Almost every schoolchild can recite the definition of a metaphor, but memorizing what something means is too often a far cry from really understanding it. A metaphor compares two unlike things directly. It is related to a simile, which compares two unlike things using the words "like" or "as." The best metaphor lesson will be one that teaches students through the vehicle of their own direct experience.
Children learn by doing, and they also learn by imitation. Teachers may begin a metaphor lesson by asking students to find some examples in a poem or story the class is reading. There’s nothing wrong with this, but when the kids are asked to come up with their own metaphors later in the lesson, they may have difficulty.
Instead, the teacher can begin the lesson with a game. Kids know games are fun, and they are eager to pit themselves against one another in an effort to win. Introducing the lesson as a game will help children understand the concept and make the class enjoyable.
This game forms the class into two teams. Each team has five minutes to make a list of things in nature and things inside a home, such as a river, an old boot, or a spoon. Each team puts their list on the board.
Next, with help from the students, the teacher leading the metaphor lesson makes a long list of interesting verbs, such as trudge, ripple, and slither, and another list of adjectives like rusty, faded, or flickering. Words such as nice, fun, beautiful, and the like should not be used in this second list because while they are grammatically adjectives, they do not evoke imagery.
Next, the teacher gives examples of metaphors based on the formula “X is not X, X is Y, with Y being a phrase that metaphorically describes X: “A river is not a river, it’s a slithering, twisting silver snake.” Next, the teacher should ask for a volunteer who can select any item from the opposing team’s list and couple it with any verb and any adjective. New objects, verbs, and adjectives can be added as they arise. Not only will the students get the basic concept of the literary device with this metaphor lesson, they will build vocabulary.