Cotton Candy

by Kaveh Akbar

Photo by Marlon James

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: Cause & Effect

Step 1

Say, “Can you think of an instance when you weren’t particularly nice to somebody else? What stands out about that memory? And does that instance make you appreciate that person more as you look back upon it? Explain.” Then give your students time to discuss.

Step 2

Read “Cotton Candy” by Kaveh Akbar. When you’re done, briefly discuss how the actions of the speaker affected his mother. And discuss how her response to his actions ultimately express the speaker’s appreciation for her.

Step 3

Say, “Think of yourself as a younger, less mature person and think of the way your behavior and actions affected others. Then focus on one person in particular who was particularly affected by your actions. Try to come up with as many examples as you can that illustrate the dynamic between the two of you.” Then give your students time to brainstorm.

Step 4

Ask your students to write a poem similar in sentiment to “Cotton Candy” in which they reflect upon their behavior/actions as a younger person and how they ultimately illuminated not only the folly of your their ways, but also a greater appreciation for the person who was affected by their decisions.

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: Selection of Detail

Step 1

If your students are not familiar with the concept of “selection of detail,” review the introductory lesson.

Step 2

Start by showing the following video (or parts of it) to give your students some context behind the poet’s past and how it affected his relationships with those around him.

Step 3

Read “Cotton Candy” by Kaveh Akbar to your students. As you’re reading, ask your students to pay attention to the speaker’s behavior and actions and how it affected his relationship with his mother.

Step 4

Have your students open the following document and go over the introduction and instructions with them. In this assignment, your students will have to examine the details of the poem and determine how each of them contribute to the speaker’s feelings of appreciation toward his mother.

Step 5

When your students are done with the assignment, ask them to share their responses with one another.

Step 6

If time permits, share the exemplar essay with your students.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Selection of Detail


  • Aging
  • Appreciation
  • Children / Youth
  • Family
  • Friendship
  • Health / Health Care / Illness
  • Joy
  • Love
  • Mental Health
  • Parenting

Literary Tags

  • Diction
  • Figurative Language
  • Imagery
  • Selection of Detail
  • Structure
  • Structure (Syntax)
  • Tone