poem by John Malone , illustrated by Matt Ottley

Learning intention:

I am learning to analyse analogies so that I can use them in my own writing.


Success criteria:

  • I can identify analogies in a text
  • I can identify shared qualities between two unrelated things being compared
  • I can use analogies in my own writing


After reading the poem as a class, ask students to find where listening to a shell is being compared to something else. Answers:

- clamped the shell to my ear like a mobile phone

- like listening to a garbled conversation

- the radio between stations

- as if I were an astronomer listening in through his radio telescope to the hum of the universe


Note: Students might also pick up on the shell winding back inside itself like a spiral staircase.


Ask students whether the first three comparisons are metaphors or similes. Remind students that similes are comparisons that use ‘like’ or ‘as’, while metaphors are figures of speech that say one thing is another. Students should identify the comparisons in the poem are similes.


Read the last three lines of the poem, starting from ‘it was as if I were’, and explain that this isn’t a simple comparison. It gives more information, clarifying and explaining why the comparison has been used. Tell students this is called an analogy.


Ask students why the poet might have compared the sea to the universe. After a few seconds of silent contemplation, give them two minutes to write down everything they can think of that connects the sea to the universe. Encourage them to put anything and everything that comes to their head, as long as they are writing for the entire two minutes. Answers may include:

- both are expansive

- both have ‘waves’ (space – light waves, radio waves etc)

- both aren’t fully known to humanity

- both have depths we haven’t visited

- the sea reflects the sky


Have some students share their answers with the class.


Visit Literary Terms’ webpage on Analogy. Go through the subheadings What is Analogy? and Examples of Analogy with the class. Also visit the tab When & How to Write an Analogy and read the page. View the video Analogy, Metaphor and Simile starting at 1 min 30s.


Once they have a clear idea of what an analogy is, ask students to write their own definition of an analogy in their books. Students should say something along the lines of

- an analogy is an extended metaphor used to clarify or explain something


- an analogy compares two unrelated things for their shared qualities


Reread the page When & How to Write an Analogy to remind students of good and poor examples of analogies. Explain that it is now time for students to write their own analogies. They can brainstorm first, listing a variety of unrelated things that share similar qualities until they find two things that they want to use as an extended metaphor. Examples of comparable topics:

- running cross-country and writing a book

- learning an instrument and climbing a mountain

- a bushfire and an insatiable monster

- good friends and medicine

- a school and a zoo

- the stars and a treasure chest


Remind the class that an analogy is used to clarify and explain something (not just “A bushfire is an insatiable monster” but add why the bushfire is an insatiable monster, such as “A bushfire is an insatiable monster – it gobbles up everything in its path”). Now students can use their chosen comparisons to write their own analogy.


Extension: Students write a poem or a short story where they use their extended analogy.