Learning Vocabulary with Metaphors

Today I used the following assignment in my science classroom:

The Learning target for today is to demonstrate understanding of vocabulary through the use of Metaphoric representation.

Part 1: Required- Vocab Metaphors

  • Pick 4 of our vocabulary words from our vocab list
  • Find a “non-scientific” picture that represents the word – Like we did yesterday in class
  • Explain why the picture represents the word

Click here to go to Quizlet to review vocabulary.

Go here to write your Vocabulary Metaphors in your  Kidblog.org.

Mentor Text for a 4

An ocean current is a continuous, directed movement of ocean water generated by the forces acting

When I read that definition I began to think about my advisory students who are preparing for the NWEA test.  To help them improve their math scores I am bringing them in the computer lab to review.  I feel like this test is like an ocean current because it is directing the path of education.   The direction of education is currently moving to align more and more with the tests.  Teachers and students are under great ”forces” to be successful.   Ocean currents are controlling the flow of water and tests are controlling education.

Mentor Text for a 3

Title: Vocab Metaphors

Vocabulary word: Front –  the atmospheric phenomenon created at the boundary between two different air masses

This image represents front because the Mickey Mouse character is a boundary between the two different masses of people.  Also the Mickey Mouse looks like he in the atmosphere. This connects to the vocabulary word because “Front” is a boundary between two masses of air.


The mentor texts are present to model for the students the quality of writing that is expected  in their blog posts. The use of Metaphors to connect to vocabulary was modeled in my classroom yesterday with the help of our wonderful, special education teacher, Mrs Hogan.

Many of my students are struggling to meet the criteria for success on this assignment. It is not that they can’t define the words, or use pictures to connect to the words, but because the students are concrete thinkers. My students struggle with the idea of a metaphor. When they want to be literal in the representation with a picture. Look at the following example for the word “Climate”

                  CLIMATE: the climate in the desert  stays the same all the time.

A picture of a desert climate to be a metaphor for climate? The picture does represent a climate but not metaphorically. I need to figure out how to engage the students at a higher level of thinking to create metaphors instead of literal representation.

As I continued to see literal representation after literal representation, I asked the class to reexamine the “mentor” texts. Ask themselves if they were following the model laid out before them. Many were upset. They acknowledge that the model was not being followed accurately. I stated that “It is okay to make a mistake, it is not okay to leave the mistake uncorrected after realizing it is a mistake.”  Student went back to work and created samples that looked more like this:

Ocean Current: The steady flow of surface ocean water in a prevailing direction.

This image of a highway is like an ocean current because the movement is continuous.


Atmosphere – is a mix of gases that surround the Earth. When I think of the atmosphere I think of salad, because salads are always mixed with something, weather it’s salad dressing, fruits and vegetables, etc.

Students need constant reminders of expectations. When expectations are not met teachers need to guide students back to the goal of the learning activity. Teachers need to point the students towards high quality examples of work. Allow the students to assess their own work and give them time to make the necessary changes. Students seem to rush into assignments with the desire of completion. Monitoring needs to occur to make sure learning targets are achieved.