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Children and Metaphors

I am an Arkansan by birth and currently live in Mississippi. Due to my Southern upbringing, I have always been surrounded by analogies, similes and metaphors. I have always loved colorful phrases such as “like an old dog looking at a new gate,” used to description a facial expression, or “I haven’t seen you in a coon’s age” – which I believe is self-explanatory. I don’t love them just because they are delightful and entertaining (they are), but also for their concrete descriptions of the abstract. They are descriptive and vivid, versus esoteric or philosophical.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the thinking processes of students, namely younger children. One of the biggest myths that we, as modern educators, buy into from time to time is the idea that children can’t think abstractly. Anyone that has spent much time around children knows better.

It is not that they can’t think abstractly…they just express concretely. So, what do you do language-wise to maintain a pattern of healthy, abstract thinking (which the students are doing already) while connecting those abstract thoughts to the concrete?

You focus on metaphors.

My eight year old, Alexandria, finds similarities and connections every moment to things around her. She once pronounced that our horse Shadowfax “was like medicine” in describing the affect that the animal had on her soul – it made her feel better to be around him. We cherish these moments so we should cultivate the skills that multiply them.

Surrounding young children – yea, students of all ages – with metaphors in literature, poetry and life develops children’s ability to express the imagination that God has given them. It also cultivates the skills they need to make sense of the abstract nature of truth and reality and enables them to communicate poetically and appropriately.

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