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Bird's Blog

Poetry, musings, observations, commentary, rants, confessions...and who knows what else!

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Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Teacher, writer, poet, grandmother, lover, wine-drinker, chocolate eater, beach comber, hiker, traveler, Giants fan, San Franciscan. All work on this blog is copyrighted material.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Metaphor Game

Bear with me folks - another teacher post. But go with it ... read it through to the end...

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.


Blogger The Flabbergasted Heathen said...

The kid's got it right. Funny how those involved can't see it for themselves.

July 19, 2006 9:01 AM  
Blogger Lee said...

Yes, regardless of whether it is a domestic dispute, neighbour dispute, or a country dispute, it seems to hold good for all of them.


July 19, 2006 4:08 PM  
Blogger Jack K. said...


Damn you are good.

Thank you for sharing your excellent works with the rest of us. Too bad the students can't see how you brag about them to the rest of the world.

They are so fortunate to have crossed your path. I'm glad you all planned it this way.

July 19, 2006 4:46 PM  
Blogger Bird said...

ah, but they do know jack!

i tell my students when i brag about them - i just don't tell them to whom - specifically - and in what forum. i sure as heck don't want them finding my blog!

the turf wars metaphorist - i chatted with him actually this morning - told him splendid his metaphor was and brainstormed ways he could work that into his paper. i let him know that his metaphor so moved me, i almost cried and that i had shared it with others.

lee- yes - this turf wars metaphor extends to global affairs, doesn't it? i hadn't really thought of it that way but will mention that to my student - and attribute the comment to a "friend."

alas, i am home from a tough day - teaching did not go so well today . i actually felt somewhat defeated and weepy at the end of class. off to write a vent now(may or may not post it - who knows.)

July 19, 2006 5:16 PM  
Blogger disguised said...

This is a tough crowd, bird--the students that is, although we hold high standards here and hold you in the highest regard. Good thing this is a summer job--that much passion could wear you to dust if it were during the year.

Tomorrow is another day. And the sun will shine.

July 19, 2006 11:13 PM  
Blogger K9 said...

/bark bark bark

boyed! you've got to get that video camera out and start filming them reading their words...edit down to make a showcase of teaching stretegies and applied media. i can imagine "turf wars" reading his piece would be a show stopper. and compelling. love what you are doing.

sound like summer school is more interesting in that you have some latitude with the cirriculum.

i wish i was in that class!


July 20, 2006 7:27 AM  
Blogger K9 said...

/bark bark bark

who is sir mudflats???
boyed you see that plane behind me crashed and in flames?
thats what happened to my career while i wrote poseys!
grrrrrrr! ha!


July 20, 2006 9:28 AM  
Blogger Bird said...

sir mudflats is ... bogs!

if sir posey pecks a fight with bogs, i have no doubt petey boy will either completely ignore the chap whilst hoisting a pint, or dispatch him quickly.
btw - one component of this program is a video production - students create PSAs.separate class and teach for that, though we try to coordinate a bit on content (students are writing a research paper in my class on their PSA topics).

but i do need to incorporate video-ing in my courses - not just this summer class - but during the regular year. even if it's just videoing students when they make presentations (some of which are awesome).

oh - and also - the turf wars kid - working with him is such a dream - this is a kid who really decided to change his life this summer - it's been easy to work with him because HE decided to make the change. the difficulty is working with kids who haven't decided to change, or have decided by not deciding. i fear there are too many of them that i haven't reached. theoretically, it's my job to convince them to change - but there's a limit to what i can do if they don't step up at least a little bit.

July 20, 2006 12:23 PM  
Blogger Jack K. said...

bird, you are one lucky person. It is wonderful to observe a person beginning to take charge of his/her life and make a positive change.

k9's idea of using video to demonstrate teaching strategies is fantastic. I bet many of your class would be ready, willing and able to work on that with you.

I suspect the tiredness you may feel at the end of the day is one in which you can say, "Damn, this feels good. I did something worhtwhile today."

Your are one blessed bird. Keep on keeping on. Flap, flap, swoosh.

July 20, 2006 4:44 PM  
Blogger K9 said...

/bark bark bark

OT baseball! a little repreive for BB today. and, while i was out posey writing damn if the braves didnt get on a hittin streak. you know boyed, i have a girlfriend in muir beach. and seh sent me a little gray seal with a giants cap on its cute lil haid (aunty!). but i think of you when i see it........ the uber baseball fan.


July 20, 2006 7:00 PM  
Blogger CROAK said...

The 'turf wars' student is proof perfect of your ability to teach.


July 21, 2006 11:41 PM  
Blogger infinitesimal said...

Hello Boyed.

I too have been a teacher in a room full of kids (teens) like the ones you were describing.

Remember Kotter's sweathogs?

Well, I ended up getting blown away by one myself. She writes and thinks with the best of them, but has little opportunity to shine.

I am her mentor now, and she is almost 18.

Just wanted to tell you.

I will come back with a cinquain for you.
thanks for taking up the challenge!

July 29, 2006 8:46 AM  
Blogger infinitesimal said...

and another comment.

Last year, I finished an internship requirement by working at Operation Fresh Start.
I was teaching illiterate kids (17-24) how to read, and in one case, the ABC's

the thing about OFS is that the kids there BEG to be let in. They only accept the top choice kids who WANT change in their lives.

It was quite a switch from the Sweathogs situation.

We have a few things in common it seems soft Boyed.

Enjoy the Thai cuisine... but I concur with K9, stay AWAY from the chicken!!!!

July 29, 2006 9:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent, love it! »

March 16, 2007 5:42 PM  

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