The English Teacher

Writing Analogies

It is difficult to find the time to comprehensively teach students all the writing techniques that they could use in their writing. One of many techniques that should be considered is the use of analogies in writing. From any writers point of view analogies can enhance communication. And from a student's point of view and perhaps from a professional writer's point of view they can add 'bulk' to the writing.

Analogies are useful when communicating a 'fuzzy' or blurry topic which a reader couldn't otherwise understand- as in an abstract term or concept such as sharing.

When I saw two students sharing Carmex, a lip balm, I wondered whether to them it was like sharing White-Out or a can of pop?- or whether it was used to create a human connection to get on the same level- like after a -shared experience- people feel closer. Is it similar to sharing a toothbrush?

When one gives a good analogy, it prompts the listener to say, 'that's a good way to put it.'

Analogy- can be the process of explaining more simply to a little kid, or someone not on the same level, either lower or higher.. A powerful analogy is used in To Kill a Mockingbird when Scout to explains to her father, Atticus why he shouldn't report Boo Radley- 'it's like killing a mockingbird, isn't it?'

As an exercise, students construct their own analogies, after the instructor gives some examples. One I use is the process of changing viewpoints... as artists use 'negative space' to observe an object ... so too people can change their viewpoints to adapt to life's changing situations. The 'changing situation' could be two sophomore girls who were childhood enemies and now have a new viewpoints to see a more effective way to relate.

One day as I watched my class beginning to get ready for class work I thought that they were like :
computers booting up in the computer room, at different speeds, with different CPU's.

When it's time for students to write their own analogies, I have them sit in a circle and write the following analogies... and then read them aloud. They write one 'round' of analogies and read them, and then write the next one, etc.

1. I feel like....
2. My life is like...
3. Life is like...
4. School is like....

Below are the analogies that one class wrote. They were seniors in a Composition 121 class.

Composition 121

1. Trying to think of an analogy is like diving into blackness and losing all sense of direction. There are so many directions somebody can take trying to think of an analogy. They don't know which one to take, so they get confused.

2. Looking at a t.v. that is on, is like looking at a wall. You physically cannot see beyond it.

3. Not having to ride the bus is like getting a hall pass in death row: smelling the sweet air of freedom intermixed with the stench of the knowledge that you have to go back.

4. Life is like a 'penny swirler.' It goes down the tube at a constant rate till at last it drops through the hole in the bottom. The only thing that can stop it is an outside force [a person]. As our lives are like this we keep going through time never slowing down, never speeding up. Not to be stopped unless by an outside force [God]. Till at last, we end in the ultimate hole, death.

5. Our minds are like a baby bird: when we put our minds to a task, we can fly.

6. Life is like a fine sculpture, it's all in how you look at it.

7. A light wind through a forest is like a politician's rhetoric. The weak trees bow before it, yet the strong ones hold their positions unaffected.
A strong wind in the forest is like the man who speaks concretely and logically, not relying so much on the listener's emotions. The weak trees still bend to his will, perhaps even more than they bend before the light wind. Sometimes however, he can break even the strong trees through his powerful persuasion.

8. The world is a large set of colored bar graphs. Everyone, whether a different race, or religion, has different levels of talents and abilities.

9. Life is like an ever-moving Superball. No matter what it hits or rolls up against, it has the power to bounce back.

10. An unsharpened pencil is like a talent undeveloped: a whole lot of potential just needing to be sharpened and defined to a perfect point.

11. A lonely person is like a single shoe. They know if they look hard enough, they will find the match.

12. A sunrise is like a present. It's beautiful to look at but behind the beauty is something brand new.

13. A baby is like the stars. We love to sit and watch it sparkle.

14. Our volleyball team is like a mountain climber who has almost reached the top of Mt. Everest. We have worked hard to reach our goals and they are almost in our grasp, but one false step, and there is no where to go but down.

15. The sky is like a time clock with the sun being the hour hand. You can tell what time it is by where the sun is sitting in the sky.

16. Life is like a dream. We get so caught up in 'our lives,' that when the situation changes greatly, our bubble is burst. What happened before has as much validity as a dream.

17. When I was little, the best playground in the whole world was the farthest away. I would spend half the fifteen minute recess running as fast as my little legs would take me just to play on it for five minutes. Then I'd have to run twice as fast so that I could make it back to my class before the teacher shut and locked the door.
Life is very much like this. You work all your life desperately trying to achieve something and after you get it, it's taken away twice as fast. Nothing lasts forever. Power, fame, fortune, or life, it's all taken away faster than it's achieved. It's all for that five minute play on the playground.

18. The lone seedling standing against the harshness that only time brings. The wind, the snow, all necessary so the sun and rain can be appreciated. Without these the seedling will never mature into the majestic tree that everyone knows it can become. Through our own hard times we grow as well. Without the bad there would be no good. So stand through the hard times looking forward to the sun in your life. Only you can control your potential: your future.

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