Playground Elegy

by Clint Smith

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: Childhood

Step 1

Have your students come up with a list of the things they remember most fondly about their childhood. Then discuss.

Step 2

Have them read “Playground Elegy” by Clint Smith.Then discuss the event from his childhood that he looks back upon so fondly and how he perceives that same act now.

Step 3

Read one more poem by Clint Smith. This one is called “Counterfactual.” Just like you did with the last poem, talk about his “innocent childhood act” and how he looks back upon that experience as an adult.

Step 4

Give them 5-10 minutes to reflect on some of the “innocent” childhood acts that they would look back upon in a different light now.

Step 5

Have them write a poem in a similar style as “Playground Elegy” or “Counterfactual” in which they reflect on something they did as a child that was seemingly innocent but represents a much more serious societal issue now that they are older.

Step 6

When the students are done, share their responses with the group.

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, diction, structure, and selection of detail.

Step 2

Have your students read “Playground Elegy” by Clint Smith. When done, briefly discuss. Don’t spend too much time in discussion because they will be getting plenty of time to analyze the poem today.

Step 3

Have your students open the following document and go over the instructions with them. They are going to try the three “most popular” acronyms students use to approach poetry.

Step 4

When your students are done, ask them to share some of the new insights they walked away with after using those acronyms and graphic organizers.

Step 5

Show the students the exemplar essay so they can see how similar in scope their responses are.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Various


  • Children / Youth
  • Criminal Justice
  • Death / Grief
  • Parenting
  • Police Brutality / Profiling
  • Race / Ethnicity / Racism
  • Violence

Literary Tags

  • Diction
  • Selection of Detail
  • Structure
  • Tone