A Compendium of Explanations

Solid explanations are the foundations of teaching. And yet, rarely do I talk with other teachers about how they explain tricky-or even simple- literary and linguistic concepts. And it’s to the detriment of my students. Take Onomatopoeia for example. Here’s my explanation of it:

It’s where words sound like what they describe. You know? Bang? It’s word that describes a sound and the word sounds like that sound?

Perplexed looks all round.

So, in this post, I will begin to compile a list of explanations, mini-narratives and anecdotes that teachers all over the land use to help elucidate and illuminate those slippery concepts that underpin English teaching. I’ll start us off:


  • A beautifully simplistic explanation of metaphor, that may appeal to the more logical students in the room, runs thus: X = Y (via @PositivTeacha)


  • Rember to spell it with ‘Ono-Mari-peeing on everyone is awful.’
  • And then read this: http://buff.ly/2f9hWXQ


  • If anybody has ever told you rhetorical questions don’t require an answer, they were lying to you. Every question requires an answer; otherwise, why ask them? I prefer to think of rhetorical questions as questions designed to make someone think of an answer  rather than give it literally. For example, if you tell me the dog has eaten your homework and I ask, “Do I look stupid to you?”, my intention isn’t that you reply “Yes.” Rather, I want you to think “Er…actually that does seem a bit lame. Perhaps I should tell the truth here.” Or take this example: if you walk past a bus stop and there’s a poster asking, HAVE YOU HAD YOUR SNICKERS TODAY?, you’re not expected to rush home and bang out an email or a letter to the Snickers factory explaining “No, sorry”, or “Yes, it was lovely thanks.” But, you are expected to think “I haven’t- maybe I should buy one” or “Yes and it was lovely. I should buy one more.” (via @PositivTeacha)


  •  Topic- what’s the poem about? Theme – what’s the poem *really* about? (via @MrStavely)
  •  if a story or novel was talking to you, what subjects would it be covering or discussing? (Via @msfrielvarndean)

Your turn. Any concept you like!

To put forward an explanation for this post, please add to the comments section, or get in touch via Twitter at @positivteacha

Author: PositivTeacha

Whole School Literacy Coordinator and Lead Practitioner

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