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Marvellous metaphors

Metaphor makes ideas visible, imprinting the identity of one thing upon another. It is more subtle than simile, because the reader may not be aware of its use - but it presupposes a simile. It grows out of a likeness - but its economy packs a powerful punch.

Imagery should be both shocking and appropriate, making the reader pause, stunned by something new and revelatory, true and telling. A well-crafted image surprises the reader, helping us see the world anew. The image helps us imagine.

Collect and display fresh similes and metaphors by scanning poems and novels. Invent "crazy similes" (as tall as Tuesdayan eye like a scream).

Notice how sometimes the "crazy" ideas contain a surprising truth. Invent new, true similes from close observation. Use objects or photos (the bee's legs are like scaffold poles, its wings like a stained glass net). Push the children beyond their first idea - almost inevitably, it will be a cliche.

Demonstrate how to create metaphors, by first creating a simile, for example: "The bee's legs are like scaffold poles". Now show the children how to move the image and take out the simile construction "are like" to create a metaphor: "The bee's scaffold pole legs..."

Pie Corbett is a literacy consultant

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