Four-Metaphor Poems – WritingFix (2023)

Giving Credit Where it’s Due: This popular poetry & writing idea was first proposed by Nevada educator and librarian Holly Esposito. Holly took a teacher in-service credit course from us, and she proposed this lesson to be posted at the original WritingFix back in 2004. Over the years, it has undergone many revisions and changes, and we’re happy to present it here as part of “The Best of WritingFix.” We thank Holly as well as the other teachers who’ve shared how they’ve adapted this lesson over time.

Lesson Overview: Students study/review figurative language through the creation of a specially-formatted poem. In the story from the cited mentor text, an abstract idea–in this book’s case, memory–is transformed into concrete objects that a young boy shares with an old woman who has lost her memories. The book depends upon the five metaphorical comparisons made in the story. Inspired by the picture book, students first create a partner poem that uses the format and makes original metaphors for memory; then, they independently craft their own “Four-Metaphor Poems” for an abstraction each chooses independently. Finally, at the bottom of the page, I will share how my classes and other classes used “Four-Metaphor” poems about our writer’s notebooks to improve our use of them.

In the mentor text I use with this lesson (see below), a memory is compared metaphorically and symbolically to five different things, setting my students and I up to talk about descriptive comparisons and metaphors. This poem’s format requires students to choose a single abstract noun (like happiness), and then create four descriptive metaphors for the same metaphor: happiness is a soft puppy, happiness is a friendly wink, happiness is a warm pizza slice, and happiness is an extra recess. Each metaphor is developed into a short description, and each description becomes a

In a nutshell, here’s the format of a “Four-Metaphor” poem:

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  • Stanza #1: First descriptive metaphor for abstract noun: the abstraction is compared to a concrete noun. Sensory and poetic details are encouraged.
  • Stanza #2: Second descriptive metaphor for abstract noun: the abstraction is compared to a different concrete noun. Sensory and poetic details are encouraged.
  • Stanza #3: Third descriptive metaphor for abstract noun: the abstraction is compared to another different concrete noun. Sensory and poetic details are encouraged.
  • Stanza #4: Fourth descriptive metaphor for abstract noun. : the abstraction is compared to a different concrete noun. Sensory and poetic details are encouraged.

Four-Metaphor Poems – WritingFix (1)

The above-model “lives” in one of my favorite writer’s notebooks. I make sure students see that because once writers have learned this fairly-simple poetry format, students can be encouraged to write more of them independently during Sacred Writing Time. For that reason, I try to teach the format of the poem fairly early in the school year so students can develop their “Four-Metaphor: skills.

Four-Metaphor Poems – WritingFix (2)The mentor text: This sweet little book by Mem
Fox has inspired so many poems from my
students over the years. Thanks, Mem!

In the book, Wilfrid makes FIVE comparisons (or
the beginnings of FIVE metaphors) as he tries to
figure out what a memory is to help his friend who
is losing her memories to old age.

Five-Metaphor Poems didn’t sound as cool as
Four-Metaphor Poems, so I went with the latter
when we started using them in class regularly.

Teaching the Lesson: This is what I do when I teach this poetry format. If you do it differently, great! If I encourage an adaptation from you by sharing mine, or–better yet–if you adapt any idea I present to better-fit your own style of teaching, then we’ve done what good teaching colleagues do: we’ve challenged each other. The best writing teachers don’t seek out scripts for lessons; they create their own scripts through adapting good ideas they hear about from others.

First, we read Mem Fox’s Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, and I have student partners work on a sixth or seventh item that might have been added to Wilfrid’s pressing question: “What IS a a memory?”

(Video) The elements of a poem | Reading | Khan Academy (unlisted)

The mentor text establishes an idea: multiple comparisons for the same thing, using different concrete nouns. The mentor text does not give an example of the poem I ask students to write. It’s your job as teacher to help them translate the book’s idea into an idea that would make an easy-to-organize poem if some comparative thinking had been pointed out to them.

I ask students to write a partner-poem about memory; I invite them to use the comparisons from Mem Fox’s book, and I encourage them to think originally as well. We look at my four-metaphor poem about poetry, which I displayed earlier on this page, and I tell them they have to make something similar where the topic is memory.

I circulate them room as I listen to the students brainstorm original approaches and descriptive ways to describe either their own ideas or Mem Fox’s best ideas. Ultimately, each partner owes me a final copy of their partner-poems; each may contribute–contribute equally being the goal–to the poem, but most must end up with their own copies. They have permission to have variations in their personal versions of their poems that differ from their partners.

My writers circulate the room, sharing their best descriptions, hearing their partners’ best descriptions. I encourage them to listen for sensory details or example of imagery that was used interestingly.

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On day two, students begin creating their own Four-Metaphor poem drafts. Eventually, they take the drafts through revising and publishing so that we can have a deadline day where everyone shares a poem. Students will need to brainstorm four different metaphors/comparisons for an original idea–since we all did memory last time. Here are some pretty easy topics for your writers who may struggle with an original idea: fear is ____ , winning is ____ , home is ____ , and friendship is ____. Encourage students to write about an emotion they’ve felt strongly recently; good writing comes from true experience.

Here are four brainstorms (I allowed the students to decorate them, which I don’t always do) from four different students all talking about the same abstract noun with metaphorical details. For the assignment, each student actually created four of these, and each idea became a stanza in their final poem. I share this to help your students start thinking, and to give them permission to think about things differently than those around them might be.

Four-Metaphor Poems – WritingFix (3)
Love is gravity.
Four-Metaphor Poems – WritingFix (4)
Love is a blinking light.
Four-Metaphor Poems – WritingFix (5)
Love’s a diamond.
Four-Metaphor Poems – WritingFix (6)
Love is a homeless guy.

Extension Idea: If you’re a fan of Corbett’s other website–ALWAYS WRITE!–where the theme is write every day, you may enjoy this extension. If you’re having students keep journals or writer’s notebooks as part of your writing routine, consider this idea: what about a four-metaphor poem for one’s journal or writer’s notebook.

In my classroom, where we worked to focus our writing learning tasks so they were good for both the head and the heart, we depended on our writer’s notebooks. I really spend the first few months of school building student interest in their own writer’s notebooks. In October, I used to host a Most Unique Metaphor Description contest where the metaphor was based on how they’ve learned to see and use their writer’s notebook.

(Video) Making Metaphors in 4 minutes or less

My students loved the contest, and their metaphors improved year after year. Eventually, I opened up the lesson at WritingFix to classrooms from all over the country and world. Below is a collection of some favorite metaphorical descriptions by students about their Writer’s Notebooks. In my class, we used these decorated final pages as inside-covers to our own notebooks; as cover pages, they usually set a nice tone for the notebook ideas that would follow.

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Make a class poem: If you host a writer’s notebook metaphor contest, writing a class poem is an easy way to build a piece of writing that can be used all year to inspire original thinking.

I would take the four best (as voted on by my students) writer’s notebook metaphors, and I would transform them into a class poem that was a Four-Metaphor Poem. As I composed the poem based on a metaphor with one or two interesting details, I not only borrowed some from each student’s descriptions but also sprinkled in my own original details. I did this for two years, and whenever we needed a “Writer’s Notebook ‘Pep Talk,'” the poem could be brought out and shared again to remind each student of the risks and originality they should be applying to their notebooks. Eventually, I had students write the poems based my classes’ best metaphors, but it proved a valuable experience for me to start the process by writing the poems myself. When you share your own writing with your students, it can be inspirational to some or many.

Here are two Four-Metaphor poems I wrote based on the metaphors I received from students who were learning to love their writer’s notebooks. I encourage you to write your own poem in this manner, using your students’ base ideas as your launching off point.

(Video) Everything you need to write a poem (and how it can save a life) | Daniel Tysdal | TEDxUTSC

Four-Metaphor Poems – WritingFix (16)
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Four-Metaphor Poems – WritingFix (17)
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Four-Metaphor Poems – WritingFix (18)
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At left, you’ll find one of my poetry lessons.

I enjoy pushing my students to think deeply
about metaphorical comparisons in poems.
The lesson gives students new ways to begin
discussing metaphorical details often missed.

The handout/lesson pictured at the left has
always been one of our FREE downloads at
our Teachers Pay Teachers storefront.

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4. How To Write Free Verse Poetry 101 | Writing Tips
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