Using Photos to Inspire Writing

Some people like rap; others most emphatically do not. Be that as it may, most students are familiar with it as a form of poetry in which the words are spoken to the accompaniment of a set rhythm or beat. During the 18th Century the word rap meant “to say.” In the 1960s it evolved into the African American dialect as “to converse.” Finally, it evolved into its present meaning.

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Rap It Up

A teacher consultant with the Central Texas Writing Project at Texas State University-San Marcos, Hillary Lockhart is the theater arts director at the Simon Middle School, Kyle Texas, where she also teaches creative writing and special education. In addition to her poetry, Lockhart has also written public relations pieces in the Hayes Free Press for the CTWP.

Using Lockhart’s poem “Little Girl, Little Girl” as a model, students may choose to fit the poem to a rap that they can present during a poetry slam in which they deliver their creations to the class. Or they may write their own rap compositions for presentation.

Little Girl

Little Girl, Little Girl

Little girl, little girl,
Tell me, what do you want to be?

I want to be a doctor, lawyer, or an airplane
to fly high above the trees.

Little girl, little girl,
Tell me, what do you want to be?

Mother, teacher, mayor,
Oh yeah, drive a bright red fire truck,
and be a fire chief.

Little girl, little girl,
Tell me, what do you want to be?

I want to be an astronaut so I can soar to
the moon
and sprinkle my dreams among the stars.

I want to be a beautiful
African Queen like magnificent Nefertiti.

I want to be a famous architect, and build towering
or I can be a police woman — keep my city safe,
and protect all the little children in my hood.

Little girl, little girl,
Tell me, what do you want to be?

Tell you the truth
I want to read like the little girl that sits next to me
Teacher brags how smart she is and I want to read
so everybody be proud of me.
I like to be a nurse, scientist, or even invent.
If you teach me to write and to read, I can believe in
my dreams.
‘Cause an education can open the doors closed in my life.
I’ll be able to protect myself; drive granny to the doctor and store.
Surely I can be my brother and sister’s role model.
I gotta read and be something special!

The teacher reached out an grasped her hand
and softly hummed, “Little girl, little girl
walk with me. I’ll teach you how to write and read.”

No One Understood

Another of Lockhart’s poems, “Taunting Voices,” deals with the bullying of a young girl and its tragic outcome. After reading and discussing this poem, students should be eager to create either poems or prose pieces in which they describe a similar situation they have heard about, read about, or witnessed firsthand. They may also discuss several ways in which they think such behavior could be controlled or eliminated.

Do Not Enter Bullying Zone

Taunting Voices

No one understood the girl until
they read the letter left behind.
It explained how she squeezed
between the lockers avoiding the
bullies’ surprising slaps, strong
bruising fists with forceful hits,
hidden kicks,
followed with gleeful haunting
and abusive chatter
with ugly, abstract disapproving

All her hope was released and lost
when she believed the taunting
voices proclaiming
her unworthiness to live.
If only someone intervened, or
protested against the bullies’
would she be today walking alongside
of us, joking and daydreaming of a
hopeful future?
If only someone was unafraid to share
her hurt and pain, she prayed.
If only someone reached out…
If only someone cared…
If only…
If only…

Next: Humor Inspires Writing

"Little Girl, Little Girl" and "Taunting Voices" originally appeared in Reflect and Write: 300 Poems and Photographs to Inspire Writing by Hank Kellner and Elizabeth Guy (Prufrock Press, 2013). Photos by the author.

Write What You See by Hank Kellner

This feature is basedon Hank Kellner's Reflect and Write: 300 Poems and Photographs to Inspire Writing.

Reflect and Write with Hank Kellner

Metaphors Inspire Writing
Humor Inspires Writing
Rap as Poetry
Crossing Bridges
Where You're From
Nature's Dynamic Forms
Isolation and Education
The Power of the Visual
Black and White Images
Inspiration in Monet Paintings
Graphic Images Surround Us
People Respond to Images

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More with Hank Kellner

Hank KellnerA veteran of the Korean War, Hank Kellner is a retired educator who has served as an English Department chairperson at the high school level and an adjunct Associate Professor of English at the community college level. ...