Writing a Rap Song: The Class of 2017 is in the House

I wrote last week of wanting to try out the writing of a collaborative rap song with my sixth graders. Now, listen, they are 12 and live in suburbia. They don’t have hiphop in their blood. But they listen to rap, and they love music, and it was an interesting experience to walk them through the writing of a song. Most years, I bring in all of rock and roll gear — electric guitar, drum machine, amplifiers, microphones, the works. But, heck, times change. I went with rap this year. And using Garageband, there was a whole lot less gear to carry (my back thanks me).

Here’s what we did:

  • I wrote and recorded the first verse, which celebrates my sixth graders as the class of 2017 — the year they will graduate high school.
  • We listened to the introduction and then reviewed our work around couplets, rhythmic beats and flow from poetry.
  • I gave them a simple handout sheet with my verse written out and some blank lines. Their job was to write at least one couplet that continued the theme and kept the model of the introduction.
  • As a class, we wrote the rap, with students volunteering their lines in a Google Doc and then, again as a class, we worked on the editing of the lines. (Ideally, we would have had more time for this).
  • Volunteers came up to the front of the room, where I had my nifty Snowball microphone set up, and they “sang” the rap for the class. This often took a couple of tries and honestly, another day of recording would have been better. But it is the end of the year and time is our enemy.
  • I then took all four raps from my four classes and spliced them together into one rap song, which I noticed this morning has been downloaded almost 50 times from our class site by my student. And BONUS: a few students apparently took the song and used it as a soundtrack for some video project they are going to give to me. Not sure what to expect …

Why the Collaborative Rap Song Writing Worked:

  • We used elements from our poetry unit
  • They have a high interest in music — particularly rap and hiphop
  • They wrote for a purpose
  • They wrote as a class in a collaborative environment
  • Music became part of our writing experience
  • Some students could take center stage as performers
  • We published to the world

I know you must be dying to hear what they came up with. Right? Here you go:

Introducing: The Class of 2017

Or you can listen here.

Peace (in the hip, in the hop, in the hippity hop),

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