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Lesson 7: Using Metaphor to Bridge Understanding

Updated: May 6

By the end of the lesson students will be able to:

  • Understand the concept of a metaphor.

  • Create a metaphor for themselves based on their relationships with others.

Overview of Ontario Curriculum Connections in this Lesson

C: Comprehension

C3.1 Literary Devices

C3.3 Analyzing Texts

D: Composition

D1: Developing Ideas and Organizing Content

D2: Creating Texts

D3: Publishing, Presenting and Reflecting


This lesson expands students’ comprehension of metaphor as a literary device and a way of situating their connections both digital and not. Metaphor is a part of Ontario’s Critical Thinking in Literacy strand C3.1, Literary Devices.  

Materials: Paper, pencils, (coloured pencils) tape

Lesson 7 Activities

7A. Understanding Metaphor

Read the poem Self Portrait (8 of 9) from Seeking Draven with students. 

To ensure that all students benefit from the poem and can build the metaphorical connection from Teagan’s self-portrait and mushroom networks, the teacher should prepare students by telling them the poem uses a metaphor. To support all students’ background knowledge, it is a good idea to invite students to explain what metaphor is, in advance. This is an opportunity for the teacher to correct misunderstandings and sets up the class to discuss what they have understood in terms of the network/identity/mycelial metaphor used in Self Portrait (8 of 9). 

It is also helpful for students to have a little context for the poem, especially if they haven’t read the whole book. 

In the novel, Teagan, the main character in Seeking Draven, was tasked by the art teacher to create a Self Portrait that is a metaphor of her unique identity. Teagan struggled until she made the connection between her love of mushrooms and her activity on the internet.


Self Portrait (8 of 9)

Dad returns Tab for the art show

So I can create a portrait of me

My idea

With my head above ground and all Tab’s threads of all the pics and texts and links and comments


I call it. My Cell I am.

Get it? Mycelium.


It takes me all day

My teacher calls it victorious

Discussion (could be with the whole class, or for students to discuss in small groups before sharing their insights) 

  • Why did Teagan choose a mushroom’s network of mycelium as her self portrait? 

  • What does it allow her to explain? 

Understanding metaphor After students discuss the poem, the teacher can provide direct instruction of what metaphor is. 

Background for Teachers: Metaphor

Oxford Learners Dictionary defines metaphor as  

“a word or phrase used to describe somebody/something else, in a way that is different from its normal use, in order to show that the two things have the same qualities and to make the description more powerful, for example She has a heart of stone”

Author Liz Garton Scanlon says that metaphor helps point out to the reader, “what this is about.” Metaphor is a figure of speech in which we associate one idea or object with another, even if they are not the same.

The word metaphor comes from the Greek ‘meta’, meaning ‘over’ or ‘across’. And ‘phairin’, meaning to carry, or to bear. Put together, a metaphor carries an idea across to a place of understanding.

We use metaphors all the time. Whether it’s not to throw the baby out with the bathwater or the hands of the clock. 

I A Richards in The Philosophy of Rhetoric (1965) called metaphor “A transaction between contexts.” and describes the metaphor’s three parts. The Tenor, the Vehicle, and the Ground.

Tenor:  is the subject.

Vehicle:  is the imagery used to describe the subject.

For instance if: She has a heart of stone.

Tenor: She — The woman.

Vehicle: Heart of stone.

To this we can add the Ground, which is the relationship between the tenor and the vehicle. This is the part that makes metaphors engaging. The reader must solve the mystery of what might connect the woman and the heart of stone. In this case, both the woman and the stone might be hard, unyielding, or cold. 

If Hope is a bird. Then:

Tenor:   is hope. 

Vehicle: the bird is the vehicle. 

Ground: might be that they both soar, both can be fragile.

Read the poem Self Portrait 8 a second time.


What’s the Tenor? What’s the Vehicle? And what’s the Ground?

The students may determine that the Tenor is Teagan and her phone. 

The Vehicle is the mycelium of fungi.

The Ground is that they are both types of networks, and some parts poke into the ‘public’ world above, and other parts are buried.


7B. Creating Student Network Portraits

Using Teagan’s self portrait as an example, each student creates a diagram of their own personal networks. 


Coloured markers, coloured pencils, pens, or pencils, large sheets of paper of equal sizes.

Student networks should include as many of their offline and online relationships as possible, for simplicity they can be grouped. Are students on a sports team? Play in a band? Attend a faith based institution? Have an important mentor? Talk to the librarians at the local library? Have any pets? Play games online? Participate on social media?

Consider using proximity to the student node, colour, or size to suggest the importance of each network node in relation to the student. When completed, have the student consider what their network says about their values? Is it focussed around family or friends? Do most of their social interactions occur online or off? What matters to the student? What parts of the network provide the most sustenance? From where come nutrients?

Lesson 7 Reflection:

This lesson uses metaphor to draw the connection between our personal networks online and offline and expressions of self. In each of the student’s personal networks, can the students identify elements that give them more nutrients/sustenance than others? 


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