What I Hate Most About Mom

by Steven Espada Dawson

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: Emotions

Step 1

Say, “Has there ever been a time when you’ve lost something (or someone) and you felt like your emotions were all over the place? For example, you weren’t just sad, but you were also upset, ashamed, guilt-ridden, etc. Explain.” Then give your students time to discuss.

Step 2

Read “What I Hate About Mom” by Steven Espada Dawson. When you’re done, briefly discuss the different emotions he conveys about his mom’s condition.

Step 3

Tell your students, “Choose an instance in which you “lost” something and felt, like the speaker of the poem we just read, a variety of emotions. Try to come up with a list of all the ways in which you felt. Then try to jot down why you felt those ways. Also, feel free to write about whatever you’d like; the subject matter does not need to be as serious as ‘What I Hate Most About Mom.'” Then give them 5-10 minutes to brainstorm.

Step 4

Ask your students to write a poem in which they discuss the different emotions they felt after the loss of something or someone.

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 shifts in tone, review the introductory lesson.

Step 2

Before watching the brief clip from Wandavision, give your students some context behind the scene. In this scene, Vision, an emotionless “synthetic humanoid” robot, attempts to understand his partner’s (Wanda Maximoff) grief over the loss of her brother, Pietro.

Step 3

Watch the following clip from Wandavision. Then ask your students about Vision’s interpretation of grief. What does he say about it? What is his understanding of the concept? Give them a couple of minutes to discuss. The conversation should lead to something along the lines of “Grief is a complicated process that involves a lot of emotions.” If the conversation isn’t moving in that direction, you may need to steer their discussion a bit.

Step 4

Read “What I Hate Most About Mom” by Steven Espada Dawson. As you’re reading, have your students pay attention to the range of emotions the speaker conveys when talking about his ailing mother. When you’re done, briefly discuss the array of emotions depicted in the poem.

Step 5

Have your students open the following document and go over the introduction and instructions with them. In this assignment, your students are going to track the complex emotions of the speaker and the various tones conveyed in the poem. Then give your students time to work on the assignment.

Step 6

When your students are done, have them share their responses with the rest of the class.

Step 7

If time permits, share the exemplar essay.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Tone


  • Aging
  • Appreciation
  • Children / Youth
  • Death / Grief
  • Family
  • Health / Health Care / Illness
  • Love
  • Mental Health
  • Parenting

Literary Tags

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

Content Warning

  • Death or Dying