Sunday, 1 February 2015

Metaphor Galore

At the moment, I am preparing students for a creative writing task in Year 11 and I am faced with that annual problem: What will lift my students’ writing to a higher band? Of course, there is not one single thing that will suddenly improve a student’s writing. All too often their writing is too literal. Or, it is too clich├ęd. But, over the years, I have come to the conclusion that students rarely use metaphors in their writing. Yes, personification is used with glee and similes are used like antibiotics in the modern world, but the sad old metaphor only comes out once in a poetry lesson. Yes, we, English teachers, do explore the use of metaphors in everything under the sun, but rarely, if I am honest, do we get students to write metaphors.

This week, with a class, I shared this piece of tosh with a class:

Welcome to the dawn of a new beginning, an epoch of enlightenment and a feast of wonders. Sit yourself on the manacles of education and unlock your survival kits and release its secrets. First, open your libraries of wonder. Find a desert of emptiness that is ready for new delights. Open your grenades of ink and spread some shrapnel of damage. Across the fog of blankness, draw a road. On the motorway write the wrinkles of time on it.  

The first thing the students did was to identify the objects being described.

Welcome to the dawn of a new beginning, an epoch of enlightenment and a feast of wonders. Sit yourself on the manacles of education and unlock your survival kits and release its secrets. First, open your libraries of wonder. Find a desert of emptiness that is ready for new delights. Open your grenades of ink and spread some shrapnel of damage. Across the fog of blankness, draw a road. On the motorway write the wrinkles of time on it.  

Then, we explored the effect of each metaphor. What does it really mean?
 

We discussed along the way the purpose of a metaphor.

Metaphors are used to….

A - Add a new layer of meaning

B - Create a particular atmosphere

C - Provide a point of comparison

D – Make the writing seem poetic / crafted

 
We came to the conclusion that this constant use of metaphors makes writing impenetrable. You can’t keep a reader engaged when every other word is a metaphor. However, when there are a few in a paragraph, the writing is more engaging. We then took away some of the metaphors and decided which ones are the best to keep for the overall impact.  

Here’s one possible version:

Welcome to the dawn of a new beginning, an epoch of enlightenment and a feast of wonders. Sit yourself on the chairs and open your bags. First, open your books. Find a desert of emptiness that is ready for new delights. Find a pen in your pencil cases and across the fog of blankness, draw a road. On it write the wrinkles of time on it.  

 

Finally, I got students to write a paragraph about a photograph of a beach. Here are just a few examples the students created:

·         A fisherman’s tears – waves  

·         Neptune’s minions – fish

·         Medusa’s hair – seaweed

·         Ink stains – rocks in the sea

 

What became noticeable was that allusions to classical mythology lifted the writing even higher in terms of quality. Like a wave in the classroom, students started making metaphors with link to Greek mythology or religious stories. I am forever telling students to bring knowledge from the wider world to inform their writing and this example proves it value. I have seen endless metaphors about mirrors, glass and blankets when students write about the sea but rarely have I seen students make connections to classical mythology; now, I do with this class. Next week, I might even spend a bit of time looking at classical journeys. After all that’s there task. Write a journey. Maybe, they can mirror a classical journey in their writing.  They could have one long extended metaphor in their writing. Students could present their journey through TESCO like Theseus’ battle in the maze.

 

The next lesson I started with the age-old starter of getting students to fill the blanks when writing metaphors.

A book is  ……

                A window to another world.

                A drug for the imagination.

                Therapy for the educated.

 

This led me to think about metaphors and non-fiction. Maybe I should be getting students to work on metaphors for the non-fiction writing in the GCSE English exam. Every so often I could have a metaphor starter, focusing on the generation of metaphors. The topics are quite limiting when it comes to the writing tasks, but if I can get them to think about metaphors in the planning, their writing could be better.

 
Education is

Healthy eating is

Stress is

Road safety is

Pollution is

 
I am off to eat my food of the gods and rest my Pandora’s box.

Thanks for reading,

Xris

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing Xris, I will definitely use with my Y11s who have revision fatigue! I plan to link it in to prior work on exciting openings and a starter I have on extended metaphors so thanks for the inspiration!

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