Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bringing Poetry to our Prose

     Here in the deep south, we like our food spicy enough to make our ears burn so there’s nothing so disappointing as dipping a chip into salsa that’s only one step away from ketchup. But I’d like to suggest that prose without metaphors or similes is just as bland as salsa without the peppers.

     Metaphors allow us to see things in a new way. They make us pause and think, “Oh yeah, that’s true. There’s a connection between something like taunt nerves and the strings on a violin.”  Figurative language brings poetry to our prose. 

     You can begin to teach your children how to write metaphors and similes with some of the following exercises.

  •  Have you children make a list of things they think about when they hear the word red. A first they may come up with simple one word answers, but don’t let them settle for the first and easiest things that come to their mind. Help them turn these ideas into similes or metaphors: as red as my little brother’s cheeks on a snowy day. Here’s more words to give them: soft, green, wet, fast, hot, etc.

  • Have them take a cliche and turn it into something new. One writer recently took the cliche “a million dollar smile” and transformed it: a million dollar smile, tax free. Instead of saying he knocked our socks off, tweak it into something fresh: he knocked our Fruit-of-the-Loom socks off.

  • Give your children some examples of personification, and then have them write as many as they can in two minutes. Example: The clouds peeped over the horizon. One of my students recently wrote that as a girl grinned, freckles danced across her face. If I had any freckles, they’d be dancing across my face as I smiled at her figurative language.

  • Read a book like Robert McCloskey’s Time of Wonder with your children, and point out the lyrical language.

     Have your children impressed you with figurative language recently? Please tell me about it in the comment section below!

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