The Metaphor Game
First, I ask students to “suspend their disbelief.” Typically, I share my purpose with students near the beginning of a lesson, but not with this game. I want them off base, and I want to see as well how willing they are to grant me authority and just go with the flow, accept what happens, follow where I lead.
I write on the board: “a red ceramic bowl of plump, juicy blueberries.” First students focus on grammar (they are so damned obsessed with grammar): "That sucks - it's not even a sentence." "That's a run-on!" "No it's not asswipe - it's a fragment."
"It's a phrase," I say, "if you want to get technical. But who cares about the grammar - what's this phrase doing?"
Sooner or later a student offers up the million-dollar word "describing" (though no duck will drop from the ceiling - pity) and we talk about description, adjectives, concrete, specific details, etc.
I then write “a pair of shoes” on the board
and invite students to help flesh out the description. We eventually end up with
“ a pair of old, brown shoes that stink like shit and are so mangey the owner throws them away.”
Students then write a description on a piece of paper, fold it up, and pass it to someone else.
We brainstorm a list of abstract concepts or issues, concerns. Students call out such things as “love,” “hate,” “sex,” “homelessness,” “God,” etc.
I select one of the terms and write on the board “homelessness is...”
Now we turn our attention back to the folded pieces of paper. Students write an abstract concept, or issue, concern, on the outside of that folded paper, followed by the word is. They pass the paper along to someone else. They are a bit puzzled – don’t see where this is going. They scratch their heads. But they play along. I ask a student to read the outside of her paper and then the inside. She reads:
Love is a chewed-up piece of bubble gum that fell to the ground and got covered with dirt.
The class laughs and erupts in debate. “Love isn’t like that at all!” “Oh yeah it is – ever been dumped?”
And then we take turns reading our metaphors aloud. We have a good time with this game. Some metaphors make us sigh; some make us laugh. Others are puzzling and make us wrinkle our faces. And everyone wants to read aloud. And everyone has an opinion. And eventually, some student says another million-dollar word "hey - these are, whudya call 'em? You know, meta, meta - "
"Metaphors - dick wipe!" (I ignore their language - not worth the time to make a fuss and it'll distract from the real work at hand.)
We analyze the metaphors, discuss how they work or don’t work. For homework, students play with metaphor in their journals and come up with a metaphor for the topic (their choice) of their next paper. Some students are prolific and write one metaphor after another. Others sprinkle metaphors about their journal entries – and some naturally use simile.
And one student wrote a metaphor for his paper topic that haunts me:
Turf wars is a face soaked with raw blood and uncut hatred for everyone to stare and see. I chose this metaphor because turf wars make nothing but raw hate for one another. Hate leads to death, and then death leads to ongoing wars, which will lead into more deaths, then more hate, thus an ongoing cycle. I chose the blood because it was another word for deaths. I chose the word raw because the hate they still have for one another is still alive and fresh. I chose the face because everyone can see the war between one another. And I put “stare and see” because that’s all that people can do.