What is a metaphor?

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By Kevin McCann — Poet

The poster is designed to show children how to devise metaphors and change similes into metaphors during re-drafting. The exercises have all been tested in the classroom but you may wish to try them yourself first as it will help to have a few suggestions prepared and ready. For example, in the numbers and alphabet games, it is easy to think of metaphors for some letters or numbers (H, for example, is a rugby post) but what about G or K?


Author’s note

The poster activities are naturally graded, increasing in complexity as you work through them. However, some children might benefit from playing the numbers and alphabet games first. I use similes from time to time in my own poems but I try not to overuse them, any more than I would try to use an adjective in every sentence. And remember, not all similes can be easily transformed into metaphors. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ rule in writing. I often find that in order for a line to scan, I must use a simile, but I will always prefer a metaphor.

Shared teaching and learning

Reading and responding

  • Read through the poster as a class, pausing to discuss the examples and to ensure understanding. Ask the children to suggest further examples each time.
  • Play the alphabet and numbers game – working as a whole class, or in pairs feeding back ideas to the class.
  • After you have completed each exercise on the poster, ask as many children as possible to read out their work so they can hear it for themselves. Do their words sound right? Introduce the term ‘scan’, explaining that language is a sound as well as a sense. Discuss how, even while reading silently, we are simultaneously ‘hearing’ words in our head. We can ‘see’ lines that scan badly if we ‘hear’ them as we read.
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  1. harry beard
    on 3 February 2010


    it dose not tell you what a metaphor is. This site is called what is a metaphor so shouldn’t it even have an explanation.