Serendipitous (adj): describing a fortunate discovery made by accident.
"I think a lot more decisions are made on serendipity than people think. Things come across their radar screens and they jump at them."
--Jay W. Lorsch, Harvard Business School
Greetings, fellow teachers! My name is Corbett Harrison, and in 2001, I helped the Northern Nevada Writing Project launch this WritingFix website. For ten years, we sponsored lesson-building workshops throughout our region, and the best-of-the-best lessons created by our participants were posted at WritingFix for all teachers to freely access.
The lesson you find here is one that I personally created as a demonstration lesson during our iPods Across the Curriculum workshop.
If you enjoy this lesson's big ideas and want to hear more about the work that I do to inspire student writers of all ages, I invite you to visit my personal website--CorbettHarrison.com--where you can access the new lessons and training materials I have been developing since 2009.
Overview of this Notebook Prompt & Lesson:
This is a fun lesson to do before Valentine's Day, and it also works well if you're teaching Romeo and Juliet, which has lots of extended metaphors throughout the play.
Based on its title, student writers predict what Benatar's song means when it says that "love is a battlefield." After discussing Benatar's extended metaphor as a class, students will create an original extended metaphor about love in small groups. Finally, students will independently create an extended metaphor and write about it in a poem that mimic's Benatar's lyrics.
The focus trait in this writing assignment is voice; writers will be conveying a tone about the emotion of love that their readers must be able to interpret. The support trait in this assignment is idea development; writers' final poems will be inspired by memorable details that students brainstorm before planning their extended metaphors.
Sharing the Song as a Mentor Text:
Tell students you are going to share a song with them from the 80's--a song they have probably heard before. Tell them it's called "Love is a Battlefield," and that it was sung by Pat Benatar, who--interestingly enough--was a classically trained opera singer who became a popular rock star.
Tell students, "Even if you've heard the song already, you've probably never thought about the lyrics closely. Before listening to the song today, I want you to discuss with a partner what you think the song is about, knowing the title is Love is a Battlefield. What does that title make you think the song might talk about? Is it going to be about a battlefield in a desert or a meadow or somewhere else? A battlefield moments before a battle begins? A battlefield that has recovered from a war and is now a peaceful place? What attitude about love do you think the writer of this song had? Good attitude or bad attitude?"
Let students generate multiple answers in pairs. Share them out loud, and celebrate ones that are different from others. Say, "A metaphor is great tool for writers, but sometimes you need to extend them so your audience knows exactly what kind of battlefield you mean, if you compare something to a battlefield."
Play the song. Show its lyrics on an overhead while students listen; you can find the lyrics on-line by using the Google link underneath the picture of Pat Benatar above. After listening, have students discuss what kind of battlefield the entire song makes them see. Talk about who is fighting. Talk about who is being fought. Ask students to visualize what the battlefield looks like after hearing the song. Ask students what kind of attitude (tone) do they think the song is saying about the emotion(Information just for teachers: To me, the song is about young love fighting a battle with an older generation. Although there is no real clear picture given of the type of battlefield the "war" is happening on, encourage your students to visualize the battlefield based on this information).
Adding Details to a Metaphor as a Whole Class:
Next, introduce a new metaphor about love to your students: Love is a swimming pool. Write it where everyone can see it. Ask students to brainstorm and shout out modifiers (adjectives: single-word ones or adjectives in the form of prepositional phrases) that could be attached to the metaphor to give us an extended idea of what the metaphor means. Love is an empty swimming pool. Love is a swimming pool in winter. Love is a crowded swimming pool. Love is a swimming pool with a wild bear in it. As a class, generate a dozen or so. Talk about how each adjective or modifier leaves a completely different impression of the type of love we might be talking about. Talk about how each could lead us to think about a different attitude about love.
Have students, in small groups, choose one swimming pool modifier from the class brainstorm. They should write their modified metaphor down on the top of a piece of paper. Next, have the group brainstorm four or five detail sentences that might be used as extensions/explanations to the original metaphor. Insist that their sentences purposely share more specific details about the type of pool they have chosen, but they must also be indicative of love too...or at least the attitude towards the love.
To give them the idea of how detail sentences can extend their swimming pool metaphors, feel free to share the example below on your overhead projector. Challenge your students to come up with three additional, interesting details that could be added to this overhead; then, have them do the same to their original metaphors:
Use our Interactive Prompt/Idea Generator: (to create a class chart)
The button-pressing game in the blue box below was one of WritingFix's original twenty-one prompts that started our website in 2001. It was designed to help you inspire a class chart of words and phrases that can be used to inspire independent writing about a unique character.
If you have the ability to project this page for your students to all see, you can do a whole-class demonstration that helps them all find one character idea to put in their writer's notebook. Simply ask your students to help you choose a button to click on; keep doing this (several dozen times) until all your students can piece together one adjective with a character idea and a phrase that gives them all a unique character to write about.
You can also--if you have a designated computer lab time at your school--have your students find this page and independently click the buttons, recording favorite ideas on a piece of paper to carry back with them to class and do the writing assignment at their desks.
If you don't have the ability to project or computer lab time, look below the blue box for suggestions on replicating the interactive prompt with less technology.
A SERENDIPITY PROMPT!
Press the two buttons until you create an idea for
a metaphor you'd be willing to explain through writing!
If you create a better original metaphor than the buttons above give you, use it!
Ways to replicate this interactive prompt without using technology: It's simple; make two columns on your whiteboard or chalkboard or on chart paper, labeling them as indicated. Write four or five adjectives and nouns (borrowed from the button game above), and four or five nouns and phrases to give your students a model; then, have your students work in pairs to create more words and phrases that could go in each column. When students share their ideas out loud, record the very best ones on the classroom chart. With a chart created, tell students they are to all choose three or four original metaphors they'd be willing to explore in their writer's notebooks.
Example class chart:
Love is a(n)...
Love is a(n)...
with a four leaf clover
under a swing set
on a necklace
Ask students to think about what they know about love, and to select four metaphors that they could use to explain a comparison. If they like the way "Love is a chocolate fountain" sounds but cannot explain how any of a chocolate fountain's characteristics relate to love, then they should not choose that one.
In order for a metaphor to work and make sense, the creator of the metaphor must be able to explain with details how parts of love are similar to parts of the object they are comparing love to. Making good metaphors is not easy--it requires comparative think, which is a deeper type of thinking than students are used to. Your struggling writers might benefit from some one-on-one conversations while they select metaphors, but they might also benefit from working in small groups too.
If you have students who are inspired to create original metaphors that aren't on the class list, you should of course let them.
Creating a Writer's Notebook Page:
Long before they write their actual poems, we suggest you have students work on a writer's notebook page dedicated to their four metaphors. A good writer's notebook page task will allow students to really think deeply about ideas they find interesting, especially if you give them some time to illustrate the pages they are creating.
Here is one way you can have your students dedicate and partition a notebook page to this assignment:
A Writer's Notebook Page: Exploring a Love Metaphor:
For inspiration before and while they create their own pages, show students your own model of a finished notebook page and/or our webmaster's teacher model, which we have included (at left) with this lesson as our attempt to inspire you to create your own, but we will be understanding if you want to use ours as yours. If you are teaching your students to use Mr. Stick in notebooks to serve as a journal or notebook mascot, it can actually be really fun to make your teacher model to show them. Your kids can gain real inspiration from having proof that you had fun as you created your own notebook page; we truly believe kids can have fun while learning as long as the teacher is modeling what smart and fun looks like at all times. Sample notebook pages from a teacher are inspirational! Click here for a really large version of our webmaster's notebook page, which allows you to really zoom in on details or print on a poster, if you have that ability.
Metaphorical thinking is difficult. It would be advisable to spread the creation of the notebook page over a few days, if not a week or longer. There is nothing wrong with choosing one metaphor and creating a box for it on a writer's notebook page, then waiting a few days to do another one.
Student Models of the Assignment:
A few days after they have created the entire notebook page, explain to students that they are now ready to create a poem about their best metaphor from their notebook pages.
To show them what the poem can look like, tell them that you have created a "Love is a Swimming Pool" poem based on the bear-on-the-pool detail sentences from earlier. Tell them their poems could take any form, it can rhyme but it doesn't have to. To write the teacher model, we tried to match the syllable patterns from "Love is Battlefield," so it can almost be sung to the "Love is a Battlefield" music. Indeed, there are many ways to create a poem!
Before they began composing, and after they have begun, you should certainly show them some of these student models to further inspire them.
Love is a Rollercoaster by Richie, fifth grade poet
When I’m approaching the intense ride,
’m still not sure if I want to be on it,
But when I’m on and my seatbelt is fastened,
I can’t change my mind.
Love is a rollercoaster.
When I move up, it’s calm and peaceful,
But the suspense keeps building.
When I go down, it’s wild and uncontrollable
And everyone’s screaming.
There’s no turning back.
Love is a rollercoaster.
If I have someone with me,
They can protect me through the
Experience of riding a rollercoaster.
If I’m on the ride alone,
Then I should make sure I have my
Strapped on and stay still,
Because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Love is a rollercoaster.
(Click here to open/print Richie's poem as well as the poems of two classmates.)
Love is a Bumper Sticker
by Laura, ninth grade poet
Love is a bumper sticker Once plastered on in ardent emotion and a flicker of something that was in your eyes – Passion, wasn’t it? You try and remember now as you rock in your wicker Passing-by thoughts to the metronome time-ticker that taunts you from the dashboard… Sure, the sticker’s peeling and the rust grows thicker But it’s still there nonetheless. You’ll always know you picked’er (Well, isn’t that a kicker?) Love’s left its mark and its trail of mess Lanes behind you, at the stoplight, and cars to your left. You can never drive too fast to escape the bumper sticker – Love, it clings like a bumper sticker.
Love is a Treasure Hunt by Tanis, twelfth grade poet
You've traversed land and sea,
counted your steps,
checked your bearings,
but your time spent
for buried treasure
has yielded nothing.
You can't search for love.
You have no map,
and your wandering is useless.
You'd best just stay put.
Take a rest
and then start digging
into the ground on which you now stand.
Your shovel scrapes against
that valued thing, that treasure you seeked
but only found when
you stopped searching.
The beach kept it hidden
until you dared
to finally look past the surface.
Now, as you pull it up from the ground,
the chest gets lighter, easier to lift,
Wanting to come to you.
You sit it atop the earth,
having recovered it from the depths,
and take a seat beside it,
looking it over,
brushing sand away.
The lock gleams,
but you have no key.
No, don't go looking.
Patience will be provident.
An Invitation to Share Love Metaphor Poems: (Publish your students with us! It's incredibly motivating!)
WritingFix Safely Publishes Students from Around the World! In 2008, we first began accepting students samples from teachers anywhere who use WritingFix lessons and prompts. Hundreds of new published students now go up at our site annually! We're currently seeking student samples for all non-represented grade levels for this writer's notebook prompt!
You can post your students' finished stories (as well as photographs of the notebook pages that inspired them) at this posting page set-up for this on-line lesson.