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February 20, 2015 The Ocean Is . . . Metaphor Writing By Kriscia Cabral
Grades 1–2, 3–5

    Every Friday I make it my goal to introduce my students to a new aspect of writing. I strive to teach a new technique that enhances writing such as repeated words, similes, stretching out a moment, or something along the Lester Laminack lines. I usually find my inspiration from authors. I use a book as a mentor text and then as a class, we try to mimic what we learn from the story. The recognition of metaphors in a book is no different. In the case of my class, we read a story and noticed the beauty in the language and description. Then we tried it ourselves.

    Prior to teaching the lesson, I read the story The Ocean Is… to myself. This underwater tour from the perspective of those that live there is sure to be a hit in your classroom. Accompanied by Norbert Wu's stunning photographs, Kathleen Kranking describes the ocean using rhyming verses that feature metaphors. Reading the story first gave me some background knowledge of the book and helped me prepare the following lesson for students.


    Activate Prior Knowledge

    Get your students started by saying, “Today I want you to use your imagination to describe. I’m going to start a sentence for you and I want you to think of how you would describe it to me.”

    On the board I wrote the words, “The ocean is…” I read the phrase aloud then gave students two minutes of thinking time to come up with a response. After the time ended, students raised their hands to share their ideas.

    • “The ocean is fun.”

    • “The ocean is where I go in the summertime.”

    • “The ocean is where the fish are.”

    I typed these responses on our board so all students could see them. Then I said, “We’re going to read a story by Kathleen Kranking and listen to how she describes the ocean. Write in your notebooks the words that Ms. Kranking uses, as well as any other crafts she uses as a writer to deliver her message.”


    Read Aloud

    As I read the story aloud, I paused after every description. For example, The ocean is a playground. I stopped there and asked students, “ How is the ocean a playground?” I took a few responses and then continued to read Kranking's elaboration of her metaphor. I repeated this procedure throughout the read aloud. The further we got into the book, the more students were catching on and realizing how the author's metaphors made sense.


    After the Story

    Once we finished reading the book, we discussed how the author used metaphors to describe the ocean, and then expanded her metaphor with a description of why that metaphor was valid. We also talked about which metaphor was our favorite and why. Many students liked a certain metaphor because how it was described was like drawing a picture with words inside their heads. I asked students to keep their ideas in mind because they would be responsible for making their own metaphor piece of writing.


    Creating Their Own

    The directions were that students would need to come up with a topic they could describe in at least three different ways. Some examples were: school, home, family, happy, reading, and learning,

    I posted a template on the board and printed it out for those who needed it. The template was a choice for those who needed more direction. It was not meant for making everyone’s writing identical. 

    During writing time, I monitored student progress and sat with those who needed more guidance and instruction. It was important to stress to the students to consider what they really thought their topic was about, and what words could be used to describe that topic.



    At the end of our time we had an "open mic" sharing time. This is where students listened to their classmates and read their own writing pieces. This gave them the opportunity to learn from one another, critique each other, and go back to make their writing better. My final challenge for students was to return to another piece of their writing and find a place where a metaphor would work.

    A little bit of writing instruction here and there goes a long way. I always find that when I connect my lessons to mentor texts, students find connections and remember how the author did it. The writing is authentic, it’s visually in front of them, and it connects them as a class of learners.

    Do you have mentor texts that you use for metaphor writing? I’d love to hear what has worked for you! Leave a comment below.

    Thank you for reading.




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