I’m a Pisces, which means I am mandated by The Stars to spend 80% of my time dreaming. (Yes, I understand horoscopes are so vague as to be meaningless. Yes, I know they are patently White People Shit. Hush, let me have this). (Also, side note: if you’re in the market, the Loft has unexpectedly fab horoscopes. I read them to my co-op like once a week).
Lately, I am leaning in to my moon-destined nature and embracing the utility of dreaming. It began a few weeks ago, when I observed my cooperating teacher gracefully execute some student-centered classroom management.
I realized that up to that point, I had no model of a student-centered classroom. I beat myself up for some of my own, less than stellar, management habits, but I also had an epiphany.
It is hard, I realized, to do something without first seeing it done. In my ed courses, we talk about modeling for students — behavior, skills, anything you want your kids to do. Grown folks need models too, and that is why dreaming is so important. Imagining alternatives to business as usual is work; dreaming is essentially creating something that did not exist before.
In this spirit, I’m sharing one of the Contact Improv lesson plans that I dreamed up. I taught this to my 4th grade practicum class (who had no dance experience), and it went v well. I hope it provides a more concrete model of what CI could look like in an elementary classroom. Undoubtedly it could be tweaked, but it’s a frame to build on.
*The featured image in this post is courtesy of Margaret Paek
Topic: Teaching Similes and Metaphors through Tone
Grade and Subject: 4th grade arts-integrated ELA
Common Core Standard: W.4.3d,
California Performing Arts Standards: D.4.1.5, D.4.2.7
- Students will be able to define tone in the context of dance.
- Students will be able to differentiate between similes and metaphors.
- Read-Aloud book with an example of a simile and a metaphor bookmarked
- Simile and metaphor examples from Read-Aloud book, written on sticky paper
- Venn Diagram anchor chart
- Writing utensils for students
- Simile and metaphor sentence frame handouts
Introduction: Teacher assembles students in a circle around dance space.
“As we were reading Read-aloud Book, I noticed many sentences like this. [Read
sentence with simile]. I also noticed many sentences that sound like this
[Read sentence with metaphor]. These sentences are examples of a simile
and a metaphor.”
[Place pre-written sentences on board]
“Who can tell me what these sentences have in common?” They both contain
descriptive language comparing two things.
[Fill in Both section of Venn diagram anchor chart]
“Now what word does the simile have that tells us it is a simile and not a
metaphor?” ‘Like’ or ‘as.’
[Underline simile word in example sentence. Write simile word in Simile section of
Venn diagram. Move simile example to Simile section of Venn diagram]
“What other word can be a signal to us that a comparison between two things
is a simile?” ‘Like’ or ‘as.’
[Add other word to Venn diagram].
“So when we see a sentence comparing two things, but it does NOT have the
words like or as, we know it is a metaphor.”
[Write ‘like’ and ‘as’ in Metaphor section of Venn diagram; cross them out.]
“Is this sentence an example of a simile or a metaphor? [Read metaphor
example and move to metaphor section of Venn diagram].
“Awesome. It seems like you folks are getting good at differentiating similes
and metaphors. Today we are going to use these types of descriptive
language to learn about a dance concept called tone.” [Write definition on
board or butcher paper].
“Tone is how you hold your muscles when doing a dance action. For example,
I could have a lot of rigid tone.” [Teacher demonstrates, flexing muscles and
standing tense]. “But if I change my tone I’m going to just melllt.” [Teacher
“You will get to experiment with tone today, but first I have a few reminders.
First, when we are doing our dance experiment, we will be like scientists.
That means we are trying to observe as much as possible. To help us focus on
observing, we will be talking very little while the experiment happens.
Second, this is a dance experiment, and we will be touching each other. It’s
important to remember that your partner can always say ‘no’ to a touch. It’s
not personal and it isn’t a big deal, but you need to listen to your partner and
respect what they say.”
We Do: [Pair students off, including with the teacher]
“Okay, now decide which partner will be the Ms. Radish partner and which
partner will be the Student partner.”
[Teacher models experiment].
“We only need our arms and our brains for this experiment, so you should
stay sitting down. Scoot back a bit if you need more room to move. The
Ms. Radish partner is going to hold Student partner’s arm like this, with
one hand supporting their elbow and one hand supporting their wrist.
Student’s job right now is to just do nothing, and let me support their arm.
I’m going to be like a scientist and observe what their arm feels like. Is it
heavy? Light? Is it easy to move around? What do their joints do? If you are
the Ms. Radish partner, go ahead and experiment with your Student’s arm.
Students remember that you can always tell your partner ‘no’ if they do
something that doesn’t feel good, but otherwise just do nothing.”
[Allow students to experiment until they grow restless, a minute at most].
“Okay, now we will use some descriptive language to play with tone. Stop touching your partner and give me your attention. I have a sentence
frame here: ‘My arm was like .’ I’m going to fill in the blank with
‘concrete.’ ‘My arm was like concrete.’ Is this a simile or a metaphor? Put
your hand on your head if you think it is a metaphor. Why do you think it is a
simile and not a metaphor?” Because it uses the word ‘like.’
[Add sentence frame to anchor chart].
“Now get back with your partner. If you are the Ms. Radish partner, keep
experimenting. But if you are the Student partner, try to continue doing
nothing while imagining your arm is concrete.”
[Students switch roles, repeat process with ‘My arm was full of fizzy cola’].
I do: [Pass sentence frame hand-outs to all students. Each student gets one simile
sentence frame, and one metaphor sentence frame].
“Now it’s your turn. Take a moment and write something in both your
sentence frames. Don’t show your partner.”
“Now one partner will choose a simile or metaphor to embody. The other
partner will do our dance experiment, trying to discover what the simile or
metaphor might be. You get three guesses before you need to switch.”
[Students experiment. Teacher circulates. After 5 minutes, cue partners to
switch if they have not already].
Wrap Up: “Thank your partner for doing the dance experiment with you. Now, does
anyone have a simile or metaphor that they are really proud of?”
“Put your hand on your head if you think this sentence is a metaphor? How
do you know?”
[Place sentence frame in appropriate section of Venn diagram anchor chart.
Repeat process with 2-3 more examples].
“Now that you folks are experts on similes and metaphors, I can’t wait to see
them appear in your writing. When I give you the cue to transition, you can
take your sentence frames off our chart and tape them in your writing
notebooks so you will always have examples. I’m also excited to see you
play with tone the next time we dance. Who has an idea for the kind of tone
we should have as we transition?”
[Transition, using student suggestion to move through classroom with