When They Ask Me About My Hands

by Aaron Samuels

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: Inheritance

Step 1

Ask your students, “What’s something that you’ve “inherited” from your family? Try not to think literally; rather, think of any personality traits that have been handed down to you.” Then give your students time to talk.

Step 2

Read “When They Ask Me About My Hands” by Aaron Samuels. When you’re done, briefly discuss the speaker’s “dilemma” in the piece. What does the speaker grapple with?

Step 3

Say, “Choose a familial trait that has been handed down to you. Then jot down your feelings toward it. Is this something you want to embrace? Or is this something you’d like to move away from? Take a few minutes to brainstorm.”

Step 4

Ask your students to compose a poem similar in sentiment to “When They Ask Me About My Hands” in which they touch upon the concept(s) of inheritance, legacies, change, discovery, etc.

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

Start class by drawing or tracing your hand on the board. Then have your students come up with as many associations as they can with it. Ask your students to consider the figurative associations they make with “hands,” the biblical or historical allusions they can come up with, personal connections, etc.

Step 3

Now read “When They Ask Me About My Hands” by Aaron Samuels. As you are reading the poem aloud to your students, ask them to pay particular attention to the poet’s depiction of “hands” and the complex associations or memories the speaker makes with them. When you’re done, briefly discuss.

Step 4

Have your students open the following document and go over the instructions with them. In this assignment, your students are going to construct a “hand turkey” and analyze the different associations the speaker makes with one’s “hands.” When you’ve gone over the directions, give your students time to work.

Step 5

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

Step 6

If time permits, share the exemplar essay.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Various


  • Aging
  • Appreciation
  • Family
  • History
  • Joy
  • Love
  • Philosophy

Literary Tags

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