I had the privilege of teaching in an elementary school that was pretty much the equivalent of the movie “Dangerous Minds”. To say I needed to think outside of the box is an understatement. Everything I learned in college and while student teaching was not well received by my students. One of the things they absolutely loved was when I taught them how to write a rap. We also did hip-hop recorder which was quite a hit as well. Writing raps, especially for elementary aged students, is not as difficult as it sounds. Writing raps usually works well with students in 3rd-5th grades, but the younger grades can help write one together as a class. If this is something you’ve been interested in doing with your students or your own kids, then I would love to show you how to teach students to write a rap.
Pick a theme
The first thing you need to is pick a theme. Have each child pick a theme individually or as a class. It is fun after the theme is picked out to see what each child or class has come up with. The themes can be literally anything. Some examples of themes my students picked are basketball, horses, a teacher, snow, and pizza. Let them be creative and you will be impressed with what they come up with.
Determine how many measures
The next thing you will do is determine how many measures the raps should have. I think for this age group, anywhere between 12-24 measures is great. Just like choosing a theme, each class or individual student can have a different number of measures. After determining how many measures, explain to the students that there will be 4 beats per measure.
Come Up with Rhyming Words
This is when the fun begins. Your theme is chosen, you have determined the number of measures, and now you get to start writing. Let’s say I chose the theme “dog”. I would then come up with several rhyming words that I might use in my rap. The rhyming words you choose may not all end up being used. While choosing rhyming words, pick a word that relates to your theme, then choose a word to rhyme it with. So some of the words I chose are…
Write the Rap
Now that my rhyming words are chosen, I can begin to write my rap. Using my theme “dog” as an example again, I will show you how I use my chosen rhyming words to create a rap. The rhyming words can be at the end of every odd numbered line or at the end of each line. This will depend on how long the rap is.
I have a dog,
but we don’t get along.
He likes to chew a bone,
when it looks like a cone.
When he wears his collar,
people throw him a dollar.
He has soft fur,
and likes to be called sir.
When he wags his tail,
it gets stuck on his nail.
As you can see, I left out a few of the rhyming words. While students are writing the words, have them pat their legs so they speak the words to the steady beat. For example, on “when he wears a collar, people throw him a dollar” I almost said “when he wears a collar, he has a dollar” but it didn’t flow as well.
Writing the rap will be trial and error. Your students may begin writing something, then realize they don’t like the way it sounds and will change it up. That is part of being a writer isn’t it? Just like when students write a poem or short story, they will have rough drafts before the final product is finished. To find out more about how to integrate music and reading, click here. After writing the whole rap, have students read it out loud to make sure it makes sense and that it flows well. If they need to change something, that is totally fine!
Perform the Rap
After the rap is written, students get to perform them. Yeah! While they were writing the words, they practiced keeping the steady beat. Make sure students say the rap to themselves several times before performing. The performance can be to a partner, the whole class, or even the whole school. Some students will get really into the performance and the shyer students will not be so excited about this part. Just encourage participation and have the kids cheer each other on! To make the rap a little more fun, add a track to it, or partner the kids up and let one read the rap while the other one beat boxes.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post. In the comments, I would love to hear about the raps your students or kids have written before. Have you taught rap writing a different way? Let me know! I love to make learning music fun for kids and teaching music is my passion. In my music education subscription, each video lesson captures kids attention and keeps them engaged while they learn music. Check it out!
If you are a parent, student, or teacher who wants to learn more about music, connect with other musicians, or wants to post their latest videos of what they’ve been working on, I would love for you to join the Facebook group Music Education Connection. Collaborate, learn from each other, and grow new friendships. This is a place to receive encouragement, positive feedback, and to ask questions.