what can a poem do?

by Darius V. Daughtry

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: Poem

Step 1

Ask your students, “What can a poem do? And what can a poem NOT do?” Then give your students 5-10 minutes to discuss.

Step 2

Watch Darius V. Daughtry’s “what can a poem do?” When you’re done, briefly discuss what, according to the speaker of the piece, a poem is capable of doing.

Step 3

Say, “Think of the limitations and the capabilities of a poem. Try to come up with as many tangible – and intangible – reasons that support your beliefs.” Then give your students 5-10 minutes to brainstorm.

Step 4

Have your students compose a poem similar in sentiment to “what can a poem do?” in which they express their beliefs toward a poem’s capabilities and/or limitations.

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: Tone

Step 1

If your students are not familiar with the concept of tone or tonal shifts, go through the introductory lesson.

Step 2

Start by showing your students the following video. Don’t give them any context to the video before airing it.

Step 3

When the video is done, tell your students that you’re going to show them another version of the same short film. Tell your students to pay attention to the structure of the 2nd iteration of the short film and how it affects the narrative arc or message of the piece. Then show the video. When the animated short is done, have them share their responses about how the structure of the film differs and how it makes it more “effective” than the first.

Step 4

Have your students open the following document and go over the instructions with them. In this assignment, your students are going to analyze three different iterations of Darius V. Daughtry’s “what can a poem do?” and determine how the different structures and shifts affect the tone/message of the piece as a whole. Then give your students time to work on the assignment.

Step 5

When your students are done, have them briefly share their thoughts about the three different versions of the poem. Then ask them which they thought to be the most effective and why.

Step 6

Reveal that “Version 2” was the original version of the poem. Then have your students briefly discuss why they think the poet chose that approach in constructing the piece.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Tone


  • Children / Youth
  • Class
  • Community / Culture
  • Creativity / Imagination / Writing
  • Death / Grief
  • Education Formal / Informal
  • Friendship
  • Joy
  • Love
  • Mental Health
  • Parenting
  • Philosophy
  • Police Brutality / Profiling
  • Race / Ethnicity / Racism
  • Social Movements / Protest
  • Violence
  • War

Literary Tags

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