September 26, 2013

Poem Study: "Hearts Are Like Doors"

Here's another poem from First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind. It's an old, anonymous rhyme called "Hearts Are Like Doors."

photo by Jorge Diaz
Hearts, like doors, will open with ease,
To very, very little keys,
And don't forget that two of these
Are "Thank you, sir" and "If you please!"


Similes and Metaphors

When I teach this poem, I talk about similes and metaphors. The first line relates hearts to doors using the word "like." This is a straightforward simile. A simile is a figure of speech that rhetorically transfers aspects of one word to another, using "like," "as," or another similar word. A metaphor, like a simile, compares or relates unlike words, but it doesn't necessarily utilize a comparing word such as "like." You could say that all similes are metaphors, but not all metaphors are similes.

The other metaphor in "Hearts Are Like Doors" is harder to pick out. "Thank you, sir" and "If you please" are two of the little keys that can open a heart.

Young children can learn about similes and metaphors, but have a hard time using them skillfully at first. My little guy started with "That wall is white like this table." Not bad, but few people reading this sentence know how white our table or wall is.

To help your child understand these figures of speech, try starting a simile and asking your child to finish it: "As cold as ___." As fast as ___." The clouds are like ___." If you need some inspiration, here is a pdf simile worksheet. You have to register to get rid of the nag screen, but you can see enough to get some ideas.


Other Teaching Points

  • Manners: Brainstorm other polite "keys" that can open people's hearts.
  • Punctuation and Phrasing: Observe and punctuation provided in the poem. "To very (pause) very little keys." There is no punctuation at the end of the third line. The "these" rhyme is enough to indicate the end of the like. There is no need to pause.
  • Bible Connection: In Revelation 3:20, Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." The door in this passage is often thought of as a person's heart door.
I've also written poem study guides for Christina Rossetti's "The Caterpillar" and the anonymous "Mr. Nobody." Please check them out, and feel free to leave a comment below.


  1. I really like how you break the poem down and give thoughts for further discussion! I never really know what to do with poems except memorize them =)

  2. I had to recite this poem at my kindergarten graduation in 1983.