At the moment, I am reading my creative writing teaching manual whilst doing my dissertation and completing assignments at Clemson University. I have always had problems with my students especially the good one and on questions that I always have in my mind is " What will lift my students’ writing to a higher level?
Of course, there is not one single thing that will suddenly improve a student’s writing. All too often their writing is too literal. Or, it is too clichéd. But, over the years, I have come to the conclusion that students rarely use metaphors in their writing. Yes, personification is used with glee and similes are used like antibiotics in the modern world, but metaphors, never and something that I found in my precious creative writing book, glad that I spent my grants on books like this and will spend more probably my one month salary from Malaysia will be used to salvage all the books that I can't find in Malaysia....mom is gonna go crazy as I already have house full of books...yeaaa.
We, Do we English teachers explore metaphors???, I do explore the use of metaphors in everything under the sun, but rarely, if I am honest, do we get students to write metaphors. This is what I am going to share with you people, I haven't tried it out, why don't you try it out with your good and mediocre students and see what is the outcome,, any outcome good or bad please share with me... I will be glad to know....
This is how it should go....
give them this piece of work;
Welcome to the dawn of a new beginning, an epoch of enlightenment and a feast of wonders. Sit yourself on the manacles of education and unlock your survival kits and release its secrets. First, open your libraries of wonder. Find a desert of emptiness that is ready for new delights. Open your grenades of ink and spread some shrapnel of damage. Across the fog of blankness, draw a road. On the motorway write the wrinkles of time on it.
ask the students to identify the things which are being described :
Then, explore and discuss each of the metaphors and their meanings , also discuss the purpose of the metaphor.
Metaphors are used to….
A - Add a new layer of meaning
B - Create a particular atmosphere
C - Provide a point of comparison
D – Make the writing seem poetic / crafted
We have to remind our students that we can’t keep a reader engaged when every other word is a metaphor, this is important as students in Malaysia tend to overuse something new that they learn and when everything goes wrong the teachers will be blamed, so be clear with them. However, when there are a few in a paragraph, the writing is more engaging.
Finally, you can get students to write a paragraph about a photograph of a beach. Here are just a few examples :
- A fisherman’s tears – waves
- Neptune’s minions – fish
- Medusa’s hair – seaweed
- Ink stains – rocks in the sea
As a start we can ask our students to just write simple sentences using metaphors, remember this is a step by step process, we can't aspect them to give us the 'wow' metaphors in just one night.
Then the next lesson we can start with getting students to fill the blanks with writing metaphors.
A book is ……
- A window to another world.
- A drug for the imagination.
- Therapy for the educated.
This leads me to think about metaphors and non-fiction. Maybe I should be getting students to work on metaphors for the narrative writing in the SPM English exams. Every so often I could have a metaphor starter, focusing on the generation of metaphors.
Happy Teaching peeps!!