by Bruce Lansky
Wouldn't it be great if you could figure out a way to get your
students to think metaphorically without having to go through
all those tiresome explanations of similes and metaphors? I
just came up with an idea that might work: exaggeration. Metaphors,
of course, are comparisons. And exaggerations are comparisons
(or implied comparisons) of the seemingly exceptional vs. the
Tell your students to write a few lines proving that someone
they know is the best, nicest, smartest, fastest, strongest,
or most beautiful person. Here's something I wrote about my
mother, as an example.
My Mom is Better than Your Mom
My mom is better than your mom.
The oatmeal she makes is so good for me I could bench press
100 pounds when I was five.
She says "Have a bright day," as I walk out the door
and I'm ready to get straight A's in school.
She makes spinach and Brussels sprouts so delicious I always
ask for seconds.
People are always telling her, "You're so beautiful, you
should be a model." But she always responds, "It's
not your outer beauty but your inner beauty that counts most."
She never nags me to do my homework. Instead, she asks "How
are you doing with your homework? Need some help?" I never
do. I want her to be proud of me.
And when she puts me to bed at night, she tucks me, gives me
and I'm asleep--just like that.
My mom is nicer than your mom.
You don't have to worry about rhythm and rhyme when you judge
these poems. The main question is: Are they imaginative? Are
they fun to read? Are the comparisons fresh or are they stale?
Notice, for example, that I didn't state my mother was a beauty-
contest winner. I went beyond that to prove she had inner beauty
rather than outer beauty. To prove she was a good cook, I suggested
she could make foods most kids consider yucky, delicious.
This exercise reminded me of that American folk song about
Old Dan Tucker.
The first stanza's about all I can remember.
Old Dan Tucker was a fine old man.
Washed his face with a frying pan.
Combed his hair with a wagon wheel.
And died with a toothpick in his heel.
--American folk song
If you wanted to embellish the exercise and make it a little
tougher, you could
ask your students to write new lyrics to this folk song.
The rhythm and rhyme pattern are simple: Four beats to every
line (tap your toes four times on each line) and a simple AA,
BB, CC, DD rhyme pattern.
Here's a new take on Old Dan Tucker:
Old Dan Tucker was an ugly man.
Face was flat as a frying pan.
Nose was crooked and his eyes stayed shut.
Head was bald as a coconut.
I'd like to end with a few words about my father. I'm here
to tell you that:
My Dad is Tougher than Your Dad.
My Dad is tougher than your dad.
He wrestles alligators every morning just to get his heart pumping.
Instead of eating toast and coffee for breakfast, he eats the
toaster and the coffeemaker.
He doesn't drive to work, he runs to work--ten miles a day.
When he gets home from work he relaxes in a hot bath of boiling
He prefers chewing nails to chewing gum.
And when he sees someone for the first time, he says "Hello,
nice to meet you," so loud and fearsome people run away
My dad is tougher than your dad.
If you'd like to introduce your students to some other poems
along these lines, suggest they read "Oliver's Parents
in the Morning" and "Oliver's Parents in the Evening."
Both can be found in Kids
Pick the Funniest Poems.
you are interested in inviting Bruce Lansky to your school,
buy these funny poetry books, click on the covers!