For My Friends, in Reply to a Question

by Safia Elhillo

Photo by Aris Theotokatos

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: Reply

Step 1

Ask your students, “What’s a question that your friends always ask you? Take a few minutes to write down one question (or a series of questions) that you’re always asked.” When they’re done brainstorming, give them time to share their responses with one another.

Step 2

Share “For My Friends, in Reply to a Question” by Safia Elhillo. Then discuss her response to the question asked of her.

Step 3

Have your students pick one of the questions that they are always asked in which they have a similar reply, one that they’re not always fully comfortable responding to or one in which their reply isn’t necessarily the most joyous.

Step 4

Tell your students to write a poem, like Safia Elhillo’s, that is simply “in reply to a question.”

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. The prominent literary devices & techniques that this particular poem includes are: tone, selection of detail, structure (syntax), and diction.

Step 2

Have your students open up the following Google Slides Presentation and go through the introduction with them.

Step 3

Then read through the two poems aloud with them. When you’ve finished reading the poems, go over the directions with your students.

Step 4

Give your students time to work on the assignment and answer questions as needed. The assignment may take a little while for them to finish.

Step 5

When they’re done, have them share their responses and, if time permits, go over the sample essay.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Various


  • Community / Culture
  • Death / Grief
  • Family
  • Friendship
  • History
  • Home / Homelessness
  • Immigration
  • International
  • Love
  • Mental Health
  • Violence
  • War

Literary Tags

  • Diction
  • Selection of Detail
  • Structure (Syntax)
  • Tone