NO CLICHÉS HERE!
Seventh-grader Syon read aloud, to his lesson partner and me, his description of a boy character who had just finished grueling football tryouts and was “feeling like he was on Cloud Nine.” I pointed out that the simile added nothing to the reader’s experience because it was a cliché without imagery and without power. His lesson partner—also a good friend now—nodded in agreement. I suggested that he come up with his own fresh words, as a soccer player himself, to describe this moment, “when a young athlete is sweaty, tired, aching, but deliriously happy for having given his all—you know what I’m talking about, don’t you?”
While he was thinking of a new simile, his lesson partner, Daniel, offered, “What about: ‘he felt a rush of dopamine’?” Immediately, with flashing dimples, he giggled and waved his hand dismissively as we all burst into laughter.
“Not exactly multisensory imagery there, Daniel,” I joked, “except maybe for a scientist who understands dopamine!”
“See, you are from another planet!” exclaimed Syon. (Syon often teases Daniel that he is from another planet because of his extensive vocabulary and uncommonly sophisticated diction.) “That simile completely sums up how you think!”
“That simile and the dimples,” I added. “Erudite and adorable, simultaneously.”
“What does erudite mean?” asked Syon.
I looked at Daniel whom I could see was about to answer with a definition. “Daniel?”
He, of course, answered, “Erudite means knowledgeable, scholarly….”
And Syon replied, “Of course it does.”
When the next round of laughter subsided, Syon’s eyes lit up and he announced, “I just came up with a simile: ‘feeling like a dog who had finally caught his own tail.’”
“Wonderful!” I exclaimed. Daniel nodded. “What a perfect way to show that after the boy almost exhausts himself with a seemingly impossible task, he finally succeeded. What a great simile!”
And what a great lesson day!