The Good Life

by Tracy K. Smith

Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths. Courtesy of Blue Flower Arts

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: Good Life

Step 1

Have your students talk about a time in their lives that they miss and why. Give them 5-10 minutes to discuss.

Step 2

Read “The Good Life” by Tracy K. Smith. Then talk about how she feels about her “former life.” Then discuss the specific parts of the text that convey that sentiment.

Step 3

Tell your students to choose one time in their lives that they particularly miss. Then ask them to jot down everything they miss about that period.

Step 4

Have your students write a poem like “The Good Life” in which they reminisce upon a time in their lives that was particularly “good” to them.

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

Though this lesson allows students to explore a variety of poetic devices and techniques, a task students should feel more comfortable with after having been introduced to the individual elements of a poem, this lesson serves as a good introductory exercise to the general approach to poetry. So, no “introductory” lesson is needed; this lesson will serve as the introductory lesson to poetry in general.

Step 2

Have your students open up the following document. Then go over the introduction, the video, and the directions with them.

Step 3

Give them a little bit of time to work through the “The Good Life” by Tracy K. Smith and make their online annotations.

Step 4

When everybody is done, pass out the following handout and go over the directions with them. They are going to be required to go through the poem with a partner and compare their analyses. Give them some time to work with their first partner. Then have them switch partners and complete the second table. Then have them switch one last time. So, three partners total.

Step 5

Project the poem on the screen and go through the poem, line by line, to allow students to share their takeaways. When you’ve gone through the poem, show them the exemplar essay.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Various


  • Appreciation
  • Economy
  • Home / Homelessness
  • Labor / Work
  • Love
  • Philosophy

Literary Tags

  • Diction
  • Figurative Language
  • Selection of Detail
  • Tone