I have students gather on our carpet area and ask them how their recess went. After a minute of discussion I share that when I looked outside it was "raining cats and dogs, the sky was a white blanket of cotton and the students were wild animals fleeing to the jungle to escape an incoming storm" - you can adapt your metaphors to match the season. After a moment to think about my words I ask them what type of figurative language I used in my sentence description? I take some responses and then share that I was using metaphors to describe the playground environment.
I then ask students think of some words that would describe the learning we do in our classroom. After I take some responses I show them the Education metaphors chart and tell them that all these words could be used to describe our classroom environment - this gives me a better insight into what they know coming into the lesson and helps me adapt it to teach to where I wan them to be at the end.
I share that today we are going to read, define and create descriptive illustrations of metaphors phrases. We will close by sharing and learning how metaphor comparisons help readers to build similar mental pictures.
I display a video explaining that we are going to watch to learn more about what metaphors are and how they are used in writing and poetry
When the video ends I want to reinforce what metaphors are so I restate the definition that metaphors are words that are used to describe by comparing two different things often using the words "is", "are" or "was". I add that they can often make one thing very different by the comparison being made. I give them the example I used earlier and write "students were monkeys running to the jungle to escape a storm" I ask for their responses to share what descriptive words this statement makes them imagine? or How would they define the picture I'm creating with these words?
I share that by using metaphors I can create many different visual pictures. I give the example of "the students were silent, statues frozen in place by the beauty of the day". I again ask what descriptive words they would use to describe the picture I created with this metaphor sentence.
I share that authors have the ability to change readers thinking and the mental pictures they create by the words that they choose to describe their characters. When they use metaphors they compare one object, person, place or thing to another object, person, place or thing to help readers build the mental pictures they want them to see.
I teach that there is a literal meaning - what the words are really saying and showing - students become monkeys, and a figurative meaning - what message the author is trying to tell the readers with his words - students were running and climbing. I add this to the Metaphor Chart and write LITERAL Meaning and write the definitions and a picture, and FIGURATIVE Meaning and write the definition and the illustrations of what's happening underneath. I want them to understand this for two reasons - first to see the relationship between the two objects being compared and secondly to help those who are more literally minded thinkers (take everything at face value only) to learn how to read sentences looking for multiple meanings). I then use the prior phrase "it was raining cats and dogs" and ask them to share with their elbow partner what the figurative and literal meanings are. I call on students to share aloud and (try) to illustrate this on the chart, too - testing my drawing skills but I didn't want to use any other metaphor phrases that were on their cards for the activity.
I invite students to try an activity where they will define both the literal meaning and the figurative meaning. Students pass out the Metaphor Cards to each pair of students. I instruct them that they need to read their cards, label their white boards and draw/ define meanings on each side similar to what we did on the chart. (I had to circulate and reference the chart because students had a harder time determining figurative vs literal meanings. I also make extra cards so that those who struggle with the one they received can swap to one they understand.)
I share that they will turn and talk with their elbow partners to discuss what the words mean to each of them. When the timer sounds they will return to their own desks to begin drawing and writing the definitions. I set a timer and say "turn and talk" and give them 2 minutes to complete the sharing with their partners. This assists the struggling students to share ideas and make corrections to their thinking before they have to work independently. Talking it out always seems to help with figuring out the meanings and gives them the ability to feel successful early on with this lesson. Here's an example of aStudent Metaphor.
Here's a video of a student's explanation of her definition - literally and figuratively of a metaphor phrase.
Now that we have practiced the strategies a bit we can begin our independent work on metaphors. This exercise offers a higher level of writing than the phrases that we used for the previous illustrative activity and are more common to what they will read in their grade level text.
I pass out the Picturing metaphors worksheet and the metaphor graphic organizer chart -Picturing metaphors figurative and literal. I review the first metaphors with them to ensure they understand what I am expecting of them. I model completing one on the chart projected on the board so that they have a reference for what to do next. I leave this up so they can reference it - this helps struggling students and lets me focus on those with lower understanding rather than lower listening skills :)
I want student buy-in and understanding at their differentiated levels so I share that they will be able to chose four metaphors to describe figuratively and literally. They had a little trouble with the figurative meaning which I had expected. I asked "Was the author really saying the ______was a ______? What was he trying to tell you here?" Once they responded I told them to write this down as the authors figurative meaning.
Once they completed the four examples, I ask them to create their own using as many descriptive words as they could to make their comparisons. This was a good way to gauge their abilities and understanding of the metaphor concept because those students who wrote simple (very similar to the example metaphors) I determined needed more review. Those who were able to add creativity and descriptions to their comparisons showed that they could apply the concept to their writing. Yeah! - that's where I needed them to be to move on to the next lesson expectations.
This part is always my favorite section. Students get together and have the opportunity to share their metaphors with a peer and with the whole class. In that we only have time for 5-6 oral sharings, I first have them turn and share with their partners to the right and to the left.
Then I call on some to share with the class - two are selected for their good examples to help those who struggle gain an understanding of what they should aspire to, three are chosen at random to make all aware that there is a no-opt out policy. This second part helps hold them all accountable to the work and helps them realize that they are all in this together which improves the safe community feeling of the classroom.
I close the lesson by asking them to listen to a short poem and to define the metaphors being discussed. I read "A Book Is" poem and have them listen to the many comparisons made in the poem to a book. They signal with a thumb up when they hear a metaphor and we share the comparisons made after it is completed.
I ask them how does metaphors help readers understand the authors meanings for the words written? Where else could metaphors be found besides poetry? Could we use them in our writing? How would this help our readers build understanding?
This final sharing helps students to gain an understanding of the value of using metaphors in writing and of how they are used in many forms of writing - not just poetry. We will go more into this later in this unit and also in the narrative unit.