by Nikky Finney

Photo by Forrest Clonts

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: Response

Step 1

Ask your students, “Can you think of any instances where the government has let its people down? When was it? Why did it happen? Whom did it impact?” Briefly discuss.

Step 2

Read “Left” by Nikky Finney, a poem written about the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. When you’re done, briefly discuss the message of the piece and how it reveals the speaker’s attitude toward this event.

Step 3

Say, “Take a few minutes to think about specific instances where the government (or other form of higher authority) did not provide for the people in the manner that it was supposed to.” Then give them a few minutes to brainstorm.

Step 4

Have your students compose a poem similar in sentiment to Nikky Finney’s “Left” in which they offer their opinion/criticism about a time or place where the government (or another governing body) did not meet the needs of the people it serves.

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: Figurative Language

Step 1

If your students are not familiar with the concept of “figurative language,” go over the introductory lesson with them. This lesson focuses specifically on allusions.

Step 2

Show the students the following video to provide some context to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, particularly on the Black community.

Step 3

Open the following document and go over the introduction and directions with your students. In this assignment, your students are going to examine “Left” by Nikky Finney and explore how the allusions in the poem contribute to the meaning of the work as a whole. Students will utilize ChatGPT to help them with their informal “research.”

Step 4

Give your students time to work. If they ask for questions, try to encourage them to rely on ChatGPT for more details and/or development.

Step 5

When your students are done, ask them to share their findings with the rest of the class.

Step 6

If time permits, share the exemplar essay.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Figurative Language


  • Class
  • Community / Culture
  • Death / Grief
  • Economy
  • Food / Hunger
  • History
  • Home / Homelessness
  • Race / Ethnicity / Racism

Literary Tags

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

Content Warning

  • Racism or Racial Slurs