1.12 – The Swan as a Metaphor for Love: Short Story – Connecting (English Lesson)

The Swan as a Metaphor for Love is a short story written by Amelia Gray and can be found online at Joyland Magazine. It is a story above love, and life, and… swans. Written as an extended metaphor, this story provides students with a large opportunity to practice identifying key details, and summarizing the text before looking towards inferring the intended messages and meanings.

Transitioning from the prior lesson (The Determining Importance and Summarizing Slide Deck) students are now able to demonstrate their learning. They will digitally annotate the text, identifying main and supporting details, while summarizing the text before looking to infer what the story is trying to communicate.

Once that has been completed, students will look to pull from their most recent lesson (The Connecting Slide Deck) and look to make Text-to-Text, Text-to-Self, and Text-to-World connections using the attached assignment sheet.

English Course Pack: Unit One – Literacy Skills

This assignment is part of the The Full English Course Park. This piece is part of Unit One: Literacy Skills, which focuses on creating a strong foundational understanding of literacy skills, PEE paragraph writing, and embedding quotations as textual support.


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1.12 – The Swan as a Metaphor for Love: Short Story [Connecting]

Step One: Reading the Story

Similar to what you did when you read Taylor Swift, you should provide students with a copy of the story and one of three coloured highlighters (I’d still go with orange, green, and blue). Tell students that whenever they come across a main or supporting detail, they should highlight it. Tell them if they come across something that reminds them of:

  • another text, they should circle it
  • their own experiences, they should underline it
  • the world around them or pop-culture, they should put a star beside it.

It is helpful if there are an equal amount of each highlighter colour in the class.

How you read through the story is up to you. Personally, I suggest reading it aloud to the class. It’s good for students to hear strong readers reading. However, you can switch off from student to student, or have them read in small groups, or just read to themselves.

The important piece is that by the end of reading through the story, students will have highlighted a few sections of the text, and created notes that they can use to form connections.

Step Two: Form Highlighter Groups

It’s not secret that I love grouping students by highlighter. Students can’t argue about groups, or secretly try to switch groups, because the evidence of their group is already on their page, or in their hand.

The last time you made groups, you likely grouped them by the colour of the highlighter. This will lead to students switching highlighters, inferring what you will do this time. Let them know you’re proud of their inference, and use it as an opportunity to reinforce that learning skill in a practical environment, right before announcing this time they will form groups of three, where each group contains a member holding one of the unique highlighter colours.

You’ve now demonstrated that they can never be sure of what will occur when you pass out highlighters, leaving them to accept what the highlighter has to offer.

For three of the groups, assign them one of the three connection types:

  • Text-to-Text
  • Text-to-World
  • Text-to-Self

Assign the other groups sections of the text, ensuring that the entire text is covered. Depending on the number of groups, some students may overlap similar sections of text.

Step Three: Working in Groups

Let the students who were assigned the connection types know that they will be discussing the areas they noted that correspond with that type. Let the students who were assigned sections of the text know that they are responsible for discussing the main and supporting details they identified within it.

The connection groups will be responsible for creating one strong group-connection of the appropriate type.

The detail groups will be responsible for summarizing their section of text, noting the details that allowed them to formulate their summary.

Step Four: Digital Annotations, and Group Learning

It’s time to show the story on a projector and provide all students with “comment access” through something like Google Docs. Each detail group will highlight and leave a comment for their main details, indicating what was important about the detail, and what it made them realize.

The connection groups will highlight the sentence, or section of text they are connecting with, and write their full connection as the comment.

Once the annotations are complete, students will read their their groups’ contributions before moving on.

Step Five: Making Sure Students Understand the Story

This can be a very complicated story for students to understand. While it may seem straight forward, students sometimes lack the foundational understanding to connect with the extended metaphor. Guide the summaries and connections towards exploring the messages and meanings of this short story.

Provide your own interpretations, your own summaries, and your own connections, before opening up to a class discussion to see if your newly provided information changes the way students engage with this text.

Once you have scaffolded the required information, students will be free to demonstrate their learning.

Step Six: Demonstrating their Learning

Pages two and three provide students an overview, and exemplar paragraphs, of each of the three connection types. At this point, students will be challenged to create a strong connection of their own. Depending on time, student ability, and person choice, you may wish to ask students to write all three connections, or select only one of the connection types to write their paragraph about.

If time allows for it, students can share their paragraphs prior to the end of class. Otherwise, these should be handed in to allow for informal evaluation of skills, providing the information required to best tailor the classroom as they move through the rest of this unit.

The Impact

Students will have a strong understanding of how to write connection paragraphs, as well as how to approach complex texts. By introducing extended metaphors, you are providing them with a lens through which they can approach future texts, while also granting them a tool they can use in their own future writing.

By paying attention to the written student responses you will also have a good understanding of areas of strength, and areas for growth.

You may also wish to allow students to submit oral recordings of their connections, rather than hand writing them. Or, ask them to hand write one in class, and orally record another outside of class. This will present you with valuable information that allows you to assess their skills through both written and oral presentation. Any discrepancies you discover here will be of great importance to student learning and demonstration of learning as you move forward.


English – Unit One: Literacy Skills


English Course Packs: Full Units

Unit One: Literacy Skills
Unit Two: Poetry (In Progress)
Unit Three: Literature Circles (In Progress)
Unit Four: Creative Writing & Choose Our Way Tales (In Progress)
Unit Five: Essay Writing (In Progress)
Unit Six: Culminating Tasks (In Progress)



Written by…

Michael Barltrop has been teaching since 2006, integrating comics, video games, and TTRPGs into his classroom. He has been the head of English, Literacy, Special Education, and Assessment & Evaluation and Universal Design. Feel free to reach out through Twitter @MrBarltrop!

Feel free to support the website hosting by buying him a coffee or sharing this post on facebook, twitter, or whatever social media is trending these days.

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