Thursday, December 8, 2011

Metaphorically Speaking

Given the extent of the standards and curriculum that we are expected to teach in a single grade, let alone a multiage, classroom it is easy to feel overwhelmed.  Especially when you take into account the varying needs of the students (as both Celina and I have posted previously) it could almost be considered an insurmountable task.  Yet the reality is that things will not slow down, so the one thing you can change is how you approach it.

Reading the brain research by Sprenger and Sousa (see earlier posts) this summer, Celina and I both recognized that to ensure retention of learning we were going to need to make meaningful connections between the various content areas, and different concepts we wanted students to understand.  Then one lucky find, the book Metaphors and Analogies: Power Tools for Teaching Any Subject by Rick Wormeli (2009) helped to truly transform the learning in our classroom. Wormelli states, “What may need to change in many of our classrooms is the purposeful pursuit of metaphors and analogies in our teaching instead of the momentary inspirations that may or may not be helpful to students’ learning. It’s also a conscious choice to scaffold learning by making meaningful connections among topics. By giving students specific tools to think critically, such as making the invisible visible through explicit comparisons or applying knowledge from one discipline to another, we help students move beyond memorization to deeper learning that lasts.” (p. 4)

We began to seek out connections through the use of metaphors.  Our classroom is like a “Hive”, the engine of the car is the verb, while the battery is the adverb that adds the spark, a paragraph is like an OREO, etc.  Variables in science experiments connected to all the variables that can affect the structure of our school day or just leaving the house in the morning. Our students began to notice metaphors more readily while we worked through our Anchor Text and while we observed different works of art.  We began to incorporate metaphors into routine activities, most recently our work with the thinking strategy of Visualizing.  What a treat to read the incredible ideas of our students:

“Visualizing is a set of art supplies. With the paint, watercolor, Crayola marker, and crayons you create your imagination on paper after you see it in your brain, all colored in.”  Titan, age 8

 “Visualizing is like a running free horse. When a story is read to you by anyone, like a parent, grandparent, and so on you are visualizing – using your imagination is free like a running horse!” Cheyanne, age 11

“Visualizing is a rainbow, seeing and enjoying all the colors through your eyes.”  Sarianne, age 8

“Visualizing is like paint! Visualizing is like paint because 1. The paint creates the pictures like how the brain creates the thoughts. 2. The thought creates the design of the picture. 3. The brain sees the design and the picture after that. So now you can see that paint is like visualizing.” JT, age 8

"Visualizing is like coffee on a cold morning. The more you have, the better. Say the book you're reading is The Cold Morning. Without getting coffee to warm you up, you're likely to leave to a warm spot. (If you don't drink coffee [visualizing] you're likely to do something else.) So if you don't want to get bored and trail off into something else, visualize!" Mitchell, age 11

We deeply appreciate the ways that metaphors are “power tools” when it comes to making connections and providing a spark for deep understanding.  Thank you Rick Wormelli for inspiring greatness!     ~ Ann

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