Then we tried making metaphors, just to play with the concept. At first, they came out kind of literal:
A pencil is a piece of wood with some lead inside.
A marker is a tube with color inside.
A carpet is a rug that lies flat on the floor.
But soon we warmed up to the idea by starting a metaphor, and then figuring it out as we went.
A book is…a bucket…filled with words.
A window is…an eye…that sees the world beyond.
A clipboard is…a tugboat…that hauls around our ideas.
Each time we built a metaphor, we learned a little something about the thing we described, and also a little something about ourselves. We laughed. We stroked our gray beards. We pondered.
* * * * *
Late in the day we read more from our class read aloud, Katherine Applegate’s, The One and Only Ivan. It was Friday. We were tired. We came upon this passage. The children listened quietly as I read. They sensed the gravity of the moment.
Caleb: Oh. That’s sad.
Me: Tell me more.
Caleb: The vine breaks…the vine breaks….its like Ivan’s memory of the jungle and his family, his mom and dad and his sister. It’s broken.
Me: The vine is broken…
I hear you saying that the author used a metaphor to help us understand and feel what Ivan must be feeling. Is that right?
Caleb: Yeah. I guess.
Me: Can you say that metaphor so I can understand better what you mean? The vine is Ivan’s past, his love for his family?…So…Ivan’s memory, his love, is a vine that…
Caleb: …snapped and…left him alone, and he doesn’t have any hope anymore…nothing to hang on to.
Me: …nothing to hang on to.
Serena: I thought that part meant Tag died, ’cause it said that part about her not seeing him anymore. I thought that meant she died when the vine holding her snapped.
Me: So…life, Serena, Tag’s life? Life is a vine?
Me: So…help me understand…Life is a vine that…
Serena: …breaks…too soon sometimes.
Me: Life is a vine…that breaks too soon sometimes…
And sometimes when the vine rips apart, when we lose people or things that are important to us, it can feel hopeless, right? Have you ever felt that way when you lost something or someone really important to you? It might feel like we’ll never be the same again. It might feel like we have nothing left to hang on to.
Tag’s vine snapped. Ivan can’t hang on to what he loved. What will he do? What will we do when we lose things important to us?
Maybe reading about Ivan’s struggle can help us understand our own? Is that possible? That fiction can teach us about life? Will Ivan find a vine to hold onto again?
Metaphors are windows that open to the heart.