not an elegy for Mike Brown

by Danez Smith

Photo by Tabia Yapp

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: Disheartened

Step 1

Ask the students, “What is something that never changes? Why doesn’t it change? And how do you feel about it?”

Step 2

Watch the embedded video about the context behind the poem they are about to read. Then discuss.

Step 3

Read “not an elegy for Mike Brown.” Then discuss the poem with your students.

Step 4

Have the students use the poem as a mentor text in which they write their own poem about something that “never changes.” Tell them to be deliberate with their word choice to express their tone.

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: Tone

Step 1

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

Step 2

Read “not an elegy for Mike Brown,” with your students, focusing on the speaker’s shifts in tone throughout the piece. Then discuss.

Step 3

Have the students work in the following document to analyze the various tones in the poem. They may work in groups if they wish.

Step 4

Discuss their responses. If time permits, share the exemplary essay.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Tone


  • Criminal Justice
  • Death / Grief
  • Police Brutality / Profiling
  • Race / Ethnicity / Racism
  • Social Movements / Protest

Literary Tags

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