Variations in Blue

by Lauren K. Alleyne

Photo by Erica Cavanagh

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: Variations

Step 1

Ask your students, “Have you ever been surprised that somebody’s experience with something you’re familiar with was so vastly different than yours? What was it? And why do you think their experience was so different?” Then give them 10 minutes to discuss.

Step 2

Read “Variations in Blue” by Lauren K. Alleyne. Then discuss the “variations” in experience between the speaker and her friend.

Step 3

Give your students more time to brainstorm and have them come up with an experience that was considerably different than that of somebody they know.

Step 4

Have your students write a poem like “Variations in Blue” in which they outline their surprise when they find out their experience (in a subject of their choice) turned out to be significantly different than that of somebody they know.

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: Figurative Language

Step 1

Go over the introductory lesson if your students are not familiar with the concept of “figurative language.” The introductory overview focuses on the general concept of figurative language, so if you’re looking for a more focused explanation on the specific term they’ll be focusing on in this lesson, an allusion, you may click on the following link.

Step 2

Watch the following video. Then briefly discuss the subject matter and how/where your students have seen it first-hand.

Step 3

Read “Variations in Blue” by Lauren K. Alleyne. Then briefly discuss the title “Variations in Blue.” Ask them what the title means and how it reinforces or reflects her message.

Step 4

Have your students open the following document, then read through the introduction and directions with them. In short, your students are going to go through the poem and pay particular attention to how the poet utilizes a series of allusions to convey her message about the “variations in blue.”

Step 5

Give your students time to work. When they are done, have them share their responses with one another.

Step 6

If time permits, share the exemplar essay for a more robust analysis.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Figurative Language


  • Children / Youth
  • Class
  • Criminal Justice
  • Death / Grief
  • Family
  • History
  • International
  • Love
  • Police Brutality / Profiling
  • Race / Ethnicity / Racism
  • Social Movements / Protest
  • Violence

Literary Tags

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