The First Fish

by Ada Limón

Photo by Lucas Marquardt

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: Nature

Step 1

Start by asking your students, “What’s our relationship with the environment like? Why?” Then briefly discuss.

Step 2

Read “The First Fish” by Ada Limón. When you’re done, simply discuss the poem. What does it say about our relationship with nature and/or the environment? How?

Step 3

Say, “Take a few minutes to think about your own experiences (or observations) that reflect society’s relationship with nature or the environment, in some capacity. How did you feel in that moment? How do you feel now thinking back on that memory?” Take a few minutes to brainstorm.

Step 4

Today, ask your students to compose a poem similar in sentiment as “The First Fish” in which they discuss how a personal experience (or observation) reflects a larger understanding of humanity’s or society’s relationship with nature.

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

Before class begins, make sure your students have access to the following document. They don’t need to open it now, but they will need quick access to it when the activity formally begins.

Step 3

Read “The First Fish” by Ada Limón aloud with your class.
When you are done, ask your students to choose ONE phrase, line, or sentence that they feel is the most important or essential to the piece and have them briefly discuss why. Field a few responses.

Step 4

After your discussion, take your students through the following presentation. The presentation walks you and your students through the whole activity, but in short, your students are going to play “Poetry Court,” with members of the class playing the prosecution, the defense, and the jury. The “attorneys” will be given a line, phrase, or sentence from the poem and are responsible for creating a compelling argument as to why their collection of words is most integral/important in the poem. There will be three cases to be presented in class today.

Step 5

At the end of the introductory presentation, start the timer and give your students 25 minutes to create their case. During that time, the jury should be actively looking through the poem together to develop a deeper, more nuanced understanding of it.

Step 6

Once the time has elapsed, tell your students that the “prosecution” and “defense” will each have three minutes to present their case to the jury. Have them project their cases on the board and let each group present. You will need to keep track of the time on your own device.

Step 7

After both sides have presented their cases, the jury will have 3 minutes to decide which of the two groups made the more compelling and convincing argument. When your jury has come to a decision, have a member of the jury announce their verdict and briefly discuss their rationale.

Step 8

After the first pair has gone, then have the next set of attorneys (Group 2) present their cases. Then have the jury reach their verdict.

Step 9

When the second group is done, have the final group present to the class and have the jury determine the “winner.”

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Various


  • Appreciation
  • Children / Youth
  • Death / Grief
  • Education Formal / Informal
  • Environment / Environmental Justice
  • Philosophy

Literary Tags

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

Content Warning

  • Animal Cruelty or Animal Death