I have to brag about a lesson I started today with a fourth grade class. The teacher has been bringing them in almost weekly for writing lessons: persuasive, response to literature, etc. This week’s lesson was to be about figurative language.

Last week, we had ended one project and I was caught a little off-guard, so I just tap danced. Playing off their dread of poetry, I suggested Shakespeare instead, and I filled them in on the basics. The thing that always gets their attention is the fact that at every moment of every day, this man’s words are being spoken aloud, 400 years after he wrote them. That impresses the children.

So today, when they came in, I announced, “Poetry!” and let them groan, and then announced, “…by Shakespeare!” and they groaned even more.

But I handed out Sonnet 18 and we read it out loud. I explained the structure to them, then they brainstormed all the good things about summer that they might compare their True Love™ to.

Then we dove into the poem and discovered that he’s actually comparing his love to the downsides of summer, that he/she (which we didn’t get into) is better than a summer’s day.

Then I explained what we would be doing next week: we’d use our new iPads to create a Keynote presentation which illustrates the figurative language in another sonnet, #73.

We practiced with #18. I pulled up Google and asked for search terms. At first, they were giving me language straight from the poem, and I was trying to explain why that wouldn’t work. And then, I was inspired. When a kid suggested we search for “eye of heaven,” I said, OK, let’s do that.

Up came this image, which on the not-very-clear projector, looked quite gross, like a slimy bug or something.

“Here’s the point,” I said. “Computers are stupid. They’re literal. You tell them ‘eye of heaven,’ and they look up ‘eye of heaven.’ Humans have brains. You tell them ‘eye of heaven,’ and they think, ‘Oh, the sun!’ See the difference between literal and figurative?”

Light bulbs all over the room.

Can’t wait for next week’s lesson, in which they have to find three images to put into a Keynote presentation. Week after next, actually, we’re on break next week.

By the way, this is what a 21st century media center looks like:

2 thoughts on “Bragging

  1. Dale, the analogy of computer understanding : human understanding::literal language: figurative language is an absolutely brilliant one. This is also an issue I run into a lot with deaf students who do not understand idiom; I shall crib from this assignment liberally.

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