White Lies

by Tara Betts

Photo by GlitterGuts

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: Lies

Step 1

Start by watching the embedded video. When it’s done, ask your students to try to think of some personal examples or observations of when a seemingly innocent lie or fib turned into something bigger than it really needed to be, kind of similar to situation of the gentleman in the clip.

Step 2

Read “White Lies” by Tara Betts. When you’re done, briefly discuss her perception and attitude toward “white lies” and the ways in which she was able to convey them.

Step 3

Say, “Choose a lie or fib that was meant to be an innocent gesture that spiraled into something larger or more serious than it needed to be. Then compare that lie to something else – like Betts did with her poem – and try to come up with a list of reasons as to how those two things relate to one another.” Then give them 5-10 minutes to brainstorm.

Step 4

Have your students write a poem similar in style to Tara Betts’ “White Lies” in which they recount an experience or observation with a white lie and discuss how it transformed into something bigger or more serious than it needed to be. Make sure that they utilize an extended metaphor throughout the piece.

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

Ask your students if they know what a “white lie” is. Ask if they can provide some examples and discuss why somebody may feel compelled to tell a white lie. Finally, ask them why they are referred to as “white” lies.

Step 3

Read “White Lies” by Tara Betts aloud to your students. While you’re reading, ask them to think about her perception, attitude, and tone toward white lies. Then field any responses.

Step 4

Have your students open the following document and go over the instructions with them. In this assignment, your students will have to determine the various tones that exist in the piece and sort the pieces of text that create those tones into three different groupings, all categorized by similar themes, concepts, structures, etc. Your students will then have to determine how the similarities between those words contribute to the poem’s tones.

Step 5

Give your students time to work on the assignment. Encourage your students to work in groups so they can bounce their ideas off of one another.

Step 6

When your students are done, have them share their responses with the rest of the class. Ask them to share a few of the words that they grouped together and have them explain why. Then ask them to briefly discuss how those words help establish or create a certain tone.

Step 7

If time permits, share the exemplar essay so they can hear a more robust analysis of the poem.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Tone


  • Creativity / Imagination / Writing
  • Environment / Environmental Justice
  • Philosophy
  • Violence

Literary Tags

  • Diction
  • Figurative Language
  • Imagery
  • Selection of Detail
  • Sound Devices
  • Structure (Syntax)
  • Tone