Biting Back

by Patricia Smith

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: Distant

Step 1

Ask your students about how their relationship with their parents or guardians has changed as they’ve gotten older. What are some of the things they used to do with them when they were younger but no longer do now? Discuss.

Step 2

Have your students read “Biting Back” by Patricia Smith. Then ask them how the poem relates to their prior discussion.

Step 3

Give your students some time to brainstorm and come up with a list of feelings, from their parents’/guardians’ perspective, that illustrates the way they *may feel as a result of the distance that naturally grows between parents and children.

Step 4

Have your students write a poem, like “Biting Back,” in which your students write a poem – from a parents’/guardians’ perspective – that captures their feelings of the growing distance and separation from their child. This may be written from their own parents’ perspective or from an imaginary one.

Step 5

When the students are done, have them share their responses with one another.

The full presentation may be found HERE.

Analytical Lesson

Area of Focus: Structure

Step 1

If your students are not familiar with the general concept of a poem’s “structure,” go through the introductory lesson. This lesson will focus specifically on the point of view of the poem.

Step 2

Watch the short film “Bao” from Disney. When the film is done, discuss the central message of the short film and how it goes about conveying that message.

Step 3

Have your students open the following document and go over the first few slides with them, including the warm up passage/activity.

Step 4

Read through the directions with your students. Then go over the sample in response to the first stanza. In this assignment, the students are going to have to go through the poem stanza by stanza and discuss how the point of view functions in the work as a whole.

Step 5

Give your students time to work on the assignment.

Step 6

When the students are done, have them share their takeaways from each of the stanzas.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Structure


  • Aging
  • Appreciation
  • Children / Youth
  • Death / Grief
  • Family
  • Friendship
  • Home / Homelessness
  • Joy
  • Love
  • Parenting
  • Philosophy

Literary Tags

  • Diction
  • Figurative Language
  • Imagery
  • Selection of Detail
  • Structure
  • Tone