Synonyms for Maps

by Arthur Kayzakian

Photo by Andy Smith

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: Borders

Step 1

Say “Watch the following video. Then discuss the nature of borders or boundaries, as expressed in the video. What are some other implications you can associate with these divides?”

Step 2

Read “Synonyms for Maps” by Arthur Kayzakian. When you’re done, briefly discuss the poem. What are the speaker’s “synonyms for maps”? Why do they feel this way?

Step 3

Tell your students to come with their own list of synonyms for maps, divisions, borders. How do they feel about them? What are the consequences of creating these borders?

Step 4

Ask your students to compose a poem similar in sentiment to “Synonyms for Maps” in which they offer their own take on the creation of maps, arbitrary borders, walls, etc.

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.

Step 2

Start by playing the day’s “New York Times Connections” puzzle with your class. Ask for input/feedback from your students as you’re trying to solve the puzzle.

Step 3

Now read “Synonyms for Maps” by Arthur Kayzakian. Tell your students to think of the “connections” between certain words from the poem as you are reading aloud.

  • Have them try to determine the thematic connections between the words as opposed to the more literal connections, i.e. the structure of the words, the spelling, etc.

Step 4

When you’re done reading, briefly discuss the piece. What words paired thematically well with one another? Why?

Step 5

Ask your students to open the following document and go over the instructions with them. In this assignment, your students are going to create a “Connections” game, using the poem as the primary source material. When you’ve gone over the instructions, give your students time to work. Tell your students to be done with the assignment with about 20 minutes left to spare in class.

  • As your students are working, look through their documents and make note of the ones who seem to be making the most astute, accessible connections between their words.

Step 6

When your students are done, choose two or three student puzzles that you’d like to try and solve as a group. Project the puzzles on the board and work through them collectively.

Step 7

If time permits, share the exemplar essay.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Various


  • Class
  • Community / Culture
  • Death / Grief
  • Family
  • History
  • Home / Homelessness
  • Immigration
  • Race / Ethnicity / Racism
  • Violence
  • War

Literary Tags

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

Content Warning

  • Blood
  • Death or Dying
  • Homophobia
  • Violence