President’s Day is on February 20th, so to celebrate I wanted to teach one of my all time favorite poems. “To Meet Mr. Lincoln” is such a great poem to learn, but is even more fun to set to music. Any poem or speech piece can be made musical by simply saying it as a rap, adding body percussion or instruments, or moving to the words.
To Meet Mr. Lincoln by Eve Merriam
If I lived at the time that Mr. Lincoln did,
and I met Mr. Lincoln with his stovepipe lid.
And his coal black cape and his thundercloud beard,
and worn and sad-eyed He appeared:
“Don’t worry, Mr. Lincoln,” I’d reach up and pat his hand,
“We’ve got a fine President for this land;
And the Union will be saved, and the slaves will go free;
And you will live forever In our nation’s memory.”
After reading the poem, discuss the key words that were said. Make it a history lesson by talking all about President Lincoln’s life and his legacy as well as any other President. Discuss the importance of President’s day and why we celebrate it. Then, go on to the activity to make this poem a little more musical.
When turning a poem into a rap, learn the words and speak it just like you would any other story or poem. Then, add some rhythm to your voice and emphasize certain words on each line. For instance, on “If I lived at the time that Mr. Lincoln did…” speak each bold word louder than the rest of the words. Go through each line and emphasize the last word to make it sound more musical and interesting to listen to.
After making the poem a little more musical with rapping, children use their creativity to come up with actions to the words they are speaking. Each line can have different movements and it is so neat to see how many different variations the kids can come up with. What’s even more fun is when kids say this poem in a round so different words and movements are happening at the same time. If kids are working in groups, have them perform what they came up with for each other.
Body Percussion or Instruments
The first thing kids can do is walk to a steady beat while speaking the poem. This will not only ensure the words are being said in an even way, but will make it have that rap feel. After walking the steady beat, use any type of drum or bucket to play a steady beat. Then, kids can clap the rhythm of the words, play the rhythm on rhythm sticks, make up a rhythm part to go underneath the spoken part, or pat-clap clap, pat-clap clap all the way through. There are so many combinations of body percussion or instrument parts that can be added underneath a poem. Letting kids compose their own ideas is really fun.
I hope you have so much fun exploring rhythms and instruments while speaking a rap. What is your favorite poem to turn into a rap?
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 my 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.