I rarely listen to rap music, if I can help it. I can't understand
the words and the bad rhymes and fractured rhythms hurt my ears.
So, I was taken aback when a teacher who works at a reservation
school in northern Minnesota told me this story: She had one of
those disruptive students who is every teacher's worst nightmare.
She tried everything to motivate him to "get with the program,"
but nothing worked-until she handed him a copy of No
More Homework! No More Tests! It was the only book he
would read. His favorite poem was "School Daze Rap" by Carol Diggory
Shields. Apparently, he read it over and over. The teacher asked
me if I'd write some raps to motivate other hard-to-reach students.
I told her I'd think about it.
To help me think about it, I bought a rap CD containing several different "artists." While driving, I wrote down the rhythm to each rap. What surprised me was how many of them were variations on this pattern:
Da DUM da da DUM da da DUM da da DUM (or DUM da)
Da Dum da da DUM da da DUM da da DUM. (or DUM da)
Here's another way you can say the rhythm:
a ONE and a TWO and a THREE and a FOUR,
a ONE and a TWO and a THREE and a FOUR.
This latter method is how Lawrence Welk and other conductors count. Notice that you can tap your feet four times while you say it.
Rapping out a couplet of "da DUMs" reminded me of lyrics from an old song they used to play on the radio when I was a kid. (I can't recall the title):
"The boys in the jungle had me on the run.
When something heavy hit me like an atomic gun." (whatever that is)
That's when I realized, "Hey, I've already written a rap." I
just didn't realize it at the time. In fact, the poem is going
to be published this fall in my next book, If
Pigs Could Fly… and Other Deep Thoughts. Here's how my
All You Can Eat
I went to a place that serves all-you-can-eat.
And now my new shoes do not fit on my feet.
My hat's much too small now to fit on my head.
My feet are too long now to fit on my bed.
So if you should go to the very same place,
Take my advice, please, and don't stuff your face.
© 2000 by Bruce Lansky, reprinted from If
Pigs Could Fly with permission of Meadowbrook Press.
As a first step toward getting your students to write a rap, I suggest that you have them recite "All You Can Eat" rap style.
Then have your students recite the "da DUM" rap rhythm above, so they can hear it loud and clear. Here are a few more couplets that more or less fit the rhythm:
I handed in a poem and my teacher said.
"You've got a lot of strange ideas in your head."
I went around the corner to the grocery store.
The crabby owner told me, "Don't you come here no more."
I went to see the doctor and the doctor told me,
when you stand on the scale I don't want you to hold me.
Notice that I'm a bit more flexible than usual with the rhythm. This is because rappers take a great deal of liberty with rhythm patterns. I suggest that instead of counting syllables, you tap your foot four times as you say each line. If a student can recite each line in the time you tap your feet four times, then the rhythm is probably OK.
you are interested in inviting Bruce Lansky to your school, click
on a book cover for more information or to buy the book.