Metaphor Maps

28 Apr

Metaphor Maps

Students synthesize and unify multiple themes or concepts through metaphors, and then explicate their own thinking


This assignment encourages students to practice and perform a variety of ways of thinking:

  • think creatively about a text, concept, or unit (or several) by thinking metaphorically,
  • synthesize varied pieces of a complex concept or text, and
  • articulate their thinking in new and self-authored ways.

It involves two parts:  first, students draw an image of a single metaphor they use to make sense of a concept, text, or unit (or several), and then–more importantly–they explicate their drawing. Sample instructions are in the box to the right.

Ultimately, metaphor maps are less about the drawing and more about how students synthesize and unify complex, multidimensional thinking around a single metaphor–and how clearly and effectively they explain these ideas. This strategy stretches them beyond the typical modes of learning and challenges them to organize their thoughts in a new way.



    • In “Using ‘Frameworks’ To Enhance Teaching and Learning” (2012), Patrice W. Hallock describes an assignment in which her students draw their thinking about how they make sense of course content. One student used the metaphor of a camera. Although her assignment doesn’t include an essay explication, this student-generated and -drawn metaphor for a concept is the beginning of a metaphor map.
    • In a philosophy class, a sample metaphor for critical thinking is a ship at sea surrounded by ethical mountains (below, right; Pierce).


  • In a multicultural literature class, a student drew a baseball field in the final inning. The teams represented two of the cultures he’d read about in the class, the baseball field represented the All-American setting where they were at conflict, and the final inning suggested a time of crisis.
  • These “Minimalist Fairy Tales” drawings offer great examples of a slight alternative to metaphor maps. Students can be asked to draw a simple image from the text that captures the essential meaning of the whole text.


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Posted by on April 28, 2015 in Uncategorized


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