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Similes, Analogies & Metaphors

Similes, Analogies & Metaphors An Article explaining how the use of comparison through Simile and Analogy can deepen understanding and improve recall.

This is a Free Sample Resource
Categories: Article, Teaching & Learning, Any Subject, Educators

Tags: Change Similarities Metaphor Simile Analogy
Similes, Analogies, Metaphors

Educational change for teachers is like popcorn jumping out of a pan of heated oil. First one, then then next, then a few more and soon a fountain of fluffy balls shoot out in a noisy display. Eventually the stragglers break free leaving a few corns, stubborn and unpopped, at the bottom of the pan.

Does this describe teachers responding to classroom innovation? When presented with a new idea are you the first to adopt it (pop)? Maybe you wait a while to see how it works. Possibly it's not the change you want/need so you stick with what you know (in the pan).

Images & Connections

Wherever you end up landing (your response to change) did I put an image in your head and sounds in your ears? Did I give you a feeling and a memory of popcorn? Did the comparison between change and popping corn help you deepen your understanding of how teachers behave? That was the plan.

Simile, metaphor and analogy work because they conjure up interesting and novel images to which we can connect other concepts. They cause us to notice the similarities between the thing and what we are using to explain it. Connected, meaningful images can be more memorable and can deepen our understanding.

In the popping example, will you ever now look at popcorn without linking it to the latest government classroom initiative? And when a colleague says to you, "I just don't get why everyone's for this new government classroom initiative." then you can reply, "Well, it's just like popcorn jumping out of a pan of heated oil...."

Using Similes, Analogies & Metaphors - Which Ones?

Teachers making changes in their teaching are like popcorn - Simile
When it comes to change, teachers pop out of the pan at different speeds - Metaphor
It can be helpful to think of the process of educational change in terms of popping corn - Analogy

Three different types of comparison, all seeking to connect one concept to another, each prompting a different reaction and offering a different type of thinking:

Simile: teachers are like popcorn offers an implicit question, "How are teachers like popcorn?". Therefore use similes to get pupils thinking and creating their own connections.

Metaphor: when it comes to change, teachers pop out of the pan at different speeds invites deeper thinking and challenge. Just how well does the comparison of teacher behaviour and popcorn hold? Therefore use metaphors to get pupils to challenge an existing connection.

Analogy: the popcorn system describes the teacher change system is a more formal and explicit comparison of two concepts. Therefore use analogy to get pupils analysing by connecting the various aspects - the details - of two things.

Use Simile to create connections, Metaphor to challenge connections and Analogy to analyse connections.

Using Similes, Analogies & Metaphors - Teacher Progression

Initial use of  Similes, Analogies & Metaphors (SAMs) will be planned and explicit, for example introducing new subject concepts by saying what they are like, or by asking pupils to say why certain ideas or objects are like others.

As you develop your style and confidence, you may then begin choosing which method of comparison is most appropriate for subject, topic, class or even individual.

Hopefully you will then aspire to the real-time reactive use of SAMs during lessons, responding instantly to pupils and situations with appropriate and helpful comparisons that bring learning to life, dispel misconceptions and embed visual memories.

However you choose to move forward with SAMs, take one step at a time and choose your comparisons with care. The best SAMs are interesting, new and invite pupil thought and engagement. But at the end of the day, overused and recycled ones run the risk of cliché and bring very little new to the table. ;)

Related Resources:

Heave Scale Thinking

Random Prompt Powerpoint

Random Prompt Thinking

Simile Think Sheet

Simile Thinking

Simile Thinking - Welsh Version

Visual Learning


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