Do your students struggle with the concept of metaphor sometimes? Perhaps they need the metaphor challenge!
Last week I took my twelfth graders outside for an activity. It was called a writing scavenger hunt, and they had to go to different locations around the school grounds to “find” inspiration for an assignment.
For example, one task asked them to sit by the soccer field and personify its thoughts. Another asked them to write an extended metaphor to capture the feeling of having a class outdoors on a hot afternoon. They were engaged and having fun, but I got a lot of questions about how to write a metaphor.
(Click here for a link to the scavenger hunt).
I was actually a little shocked. We’ve discussed metaphor in class. They could parrot back the definition and, for the most part, identify them in their texts. But, clearly, they weren’t as confident with writing their own. So, on my walk home I came up with a challenge for the next day.
Here’s how it works:
I started with a slideshow that presented them with some very common metaphors. The plan was to start easy, with something that has clear connections, to teach them the process that writers use when they create an original metaphor. This slideshow took them through a series of ones they would already have some knowledge of, and as we went through them, students had a chance to brainstorm the similarities between each word.
For example, they came up with ways that a stage and life are the same, and then I showed them Shakespeare’s famous quote. Next, we looked at the wise words of another sage man, Forrest Gump, and brainstormed that ways that life is like a box of chocolates. You get the idea.
Then, we moved onto the challenge.
I created a bunch of word strips and had each student grab one (I now have a digital option for this too). Then, they worked in pairs to create a metaphor that compared each person’s word with the other’s. I gave them a sheet and each partner had to brainstorm ways that the words were similar. Finally, they worked together to experiment with metaphors.
The Metaphor Challenge Was a Success
I was very pleased with the creative connections that many of them made. I did discover, however, that quite a few were writing similes. Another quick lesson taught them that all they need to do is drop the like and they will have a metaphor. For example, one pair wrote that family is like duct tape; when things start to fall apart they use their strength to stick together. I showed them that all they need to do is cross out “like” and they have Family is duct tape.
I hope my lesson is duct tape too; I want it to stick, so next week, when the kids have their first big writing assignment, they will be able to use metaphor as a way to develop some of their points. We’ll have to see.
If you’d like to try this lesson too, I’ve got it ready made in my store. In fact, I’ve got a whole series for figurative language. Just follow this link, then print and go!
If you’d like other ways to make poetry fun and accessible, read all about some of my ideas here.
I also have some resources for you: