Monday, May 26, 2014


We live and breathe and think through metaphors.

Understanding the metaphors that we (and others) use, consciously and unconsciously, leads us to deeper thinking, deeper writing, and intentionally deeper teaching.

If we identify and define metaphors in action-- in our classrooms, our society. and in our lives,  we better understand ourselves and the world.

Some metaphors follow the X is X formula we all learned in school and are easy to identify. (This formula is distinguished from the formula we all learned for similes--X is like X)
The whole world is a stage.
My heart is a lonely hunter.
Life is a box of chocolates.
Life is a journey.
We find metaphors not only in literature and movies, but embedded in our everyday conversations:
We fish for information. 
We feel blue. 
Lately, it has rained cats and dogs.
And we all kill time.
Metaphors are everywhere-- we all use them.

Through metaphor, we make sense of our world and articulate our understandings.  We symbolize, illustrate, and clarify concepts, beliefs and issues. Metaphors enable us to talk about the abstract and complex, through the familiar and concrete.

They help us to define ideas and situations, and are indispensable tools of learning and discovery.

In the History Alive program, the Revolutionary War was presented to my fifth-graders as a parent- child relationship.

Despite my scepticism in presenting the complex relationships between the colonies and our founding country in this way to my special education and second language learners, there was not one student who did not get this metaphor.  The students returned to it again and again, extending it to include each new piece of information, each new related concept.

And to my surprise and delight, not only did this metaphor scaffold their new learning about the Revolutionary War, but it also led to a deeper understanding of the familiar parent child- relationship.

Metaphors can also be introduced in the books that we read in our classrooms.

Each of the following books presents a much larger unit  as a smaller unit-- making huge concepts and relationship (the world or our country, all the water in the world) more manageable to think about (as a village or one well.)


Several of my favorite books introduce metaphors about writing-- considering the rivers that run through the lives of Langston Hughes and William Carlos Williams, as well as metaphors related to acting, dancing and cooking shared with Eva by her neighbors, as she writes her school assignment.

These all inform how we think about writing.


And finally our students can consider metaphors about school and learning.  What does it take to make an extraordinary learning experience?  How do we learn and how do we demonstrate our learning? And just how much time do we need to spend in school to learn sufficiently?

These questions are explored - delightfully and metaphorically -in the following texts.

    I n

We think and speak and learn through metaphors.

How is your world shaped by the metaphors you encounter?

What are the metaphors you use saying about you?

Read Metaphors We Live By, Metaphors We Teach By  Part 2

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Make a list of overt and obvious and embedded and more complex metaphors which you encounter in conversations and reading in the next few days.

How do these metaphors shape your thinking?

What do they say about your world and life?

Write an essay detailing your thinking.

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