Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Dec 19 2012

My students are brilliant.

Today we discussed metaphors and similes in Walter Dean Myers’ “Love That Boy.” Nearly every student was engaged, excited. They smiled and giggled when the poem said the boy “grins like his Uncle Ben,” connecting it to when relatives say they look like their mothers or fathers. I was blown away when we got to the metaphor that the boy “got a long, long road to walk down / before the setting sun. / He’ll be a long stride walker / and a good man before he done.” I expected this to be like pulling teeth. I expected them to be totally confused. Remember they have read next to no poems before this, and still struggle to read regular text on grade level. Why would the poet say one thing if he means another?

“Well, is he really walking down a long road?” I asked.

“No,” Marco answered. “It means he’s growing up. Getting older.”

“Oh yeah,” Mariah gushed. “’Cause look there at the end, it says he’ll be a good man. He has to grow up to be a man.”

“Well, what about the setting sun? What’s that about?” I asked.

“Oooh, ooh!” Isaiah was bouncing on his heels, excited. “That’s like when he dies.”

“Oh no, that’s sad,” Tristiana said. “He’s going to die.”

“Well, you know, everyone dies sometime. I will, you will. But the point is that he will have a long life before then,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, you can tell it will be long, ‘cause it’s a long, long road,” Tyrone added.

“Last one before specials. Why is he going to be a long stride walker? What does that mean about him as a person if he takes long strides down the road?” I modeled long strides and short strides.

“But if he takes long strides, he’ll get to the end of the road faster!” Kayla worried. “That means he’ll die faster!”

“I don’t think it’s about dying faster. I think it’s about the kind of person you are to take long strides like that. What does it mean about your personality, or your attitude?”

Lily raised her hand calmly. “He’s going to be strong.”

“Bold!” Damian yelled out. “And he’ll be bold!”

“And brave, too!” Abby added.

We still have a long, long road to walk down before the sun sets on their fourth grade year. But if you had told me in September that my students would be bouncing up and down excited about poetic metaphors, I would not have believed you. They are such brilliant, interested little people, and they have been working their little behinds off. I am continuously blown away by what they are accomplishing.


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