A third-grade teacher emailed me last week to say she was using Snowman-Cold=Puddle to teach metaphors to her ENL students. She wondered if I could share anything with her. I did, and then I thought, this might be useful for other teachers, too!
So, here’s what I told her.
Thanks for your question! First off, you might find the teaching guide useful: https://laurasalas.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/snowman-cold-puddle-guide.pdf
This guest post I did also talks about writing equation poems with kids (in science class, particularly) and using metaphor: https://www.patriciamnewman.com/litlinks-writing-equation-poems-in-science-class/
And here’s a poem I wrote about metaphors:
How Is a Meadow an Ocean?
A meadow’s an ocean with wild waves of wheat.
Thunder’s a drummer that’s keeping storm’s beat.
A bus is a puppy that runs down the street.
A desk is a robot with round, metal feet.
A metaphor’s a window that changes our view.
A gift to unwrap…something old made brand new!
–Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved
I wanted each equation in Snowman-Cold=Puddle to be surprising. Sometimes, the surprise just came from noticing the fact and saying it in a new way.
snowman — cold = puddle
That’s literally, scientifically, factually true. When a snowman no longer has cold to keep the water frozen, it melts into a puddle. But it’s not usually said that way, so readers often give a little gasp of surprise as they think about the equation.
But lots of times in this book, the surprise comes from the metaphor, which makes a comparison between two things that aren’t very much alike, at first glance.
bark + beak = drum
I could have said bark + beak = noise. Or beat. Or rhythm. Any of those would have been factual, but they don’t feel very surprising or interesting to me. But those words made me think of what that beat and noise sounded like, and it was a drum. Thinking of a bird as a drummer was a new and surprising thought for me.
Here’s another sound one.
frogs + night = symphony
There’s not really an orchestra there in the marsh playing different instruments to perform a symphony. But there are many kinds of frogs, and each species has its own unique sound. Comparing a blending of several musical sounds to a symphony makes sense. But it’s also a bit unexpected.
What about dusk + skunks = parade ?
At dusk, mama skunks lead their kits through the meadow to learn to find food. Watching videos of this online, I was struck by how they march along in a row. Skunks aren’t literally in a parade. They aren’t riding on floats or tossing candy or making music. But they are following along in a row, like a parade.
When I explain their behavior and ask students (before I tell them what I wrote there) to finish the equation, they come up with many great answers, like marching band, a platoon of soldiers, follow the leader, and parade. With metaphors, there are lots of possible answers, because all our imaginations work differently. So that line of skunks that makes me think “parade” might make you think of something else.
If you want to write your own equation poem, which I hope you do, your first version might be completely factual. And then, ask yourself, “What does this remind me of? What else is that answer like?” Brainstorm 4 or 5 answers! Is there one that uses a metaphor? It might make the most surprising equation poem of all! You could also rewrite the equation poems from Snowman-Cold=Puddle with your own endings. Have fun!
If a teacher or parent would like to post student equation poems online for other people to enjoy, they can go to https://laurasalas.com/snowman/ to add student poems to the “What’s Your Equation” padlet. Just double-click in a blank spot in between poems, and a form will pop up.
[My Classroom Connections posts will share a way to connect one of my books or poems to a classroom topic–often something timely that you might be covering in the next month or so. Please share this post if you have educator friends who might be interested–thanks!]