In my year 9 Geography class we are studying Urban Geography. As part of this unit we look at cities and living conditions around the world. I showed the class a short documentary on slum living in Sao Paulo where they answered some questions about living conditions and the gap between rich and poor. The students were shocked by the conditions and the stark reality that they are very lucky to live where they live. While they were watching the doco i was writing a follow up task on the board: In groups you are to write and record a _______ on one of the following topics: Slum living, the gap between the rich and the poor, child labour, day in the life of a slum, being a child in a slum.
At the end of the video we had a little discussion around slum living and being a child in these conditions, some students made some comments about how lucky they now felt and how the problems they experienced seemed so insignificant. I told the class they were going to work in groups which they formed and i was giving them the rest of this period and 2 other 75 minute period to write and record a rap song on. Well that was as far as i got for about 5 minutes they were all so excited that they were getting to create a rap song that i had trouble explaining the topics and what programs they could use. It was exciting for me that they were excited by the task but important that i make it clear they all had to work within the group and they could use GarageBand, Audacity, Photo Booth-video or another program if they checked with me first. Interestingly one group chose to video themselves using Photo Booth while the other groups chose GarageBand.
This was a very successful. Student engagement in the task exceeded every other task we had completed for the year. Teachers teaching the same students were coming up to me informing me the students were bursting at the sides to explain what they were doing in Geography and could they create songs in their subjects. This task could also be an alternative form of assessment. The work students put into the creative activity to express their learning and understanding far exceeded any they had put into studying for a traditional test. Using Garageband student can easily compose music then record the song – rap songs are the easiest for students to create, I have found. this is Why this activity worked so well and it was so different from anything they had been asked to do before.
Thanks to @Steve_Collis for the inspiration. I was lucky enough to virtually attend some of his wonderful presentation on running a School Internet Radio Station at the Education Revolution in Action Conference where @Steve_Collis spoke about how he uses rap creation in language studies. The idea transfers beautifully since this i have used it in my Commerce class to make boring but important economic concepts easy to remember.