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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

May 28, 2024 at 1:33:05 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

May 28, 2024 at 1:31:01 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

February 14, 2024 at 1:03:34 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

February 14, 2024 at 1:02:20 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

February 11, 2024 at 3:55:15 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

January 4, 2024 at 7:22:22 PM

average rating is 5 out of 5

December 12, 2023 at 11:56:40 PM

average rating is 5 out of 5

Lori Britt

October 3, 2023 at 5:00:05 PM

Have done this in the past, but today a group really blew me away. I did this as a Fishbowl with 7 students taking roles. Prior to the converstaion they could seek input from a few other students about what which decision they think the person in their role would support and why. I also asked them to come up with some things that were concerns for them. This 10 minute of prep time helped my role play participants really embody and feel confident in their roles. Great discussion about what deliberation looks like in practice and about how power can impact conversations and how a facilitator can try and minimize these power imbalances. I used the scenario above and assigned these roles (I was not sure my students woul be able to consider roles that would offer different perspectives): • Facilitator (non-voting) • Mayor • High school teacher • 17-year-old high school student • Transportation planner for the region • Local business owner • Economic development office for the region (your community and the surrounding communities served by the train) • 50-year-old who lost his job last year and who has been on unemployment

average rating is 4 out of 5


September 20, 2023 at 5:18:02 AM


average rating is 5 out of 5


September 20, 2023 at 5:17:25 AM

very good

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