The holidays are approaching. For me, that means I get to listen to (and sing) my daughter’s favorite Christmas songs over and over again. Her current top-request is “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”. This song is from the old classic movie Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I was listening to the song with her the other day and I realized that it would be a great way to teach the concept of metaphor.
Metaphor is a type of figurative language that compares two things by applying one term or phrase to another (ex. This room is a pig sty!). A metaphor is a strong comparison because, unlike a simile, it does not use the words “like” or “as” in the comparison; it simply says one thing IS another. Authors of both poetry and prose use metaphor to help their readers more deeply understand a character, setting, or situation.
Students in the upper elementary grade levels (fourth and fifth) will start to hear about metaphors in their classrooms and are capable of understanding them. Tibrarians can help students to identify and understand metaphors by sharing lots of examples with them. You can point out metaphors in the fiction that you read aloud or even use poetry as an example (see fifth grade Plan #2 on pages 78-84 in The Tibrarian Handbook for more information on this).
“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” is CHOCK FULL of metaphors and would make a great (and fun) introduction to the power of figurative language. You can start out your lesson by having students listen to the song and asking them to write down all of the metaphors that they hear. Once students have compiled their lists, they can share them with their peers to make a master list of all of the metaphors in the song. At this point, you might separate students into groups of 4 or 5 and assign each group one or more of the metaphors. For a shorter lesson, you can ask each group to illustrate the metaphor using pictures (i.e. for the line “You’re a bad banana with a greasy black peel” students might draw a banana-shaped Grinch with a black peel). If you have more time, you could do the picture activity first and then read the actual book (see link above) aloud to students. After reading, ask each group to offer examples from the story that corroborate the metaphors in the song. The metaphors all paint the Grinch as a pretty nefarious character, so they will have to give examples of that (i.e. The Grinch steals presents, he lies to Cindy Lou Who, etc.).
Try it out, Tibrarians, and let me know how it goes. This lesson could be just the thing to sneak a little learning into your “holiday-brained” students!
The Metaphors in the Song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” include:
“You’re a bad banana with a greasy black peel”
“You’re heart’s an empty hole”
“You’re a nasty wasty skunk”
“You’re a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce”