Pedagogical Suggestions Using the Metaphors Used During Ratification Page

Click here to view the Metaphors Used During Ratification Page

A Federalist/Antifederalist T‐chart

  • You can have students work individually or divide them into working groups of 3‐5 students.
  • Have students/groups make a T‐chart with “Federalist,” “Antifederalists,” and “Neutral” as headings at the top. You also may want to have student have a category for “uncertain.”
  • Have students/groups work through the list of metaphors found on the Metaphors Used During Ratification Page. Have them place the words/phrases that they think are negative assessments of the Constitution in the Antifederalist column, items that they think are positive assessments on the Federalist column. Items that are neutral or uncertain should be placed accordingly.
  • After completing their T‐charts, take some time in a large group discussion that addresses the metaphors that were they originally categorized as uncertain. After some discussion student then should place these into on of the other three lists
  • Now have student consider the items that have been placed in the Neutral category. There will probably be some disagreement as to the reasons for placing items in this category. After student have had opportunities to explain their reasons for the decisions, give the students some time to reconsider their lists for any final placements.
  • You may discover that there are students that decide to create spectrums, or degrees of positive, negative, and neutral, which in turn could lead to a discussion of bias and perception.

Animate/Inanimate T‐chart

  • Lead students in a brief discussion of the distinctions between animate and inanimate objects.
  • Divide the class into working groups of 3‐5 students.
  • Have the groups create a T‐chart that has “Animate” and “Inanimate” categories at the top of the chart. Within each of those categories, have them make subcategories of positive and negative.

*Note: You could have the students create the positive and negative categories after they initially work through the metaphors making their animate and inanimate lists.) If you had them look at the list of metaphors with both types of classifications in mind the chart would look some thing like the chart below. If you wanted to break this part of the lesson down into two steps, you would simply have the students work first line of the chart and then have them add the “Positive” and “Negative” headings in another segment of the lesson.



  • Have the groups work through the list of metaphors placing the individual metaphors in the categories they think
    most appropriate
  • You may want to have student groups report their findings to the entire class. This can be followed by a discussion
    that highlights the similarities and differences among the groups.
  • After a discussion of the similarities and differences of perspective, give the groups some time to reconsider their
    initial categorizations.
  • At this point you could have students consider trends as well as possible explanations that they see in the lists they
    have created. For example:
    • Do we see one category being more utilized than others?
    • Why might this be the case?
    • Are inanimate descriptions less threatening or more threatening than animate descriptions?
    • Is it easier to convince people that something is bad if it is described animatedly as opposed to inanimately?

*As an extension activity, you may want to have students read about the Federalist/Antifederalist debates and have them create their own list of metaphors to describe the Constitution.

The Metaphor Spectrum

  • Divide the class into small groups of 3‐5 students. You could also have students work individually on this activity.
  • If working in groups, each group should have a large piece of bulletin board or butcher paper. Have them draw a spectrum horizontally the length of the paper similar to the illustration below. One end of the spectrum should be labeled “alarmist” or “hyperbole.” The other end of the spectrum should labeled “calm” or “little “opinion.”

*Other terms might be used for this spectrum, but keep in mind that the purpose of this exercise is to have them consider the use of rhetoric in a debate.

Alarmist Opinion                               Moderate Opinion                              No Opinion

  • Have the student groups go through the list on our website and have them place each metaphor along the spectrum taking into consideration the degree of alarm or calm that each phrase might illicit in a person as they hear the word or phrase.
  • At this point you could have a brief segment were the individuals or groups report their findings to the entire class.
  • Make sure there is time for individuals or groups to reconsider their original findings.
  • Conclude by asking students to consider:
    • If a person should use non‐objective terms in a debate?
    • If it is appropriate to use inflated rhetoric, when is it appropriate?
    • If it is not appropriate, why not?
    • How might a person thoughtfully consider an issue if and when inflated rhetoric is used by the participants in a debate?

Drawing a political cartoon by incorporating a metaphor into an illustration

  • You may want to start this lesson with a brief survey of:
    • What a political cartoons is.
    • What are the essential elements of a political cartoon?
    • How to interpret a political cartoon.
A good resource for this can be found at They have resources that include a political cartoon analysis worksheet and suggestions for teachers.
  • Divide the class into small group of 3‐5 students. Have them look through the entire list of metaphors.
  • Have them pick several metaphors from the list that they want to work with.
  • Then have the groups brainstorm ideas as to how to illustrate the constitution as each of the metaphors that they have selected.
  • At this point you could have the artist in each group or designate a person to do the actual drawing of the political cartoon as an extension activity. You may want to construct an assessment rubric for this phase of the project. A good place to get help in constructing and using scoring rubrics is rubistar.

*Another extension activity might be to have the students create a museum of metaphors by using a large piece of butcher paper. On the paper they could create floor plans that feature different wings. Each wing could be organized by themes and concepts.