One source of inspiration, that we carry with us everwhere we go, is our bodies. As human beings we are pretty obsessed with ourselves. We try to impose our ideas, our feelings, and even our bodies on everything around us. Think about it. Our chairs and couches have backs, arms, and legs. Clocks have faces and hands. Books have spines. We rise to the head of the class. We get to the heart of the matter, and always strive to not be the butt of a joke.
I don't think human's body obsession is all hubris, I think it comes down to the fact that we understand the world through what we know. Our bodies and other human bodies are all around us, and it's easy to think about how they are like, and not like everything else we see. That is why they are the perfect source of insipriation when students are learning about similes.
Similes are comparisons between two different things that use the words like or as. Easy examples of similes are "My dad is like a bear", or "My dad is as hairy as a bear." Body parts are also easy to compare to something else, and make into similes. The first thing I have students do in this poetry lesson is brainstorm a huge list of body parts on the board. It may seem like this is an unnecessary step, but I always get one or two students who write one simile such as "My hair is like spaghetti" and then "claim" they can't think of any other body parts. Generating a list, gives students lots of options for similes. It can also help students who are self-conscious about their spelling by giving them a quick reference for words that they might be scared to try and spell on their own.
Next, I have students use similes to compare at least 5 of their body parts to something else. Students usually have a fun time creating these poems, and the results have been pretty amazing. In years past, if students finished early I encouraged them to draw pictures of themselves with their simile body parts. The result was drawings in which people had spaghetti and meatball hair, bubble gum cheeks, and tree branch arms. The drawings were funny and quirky, and we all got a kick out of seeing them.
By: Finley, 3rd grade
My toes are stars in the night
My head is like a wooly mammoth
My arms are like tent poles
My blood veins are like chocolate milk in a long straw
My cheeks are as red as roses
My hair is like spaghetti
My bones are a museum
My nose is like a pencil
My back is like a turtle’s shell
My neck is like a butterfly
My lips are like pink spaghetti
My heart is a rose
A few years ago I can across the book, My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks: And Other Funny Family Portraits by Hanoch Piven. It went along perfectly with teaching similes, and body poems. The book is about a little girl who is asked to draw a family portrait in class. She does, but is unhappy with the results because the portrait doesn't show all the little details that make her family so special. She then redoes the portrait using similes. Then a picture is put together with all the parts making a portrait of each family member. For instance her dad is nutty so he has a nut for a mouth. Her dog smells like dirty socks so in the picture dirty socks are used for her dog's ears.
I thought this book would be perfect to share with my students when we were learning similes, and creating our body poems. I also wanted to think of a way we could replicate the book's art using technology. Two years ago, I had my students write body poems about their family members, and then I had them try to create a portrait of their family in Google Drawing. I used my family as the example the first year. I described my youngest daughter's cheeks as being as pink and round as balloons. In my drawing, I found pictures of balloons using Google Images and used them as her cheeks in her portrait. This year I had my students write body poems about themselves, and now they are creating simile portraits using the same idea using Google Drawing.
If you don't have access to chromebooks or technology on a regular basis this activity could easily be done using paper and magazines. Students could cut out objects to become their body parts and paste them to a piece of paper. I have never done that in class, but I think the results would be wonderful and fun.
Body poems are a silly and simple way to teach your students about similes. The human body is also a great inspiration whenever you, or your students, need to break through writer's block. Give similes and body poems a try, and watch your classroom's body of poetry grow!