Catastrophe is Next to Godliness

by Franny Choi

Photo by Graham Cotten

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: Catastrophe

Step 1

Say, “Have you ever found clarity in a moment of catastrophe? What did you come to realize? Why? How did you feel?” Then give your students time to discuss.

Step 2

Read “Catastrophe is Next to Godliness” by Franny Choi. When you’re done,  briefly discuss the ways in which she responds to catastrophe.

Step 3

Tell your students, “Think of the ways in which you, or others you have observed, respond to “catastrophe.” Try to come up with as many descriptors as you can to describe this experience.” Then give them 5-10 minutes to brainstorm.

Step 4

Ask your students to compose a poem similar in sentiment to “Catastrophe is Next to Godliness” in which they discuss their – or somebody else’s – response to “catastrophe,” whatever that may mean to them.

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: Various

Step 1

This lesson allows students to analyze various concepts and skills, so it is recommended that you have covered several of the “standalone” lessons before assigning this one.

Step 2

Start by asking your students what they think the title “Catastrophe Is Next to Godliness” means.

Step 3

Show them the following clip from the movie Iron Man. Though the clip is somewhat of a simplification of the title and content of the poem, have them try to discuss the connection between the title of the poem (“Catastrophe is Next to Godliness”) and the content of the clip. Ask them to determine how the title of the poem links conceptually to Tony Stark’s experience.

Step 4

Read the poem “Catastrophe Is Next to Godliness” by Franny Choi. As you’re reading, tell your students to try and determine the complex attitude the speaker holds toward “catastrophe.”

Step 5

Ask your students to open the following document and go over the instructions with them. In this assignment, your students are going to explore the “questions” that the poem posits and discuss the extent to which it answers them. Then give your students time to work.

Step 6

When your students are done, have them share their questions with the rest of the class, either on a piece of newsprint, Jamboard, Padlet, etc.

Step 7

Look at the questions they developed. Then choose a few and have members of the class try to respond to the questions, using evidence from the text to help support their response.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Various


  • Death / Grief
  • Education Formal / Informal
  • Health / Health Care / Illness
  • Philosophy
  • Violence

Literary Tags

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

Content Warning

  • Death or Dying
  • Violence