Metaphorically speaking…….

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At UFA we love metaphors. We often use them in our team meetings either as energisers to stimulate creative thinking or help our understanding of a challenging concept. They are useful as tool for reflection too and are peppered throughout our training, resources and conversations with young people and schools.

Metaphors can be used in so many ways as they  provide a reader or listener with a picture in their mind of what is being described or discussed. They do this by giving a more vivid idea of what the author or speaker is trying to convey. Metaphors evoke rich images and a keenly felt sense of what is being described, they also give us the freedom to decide what they means for ourselves.


We use metaphors regularly as part of our everyday conversation, research by Lawley and Tompkins (2002) found that we use four metaphors per minute, however most of the time we are not even aware we are doing this. Metaphor is so fundamental to the way we think and speak that only the most obvious register with us.

There are many definitions of a metaphor including:

Metaphor is a figure of speech which makes an implicit, implied or hidden comparison between two things that are unrelated but share some common characteristics. In simple English, it’s when you portray a person, place, thing or action as being something else, even though it’s not actually that something else.

They’ve been around for years. Shakespeare loved them:

All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players

TreeFrom Bob Dylan’s – Chaos is a friend of mine, to Albert Einstein’s – All religions, arts and science are branches of the same tree. Metaphors are everywhere we look. Try counting how many times you use or hear a metaphor during a single day.

bob dylan

They can be particularly helpful in teaching and learning, as they use existing knowledge as a scaffold on which to build new knowledge and are a really good way to illustrate new concepts.

UFA are particularly fond of metaphors for learning and some time ago we put together a collection focussed on:

Learning is …………

My particular favourite is Learning is a cup of tea

Everyone likes their tea differently. Some don’t take milk, some do. Some prefer a drop of milk while others prefer much more. The same goes for sugar: white, brown or sweeteners and how much? Which teabags or should it be loose leaf tea? Earl Grey……Green…..Herbal……..PG Tips? Milk first or last? Luke warm or piping hot or you really don’t care? With a biscuit or two? Which ones? Dunked or not? In a mug or china cup? First thing in the morning or last thing at night? With friends or on your own? So simple, yet so complex – just like learning.

Off to have a piping hot cup of green tea, with maybe a biscuit or two and count my metaphors today.

We would love to hear your Learning is ………… metaphors


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