The blue nightgown

by Toi Derricotte

Photo by Victoria Smith

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: Retail Therapy

Step 1

Start by watching the embedded video. Then, when it’s done, have your students discuss if this is something that they’ve done to help deal with stress or anxiety.

Step 2

With your students, read “The blue nightgown” by Toi Derricotte. When you’re done, talk about how that purchase made her feel.

Step 3

Say, “Take some time to think of a purchase that you made (not necessarily out of stress) that made you feel a certain way. When you’re coming up with ideas, try not only to think adjectives to describe your feelings, but try to think of other objects or people that it made you feel like, like a certain celebrity or something to that extent.” Then give them some time to brainstorm.

Step 4

Have your students write a poem similar in sentiment to “The blue nightgown” in which they describe how a certain purchase made them feel.

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: Diction

Step 1

If your students are not familiar with the concept of “diction,” go through the introductory lesson.

Step 2

Have your students start by opening the following document, then go over the introduction and directions with them. In this assignment, the students are going to read an amended version of Toi Derricotte’s “The blue nightgown” (certain words are omitted) and select particular words that they think should be in place of those omissions that will help in reinforcing the purpose of the poem, as described by the author.

Step 3

When your students are done, go through the amended poem from the document and discuss the words that they chose to put in place of the omissions. Then have them briefly discuss why they chose those words.

Step 4

Share the actual poem and read it through them. Then look at the words that were previously omitted. Hopefully, your students’ words are somewhat thematically similar in scope or nature.

Step 5

Discuss the words Derricotte originally used and why those words are effective in conveying the meaning of the work as a whole.

Step 6

If time permits, share the exemplar essay.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Diction


  • Aging
  • Appreciation
  • Body / Body Image
  • Creativity / Imagination / Writing
  • Food / Hunger
  • Health / Health Care / Illness
  • Joy
  • Love
  • Mental Health

Literary Tags

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