How to Teach Poetry with Images (Part II)
I got a text message from my brother the other day. He had read the first post in teaching poetry with images series as his students test scores came in. Overall he said the scores were good but students struggled in the area of figurative language.
Did I mention he teaches primarily bilingual students? We know, even before the test, that understanding the differences between literal, connotative, figurative language poses unique challenges.
So how would I use images to focus on figurative language and connotative language? As always I want our explorations of texts to be production centered, collaborative, and anchored in textual analysis.
Bob lives in Texas so the CCSS states standards don’t apply but I am sure this language exists:
By the end of 5th grade students are expected to determine how metaphors and similes affect meaning of texts:
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes.
By the end of 6th grade students are expected to also determine connotative meaning and analyze specific word choices:
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.
By the end of 7th grade students are expected to analyze the way words sound and how this impact meaning:
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds (e.g., alliteration) on a specific verse or stanza of a poem or section of a story or drama.
By the end of 8th grade students are expected to analyze allusions and allegory:
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.
Fine and dandy list. But I like to focus on reading with the ear and playing with prosody early on. Actually I just like typing and saying prosody. It’s a fun word….prosody.
Similes and metaphors? They are way too much fun to wait until 5th grade. Still the standards help us craft criteria of success with our students.
Lets start there. Teaching with metaphors and similes.
Metaphors and similes work because they contain embodied meaning. Saying someone smells like the docks at low tide works well as simile…..if the reader is from the coast and not Nebraska.
Metaphors are not only embodied in our memories and pasts but also in our senses. Metaphors make us me.
When we teach figurative language in diverse settings we must use the bricolage of meaning we bring together as a class. I find it easiest to start with food.
As Lauria Bandl points our food provides so many avenues into meaning we bring to the classroom. Each bite can be tied to a specific moment, an intense flavor, or deeply scarred pain. Food is universal.
Activity One: What are similes and metaphors.
- Provide your usual explicit definitions and examples of similes and metaphors. If possible pull from lyrics from the top-40.
- Have students find or bring in a photo of a favorite food. You can use the Web or find food magazines, while you still can.
- Make a list of the senses. I know there he goes sensory details again, but trust me it is a good in road into the layers of meaning we bring to our tables.
- Then have students write a simile for each of those senses and share what you wrote about your food memory.
- Repeat the process with metaphors.
- Now have students write an ode to the food using any number of their similes and metaphors.
Activity Two: Compare Something to your Food
- Students will now choose to compare some event or person in their lives to a specific food.
- If students struggle to determine an idea have them think of a time when they ate the dish under review. Use that moment.
- Make a t-chart (I would have uploaded one but you got this). Put the person or event on side and the food on the other.
- Have students brainstorm memories of the event or characteristics of the person.
- Then compare that person to some element in the food.
- Write a poem