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Teaching Extended Metaphors in Four Easy Steps

posted Dec 13, 2013, 3:39 PM by Kate Petty   [ updated Dec 18, 2013, 11:37 AM ]
By Kate Petty - Metaphor Image Courtesy of bgblogging at Flickr

If you are a teacher, you know you actually DON'T know everything. There are things that are just plain difficult to wrap our brains around or we just can't find a good way to articulate difficult concepts. Extended Metaphors are the thorn in my side.

Three days ago, I asked Bob Pappert, an amazing and gifted English teacher who retired last year, to speak to my students about his speech technique using extended metaphors. Bob is an eloquent speaker and he tried to explain his speech technique to me last year before he left. I couldn’t remember it so I asked him to come in and teach my students and me for a day. I can honestly say what I learned on Thursday has changed my life. The best part? It is very, very simple. Here it is.

Teaching Extended Metaphors:
  1. First explain the importance of words. We can say “This country is based on materialism. Everything is all about me, me, me!” Or we can say “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Which phrase will/has resonated with people? When we carefully examine and choose word choice, our words have the potential to be remembered throughout generations, but how do we do this?
  2. Explain what an extended metaphor is: “an implied comparison between two things.” Help by using “School is a jail.” What are the words that are associated with a jail? See the image to the side. Use these words in the next few sentences to describe school. “School is a jail. We come to school as freshmen to serve our sentence. Our wardens keep us in class and put us in solitary confinement if we don’t conform to the institution’s rules. As seniors, we are given the key to our locks and we are released into society as productive citizens.”
  3. Next, ask each student in a round-robin fashion to give a topic for an extended metaphor. What can something be compared to? Ocean, Disneyland, plumbing, a bag of marbles, a tree, roads, freeways...what the students realize is everything can be a metaphor for practically everything.
  4. Okay, now it’s their turn. Have them create a different metaphor for “School is…”- make sure they understand the importance of brainstorming words associated with the topic they choose and then use those words as they create sentences after the initial metaphor sentence.
It’s that simple- you can extend the practice/learning in which ever way you want- a poster, in a group activity using easels (if you follow me you know how much I like easels), a speech, as the a perfect conclusion to an essay, etc.

By the way- this is my first attempt at an extended metaphor- I don’t think it’s too bad:

The first time I grasped the handlebars of public speaking I wobbled quite a bit. While I continued to be unsure and a bit scared each time I climbed in the saddle, the fear subsided a little each time as well. I began unclenching my hands from the brakes and before long, I was coasting down hill at exhilarating speeds. Today, every once in a while I encounter a pothole that makes me crash into the ground. What do I do? I get right back up, dust myself off, change gears and give it another shot.