:

1. I had numerous objects scattered around the room on tables. A hair dryer, a dream catcher, a shiny rock, a treasure box, a rusty hammer, an old paintbrush, a shiny new wrench, an empty picture frame, an over-ripe banana, a branch from a tree that was torn down by the tornado, some bubble wrap...(you get the idea)

2. We began by talking about what a metaphor was. While we were in the midst of the discussion, I was (idly? nervously?) shaking up a can of soda.

3. I then (of course, since it's a messy way to make a point) popped open the can.

4 We brainstormed adjectives and vivid verbs and I jotted them down in lightning-fast fashion (or as lightning-fast as my menopausal brain allows).

          me                                                    a shook-up can of soda

                                       blow up

5. I then thought out loud, and said I had to make some choices. All the contributions were great, but I thought some would be better suited than others for what we were going to do. For example, I loved "fizzy" but I couldn't figure out how to use it when describing myself (unless we went back to my Bozo-the-Clown perm phase, when my hair was fizzy-frizzy...I didn't share this, as I didn't want to frighten anyone away. And visions of me with a perm did terrify people!). I circled the words/phrases I intended on using.

6.  I then created a metaphor on the spot, something like, "I am a shook-up can of soda. When I get excited and bubble over with enthusiasm, things get messy because I get off track; all I think about is what I'm into at that single moment. There are other times, however, when I explode in anger. My rage spews and sprays everywhere...No one is safe when they're around me when I blow up..." (I wrote the metaphor under the "me" heading.)

7.  The students had post-its (okay, I did not have a chance to snag some post-its from my school, so I used a small memo pad and just gave each participant a handful of sheets) and they went around and jotted down verbs and adjectives for the objects scattered around the room. (After all, writers are thieves. We "steal" ideas from each other. Also, writing should not be done in a vacuum. We need fellow writers to bounce ideas around.) They left the notations with the objects, so everyone/anyone could refer to them.

8.  The students then chose one of the objects to write an extended metaphor. They jotted down the notes that went along with that object, so they could plug them into their metaphor. They could compare the object to themself, they could compare it to a friend/relative or they could use the metaphor to paint a picture of a fictional character.

If you're a teacher, try this activity out. It helps kids connect to metaphors if they have something concrete to work with. And if you have any suggestions to improve it, or have a figurative language activity that you'd like to share, please do. (Teachers like to steal as well!)

photo by citygirlny10305


  1. Sounds like a fun exercise, my old literature teacher sure could've used the idea :)

  2. I love this idea. It sounds like you had as much fun as the kids. Okay, so you popped the top? Did you get your 'favorite'? We used to have water ballon fight last day of school-age summer camp, and we always aimed for the pain.

  3. Wonderful idea! Thanks for sharing it!

  4. Very cool idea. I bet your kids love you!


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