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Expanding Thinking with Metaphors

Submitted by Lori Britt

Metaphors are unusual comparisons that can help us see things in new ways. This activity stimulates creative discussion by encouraging the group to challenge their assumptions and default thinking.

average rating is 5 out of 5, based on 1 votes, rating(s)
Vegetable garden

Learning Goal

  • Practice using metaphors as a strategy to expand thinking and generate new ideas.


Set Up: Prepare for the Activity

Organize participants into small groups (4-6 ppl).

Begin by introducing the learning goals of this activity.

Step One: Introduce a Problem (5 min)

Select a problem facing your community. Share this problem on the board, screen, or chat. Without adding much detail, ask each participant to take 5 minutes to write down their thoughts. Prompt:

  • Write down whatever comes to mind as it relates to this topic.

Step Two: Use Metaphors to Expand Thinking (5 min)

Invite each participant to describe the problem using metaphoric language. For example, the cost of tuition is a sparrow caught in a tornado.

If participants need additional help, share some of the following examples:

How is this problem like (insert any metaphor you prefer)

  • … a vegetable garden?

  • … rush hour traffic in a large metropolitan area?

  • … learning to use a computer?

  • … a computer virus?

  • … an adolescent going through puberty?

Step Three: Discuss Metaphors in Small Groups (10 min)

Invite participants to share their metaphors. Discuss how the metaphor applies to the topic. Invite participants to build on what they hear and craft new metaphors together.

Step Four: Debrief as a Full Group (20 min)

Invite each small group to share one to two of their favorite metaphors. Discuss:

  • Look back on your notes from the beginning of this session. How has the use of metaphors helped you to see the issue in new or expanded ways?

  • How did you feel when you were asked to generate metaphors quickly? How did this compare to generating metaphors as a group? What insights, if any, does this spark for you?





Creative Collaboration

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average rating is 5 out of 5

Shannon Wheatley Hartman

December 7, 2022 at 6:52:01 PM

This is an all time favorite. Use it as a warm-up activity or whenever you have a group that feels stuck and can't think of new ways of engaging a topic or problem.

average rating is 5 out of 5


November 29, 2022 at 2:13:29 AM

Activity 2.7 uses metaphors to explore the place of imagination and humor in exploring difficult or unfamiliar topics.

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