Rap and Poetry as a Way of Self-reflection


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Opening Thoughts:

Today, we will start our unit on themes in American poetry. Poetry is music without any background music, while rap music can be the opposite in that it is words set to music. We will discover throughout this unit lesson about the ways poetry and rap music help us to cope with our emotions and challenges in everyday life.

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The outward manifestations of a person’s life give an unmistakable representation of their inner condition-whether good or bad. A person may try to pretend, but sooner or later their speech or actions betray them. The sum total of what we really are is reflected in what we say and do. Our words and deeds are an outward sign to everyone revealing our inner character. Our emotions to life’s challenges determine what the future holds for us individually. Therefore, as it has been said, that an ounce of prevention is worth the pound of cure. Basically, that means for us, for you to be aware of difficulties and setbacks and not to let our emotions run wild. We see so many things in social media, from our past and present day issues dealing with racism, class, and identity, the list goes on and on in this country that it does make your head spin and ask how do I cope with this? Glad you have asked because the goal for us in this class is to see how poets from yesterday to today and rappers as well have channeled their emotions to convey their own attitudes, thoughts and feelings toward society and life challenges in America in a way that provides inspiration. There are so few people who have that tenacity and capacity that are capable of turning a catastrophe into a blessing. That person, who I believe are all of you, are unusual, because you have that same kind of glue that holds. By the end of this unit, you will become a person who when they have experience challenges can honed in on those emotions that and you say,” It isn’t going to be that way for me today.” So you have a goal that you are determined to make the most of these challenges to make you better. This lesson is about how to cope with challenges to help you to think critically and how such challenges such as race, class and gender have influenced how poets and rappers view America. The poems and songs that we will read and hear will help us in our exploration of how rap and poetry helps us to cope with various challenges.

After the pre-lesson activity, the facilitator will be able to begin the first lesson.

The unit consists four parts: The first two parts will consist of defining what rap and poetry is and how it has evolved from its roots in African tradition through now. The last two parts will discuss controversies in whether rap is a form of poetry and is rap a conversation between two or multiple people.

Most raps rhyme in with lines two at a time. As noted, students will create their own poem or rap and for rules sake, for every two lines, lyrics should rhyme and in a repeating pattern. However, the student can incorporate an internal rhyme with words rhyming within a lyric phase. A student will learn that a rhyme lyric can be short or long and can be repeated to give emphasis like a chorus.

Each lesson will address various issues dealing with coping with today’s challenges that faces young African-American males ages 16-25. Although this unit is intend for that particular target audience, it can also be helpful to young girls as well.

Throughout the unit lessons, students will learn vital poem words. They will understand how descriptive words help to tell a story, convey issues and social behaviors. They will be able to observe, identify and create their own poem and use descriptive words to do so. They will also use a video camera to recite their poem visually. When reading poems, it helps to explain how the tone of the poem in conveying its meaning.

This unit lessons are all about the ways poetry and rap music helps young people to cope with their emotions and societal challenges in everyday life.

Objectives of the unit are:

Students will interpret, analyze and paraphrase the meaning of selected poem and songs.

Students will compare and contrast the ways poets or rappers convey emotion to the reader.

Students will recite openly to class written poem to engage the class in effective communication and listening skills.

Students will write in different forms and genres and will compose a written poem.

Students will be able to know of poetic elements to help in understanding the prose.

Students will listen to the poem and song and respond to questions.

Students will use technology such as a digital camera to showcase their writings visually and orally

Vocabulary: Rap: A type of music of African American origin in which rhythmic speech is chanted to a musical accompaniment.

Poetry: A literary work in which writing creates an imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm.

Alliteration: The repetition of usually initial consonant sounds in two or more neighboring words or syllables.

Similes: A figure of speech comparing two unlike things that is often introduced by like or as

Average Time of Session: 45 minutes

Facilitator: Multimedia and English specialist

Materials: Handouts of poem and song lyrics

Paper and pens for the group or Microsoft Word (computer)

Mobile phone

Video camera

Computer, Laptop to play music from Internet (YouTube) for songs

Class Rules:

Be respectful

Listen carefully

Be engaged

Don’t interrupt

Some material might contain explicit language and the intent is not to offend, but to examine the differences and similarities in poetry and rap.

If at any time, you are not comfortable, let’s communicate about it. (—introduce Bio Poem).

Pre-Lesson Activity: Bio Poem

This activity will be used as an icebreaker and have students learn about one another with interesting lines prompts from a descriptive statement that needs to be completed by student. This activity is to engage behavior and social mechanisms by describing thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Students will be asked later to look at this poem again and point out some descriptive words within their write-up. Will have 6 mins. They will perform their poem at the end of class.

Discussion questions: How did it feel to recite?

What were some interesting things that you remember from someone’s poem?

Work Time: Lesson 1

Based on what they student might have written, they could have addressed themes that affects them emotionally as the poem is about them. Today, we will discuss themes such as racism, class and violence and how they might influence a poet or rapper views about America. I will first play “America, the Beautiful,” sang by Ray Charles. I will hand out lyrics and will ask the students how they think the singer feels about America. I will have them to circle examples of lines that lead them to this thought. I will then ask, how did the song make them feel emotionally? (2-4 mins)

Next, I will move to Langston Hughes’ poem, “Let America Be America Again”. I will ask someone to read the poem out loud. Handout will be given. I will ask students to think about the most important line in the poem and why? What emotion did they feel when they read (heard the poem) and what did it make them feel? I will ask what emotion do you think Hughes felt when they wrote this poem? I will then ask how do you think the author would respond to Ray Charles rendition of America, the Beautiful and why? (3 min)

Lastly, I will hand out a copy of “This is America” by rap artist Childish Gambino and have a student to read the lyrics and all to circle examples of emotion and challenges that the rapper views about America and any rhymes that stood out and why they think they are important? Next, I will play the video by Childish Gambino for “This is America. I will ask the students to reflect on the images and the lyrics as the video plays. I will ask the students to think about whether or not rap music affects the way that they feel about themselves. I will write some of their answers on the board. I will ask the students are there any rap songs or poetry that has made them feel good emotionally or has helped them cope with issues and why. (10 min)

• Discussion Poetry Questions after reading the poem or hearing the poem read:

• Who is the speaker in this poem?

• How would you describe him or her?

• If you had to state the theme of this poem in one sentence, what would it be?

• How does the title of the poem relate to the content? Do you think it’s a strong title?

• What do you think is the most important line the poem? Why?

• What emotion did you feel when you read this poem and what did it make you feel?

• Does the poem have a rhythm or rhyme? How do you think this affects the poem?

• What words stood out to you in the poem? Why do you think they are important?

• Would you be interested in reading more by this poet? Why or why not?

• If you had to state the theme of the poem in one sentence, what would it be?

• What emotion do you think the author felt when they wrote this poem?

• Discussion Questions After Watching the Video:

• How did you feel while watching the video? Did anything surprise you and if so, what?

• What message that This is America was trying to convey. Do you think they were successful or not?

• What forms of racism, discrimination, self-esteem, power, privilege did the video address?

• What is identity? What is a label? How are they similar and how are they different?


Students will create rap nicknames. This will be based off the first initial of last name. It will help build excitement and create engagement and be very familiar to either a family nickname or resulted from an initiation act. They will perform their poem.

Assessment Based on Objectives: What is something that surprised you about the writing assignment today?

Write one question you have about today’s lesson that will be helpful for a future class?

Extension: Have students to create their own poem about their home life in which they provide examples of similes, alliteration, etc. They will perform that poem in class on video camera.

Lesson 2

Positive Ways to Cope with Challenges

Today, we dive right in to our topic with questions for students:

Have you faced challenges in life?

What were or are they? How have you dealt emotionally with changes? Be honest.

List them and rank them in order of burden, with 1 being least and 10 being most challenging.

Unit 3

Opening thoughts

In this age of technology, it is interesting how quickly we want to engage and talk to someone. One way to do this quickly is through texting. Texting can easily become poetry, especially when realizing there is few characters needed to make a sentence understandable. We realize to that many people don’t want to talk on the phone to someone and find it quicker and easier (if that’s possible) to text someone. This condensed form is a good tool for communicating quick messages to this generation. Example of Text Poems: the note u sent b4

Lesson Activity: Texting Poetry

We take the poem by Langston Hughes and create a texting poem pulling out phrases from the poem to create an entire new message or use the original poem to create new meaning through poem texting.

An example of this could be from the first stanza: Let America b America again

Let it b d dream it used 2 b

Let it b d pioneer on d plain

Cking a home where he himself is free.

Bio Poem

This activity will be used as an icebreaker to have students learn about one another with interesting lines prompts from a descriptive statement that needs to be completed by student. This activity is to engage behavior and social mechanisms by describing thoughts, feelings and beliefs.

Line 1: First name:

Line 2: Four descriptive traits of yourself:

Line 3: Brother, sister of … or daughter, son of :

Line 4: Lover of (money, family, ideas):

Line 5: Who feels (what is important to you):

Line 6: Who needs (what 2-3 things do you need in life):

Line 7: Who gives (what you give to others around you at home, work, streets):

Line 8: Who fears (1-3 things that you may fear in life):

Line 9: What would you like to see in your lifetime (place, person, item) :

Line 10: I live in:

Line 11: Last name:

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