Thursday, May 16, 2013

Metaphorically Speaking

With the weather warming up and the motivation amongst students winding down, the end of the school year comes with lots of challenges.  Right now, I am smack dab in the middle of my 8th grade Romeo and Juliet unit, a unit that often comes with teaching more abstract aspects of language, and requiring students to do more reading between the lines.  In my inclusion classroom, grasping abstract concepts is something that usually only a handful of students are able to easily do.  Many of my students can fully access these abstract concepts when they are presented in a more concrete way.

In act 2, scene 2 of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo (who, in this scene, my students refer to as a "creeper") spies on Juliet as she swoons over him from up in her balcony.  Once she realizes he is there, they pour their hearts out to one another and proclaim their infinite love.  After listening to the scene as a class, we identify together the various metaphors that Romeo and Juliet use to express their love for one another.  However, in order to truly grasp just how gushy Romeo and Juliet's love for one another is, finding the metaphors isn't enough.  This means little to nothing to the students who think primarily concretely and cannot grasp the ambiguity of the metaphor. They need to see the metaphor, right there in front of them, to really understand what it means.

How can students see something metaphiorical? In trying to answer this question, I developed, what I've found to be, an activity that appeals to the masses (and by masses I mean my 50 eighth graders).

Students have 2 choices for this activity:

The more artistic students choose to actually illustrate a metaphor in it's literal form.  They read the metaphor, visualize what's happening, and put that visualization to good use by illustrating it.   Here are some works in progress...
"O swear not by the moon, th'inconstant moon,
Which monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable"

"Two of the fairest stars, in all the heavens,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their sphere till they return."

The other option students have (and my personal favorite choice!) is to photograph their interpretation of 4 metaphors from the scene.  They were asked to post their photographs to Instagram, and use an appropriate hashtag to distinguish each of my two groups' metaphors from one another (my two groups which have recently been renamed the Capulets and the Montagues.) They worked on these in class today, and really ran with.  They were hilarious.

 Take a look at what they came up with..
One of my personal favorites...

They even used photo editing apps to enhance their work...


Creating something concrete that represents an abstract concept has been a great way to help bridge the gap between the developmental differences in my classroom.  For those students who can easily perceive abstract information, this is a great extension activity for applying that comprehension.  For those students who struggle with reading between the lines, this is a great activity for clarifying understanding. And plus, it's fun! 



  1. Awesome teaching once again Jenna. As a special education teacher myself I see a lot of my students struggling with understanding abstract meanings in ELA. What a great tangible way to Make these meanings more concrete and understandabler for students who may be struggling in such a difficult language unit. Love this blog. Keep it up.