Seeing Is Believing: Developing Visual Metaphors Seeing Is Believing: Developing Visual Metaphors...

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Transcript of Seeing Is Believing: Developing Visual Metaphors Seeing Is Believing: Developing Visual Metaphors...

  • 7Seeing Is Believing:

    Developing Visual Metaphors

    The ultimate metaphorical experience: the visual arts. Why do some HenryMoore sculptures, those massive, blocky human bodies, often have gaping

    holes in them? What was Moores possible metaphor? What do AlbertoGiacomettis anguished, concentration-camp-thin figures say about 20th

    century humanity? Why is Pablo Picassos The Old Guitarist composedprimarily of shades of blue? Why was Schindlers List shot in black and

    white? And why, in the films unrelenting gray, do we see a little girl wearinga red coat? Since visual art is so immediate and concrete, as well as an

    excellent way of approaching history, its explicit and implicit comparisonswould perhaps be more accessible to some students than words alone. John Herzfeld, Louisville Collegiate School, Louisville, Kentucky

    Symbolic SensingWhen most of us in industrialized nations see the following shape on a signposted near an intersection of two roads, we interpret it as a message to stop:

    77Metaphors & Analogies: Power Tools for Teaching Any Subject by Rick Wormeli. 2009 StenhousePublishers. No reproduction without written permission from the publisher.

  • Traffic signs are a common form of visual imagery used to convey infor-mation. Runes, codes, and international warning signs ( ) also symbolizemeaning through imagery. In each instance, we are substituting something inone domain for something in another domain; were creating metaphors.Words and numbers are forms of metaphors. They convey meaning beyondthe strokes used to make them, and each symbol redescribes or reinterpretsan intended topic or message. To this day, I have an intense emotionalresponse to the letters d-a-o-o-u-i-d-y-v-l-e arranged and written to me in thesequence I love you, Dad, in a message from my son or daughter. The let-ters mean nothing individually, but when I see them arranged in that orderin that visual patternI am flooded in one breath.

    Teachers may wonder if a symbol, drawing, or pattern can be a metaphor.For example, does an illustration of a person serve as a metaphor for that per-son? Yes, in my opinion. Consider it this way: If we show the structure of amolecule with its components and suggest the relationships among them, weare creating a virtual metaphor of that moleculeexpressing something inone domain (science) in terms of another (art). The same is true of an artistsrendering of a person. Is the realistic Mona Lisa a metaphor for the womanwho posed for the painting, or at least the one da Vinci held in his memory?To answer this question, consider whether or not the realistic painting rein-terprets or redescribes something in one domain (life) in terms of another(art). It does. In short, with metaphors we ask: Do you see what I see?

    Flowers painted along the upper border of a kitchen wall could be con-sidered a metaphorwere representing beauty, what we love, plants, or mywifes personality through applied art. Were giving living characteristics toinanimate objects. The effect is metaphorical.

    One of the everyday functions of metaphor . . . is that of gap filling,Zoltan Kovecses reminds us. In a fundamental sense, metaphor is a verbaldrawing technique that allows people to describe referents for which thereare not adequate words available (2002, 112). Our minds long for this duetbetween the analytical and poetic/artistic portions of the brain.

    Teachers can tap into the visual nature of thought readily. Students bestremember information if it is presented in a coherent structure the first timethey experience it. Metaphors and analogies provide that structure. Graphicorganizers are spatial and sequential metaphors that help students perceiveknowledge: a simple T-chart or Venn diagram is a metaphor for comparingand contrasting concepts; a time line is a metaphor for the presentation ofinformation in chronological order; and a matrix enables students to visual-ize information in their minds. Visual metaphors help us organize content,including subsets, redundancies, parallel themes, cause and effect, and a

    Metaphors & Analogies78

    Metaphors & Analogies: Power Tools for Teaching Any Subject by Rick Wormeli. 2009 StenhousePublishers. No reproduction without written permission from the publisher.

  • range of other revealed connections. We represent ideas and items in ourmind primarily through visual means.

    Some researchers (Marzano 2001) include senses other than sight in thevisual imagery category. The case could be argued that those other sensestaste, touch, smell, and soundevoke specific images in our minds, butwhen we hear the words visual imagery, most of us think of what we can seethrough our optic nerves, whether it be physically in front of us or what wecan imagine in our minds. In this chapter, well limit our examination to con-ventional visual metaphorssymbols, patterns, structures, and anything elsethat is most commonly perceived through our eyes.

    Art in the ImaginationPetroglyphs and hieroglyphs are among the first recorded metaphors. Fromwavy lines indicating rivers or journeys to noble birds with wings folded instiff salute to indicate royalty or vigilance, early illustrations communicatedmeaning through images based largely on nature. I vividly remember therebus puzzles that filled my primary grades texts. They usually told a storythat substituted symbols for selected words:

    The ! was very bright last night. The thunder that came with itmade my pound. The ! flashed through the night until the

    came out the next day.

    Norm Blumenthal used to include such puzzles on Concentration, thetelevision game show he created. I loved using the visual and linguistic cluesto guess the answer. Can you guess what the one in Figure 7.1 is saying?

    Chapter 7 Seeing Is Believing 79

    Figure 7.1 Sample Rebus

    Answ

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    OLL

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    + B

    ED, o

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    ano

    ther

    way

    , R

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    g O

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    Metaphors & Analogies: Power Tools for Teaching Any Subject by Rick Wormeli. 2009 StenhousePublishers. No reproduction without written permission from the publisher.

  • Imagine applications of this strategy at every grade level. Think of thefun students would have creating their own rebus puzzles to summarize con-tent or review for a test. In the process, they will use the symbiosis of wordsand images to move new concepts into long-term memory.

    Curriculum-Specific SymbolsSome symbols are easy to interpret because of a commonframe of reference. In the United States, for example, asymbol of an open book on a signpost usually indicates alibrary or bookstore nearby. A highway sign showingtwo stick figures, a man and a woman separated by a ver-

    tical line, signals that a washroom appropriate for both genders is located atthe next interstate exit.

    But what do we do with symbols for which we lack appropriate contextor explanation? Consider the symbol H20. If we have never studied chem-istry, we may not know that two hydrogen atoms are attached to one largeroxygen atom to create a molecule of water. Similarly, depending on our math-ematics preparation, we may not know that the symbol 63 refers to a basenumber and exponent. Skillful teachers pay attention to each students back-ground knowledge and fertilize it with metaphorical context if the soil hasntbeen cultivated.

    Take a moment today and list the symbols associated with the sub-ject(s) you teach. Better yet, involve your students in the effort, which willshow you what they know or dont know. Some content areas, such asmusic or science, have unusually large catalogs of symbols. But symbols arepresent in all subjects. Teaching English? Make sure students know punc-tuation and editing marks, reading notations, and other creative writingand literary signals. Drama, art, and physical education? Every field has itscues and representations. Create a symbol key as part of your visualmetaphor toolbox.

    Can You See It?Lets really get into the possibilities with visual metaphors. The followingactivities provide ample strategies for building metaphors in multiple disci-plines. Consider each one in regard to your specific curriculum.

    Metaphors & Analogies80

    A line is a dot that went for awalk.

    Paul KleeG

    Metaphors & Analogies: Power Tools for Teaching Any Subject by Rick Wormeli. 2009 StenhousePublishers. No reproduction without written permission from the publisher.

  • Comparing PhotographsCompile a selection of photographs. Students can helpyou assemble these by cutting out a variety of picturesfrom old magazines and newspapers or by downloadingmultiple images from the Internet (those that are appro-priate and within the public domain). Next, ask studentsto select several pairs of photos. For each pair, they canwrite a sentence or two that captures the comparativeelements. For example, a photo of hands could bematched with one of a birds wing, and the student-gen-erated metaphor might read: Her hands fluttered like adoves wings. (Thanks to John Herzfeld for this idea.) Aphoto of a bridge could be compared to a photo of mem-bers of Congress meeting together to solve an issue.

    Provide a few examples of your own metaphoricalcreations to get students started. Explain your thoughtprocesses and invite students to do the same as theypresent their ideas to their peers. Build the under-standing that every person sees or interprets infor-mation and images somewhat differently. As weencourage students to develop intelligent visiontheability to synthesize, evaluate, and communicate inmultiple dimensionswe want them to learn from eachothers insights. The goal is to teach