Teaching and rapping

I.C. Will (aka Ian Willey) performs Bored of Education at the KIPP middle school in New York City where he’s the assistant principal.

Rapping about science at a STEAM school

Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA showed up at a Bronx Compass High School to rap about science, stunning students, reports Slate. (He apparently is very hot stuff.)  The visit was part of Science Genius, a  program created by Columbia Professor Christopher Emdin.

Bronx Compass integrates the arts with STEM to create STEAM, reports the New York Daily News.

The Castle Hill school, which opened last year, offers classes and programs in video game design, robotics, film, media and software engineering. It will add fashion design — or “intelligent clothing” with electronics — next school year.

Instead of using textbooks, students complete all their work in Google Docs. They write essays and create their own podcasts. They produce and screen films.

And on a recent day, students were immersed in finishing up video games they had created based on serious topics like the Holocaust and life in the Bronx.

In the music class, students used GarageBand and Audiotool programs to mix their beats.

Does STEAM make sense?

At the end of sophomore biology class, I made a movie with some friends that featured the Reproduction Song:  “Double your pleasure, double your fun, with reproduc -, reproduc -, reproduction.”

I also wrote a DNA Song: “Oh, the adenine’s connected to the thymine, and the cystosine’s connected to the guanine, and the helix goes around and around and around and the helix goes around and around.”

We also parodied those science films starring Dr. Research.

It was fun, but I’m not sure it was educational.

Where does the time go?

Wasting Time in School is seeking examples of time-consuming, learning lite assignments.

For example, a Houston parent thinks memorizing a rap about pronouns is a waste of time for gifted eighth-graders who’ve mastered pronouns in elementary school.

Sit down learn it,
you don’t need a permit.
Memorize it, do it now:
Pronouns take the place of nouns.

The SUBJECT list—
It’s nothing new:
IT, WE, THEY, and WHO.

And it goes on. And on.

Some 80 percent of elementary teachers are women, notes the blogger.

Imagine that 80+ percent of elementary teachers were male, and that they were constantly assigning girls to design football plays or battle plans for assignments putatively related to math or social studies. Would no one raise the complaint that men were being insensitive by assigning so many projects that most girls didn’t actually enjoy or identify with, and that were barely related to any legitimate academic objective in the first place?

I was just visiting my brother’s family in Oregon after attending our sixth wedding since May. (Yes! The wedding marathon is over!) Their girls love to sit and do arts and crafts projects. Their son wants to run, climb and destroy.

Here’s Simon and Garfunkel on time:

Hazy Shade Of Winter lyrics

Rap and rote

Students are rapping the Regents exam, reports the New York Times, which visits a U.S. history test-prep class for Spanish-speaking immigrants.

“Follow along closely so it won’t get convoluted,” (Jamel) Mims, 25, rapped, flicking his wrist to the beat. “The supreme law of the land is called the …”

He paused. The girls conferred in their native language, Spanish, scrambled for the marker, and hoisted their whiteboard into the air. “The Constitution!” they shouted in English, reading off their answer.

Fresh Prep, a program run by the Urban Arts Partnership, has raised $400,000 in donations to write Regents raps and deliver the review curriculum. The goal is to help students memorize facts and  “bridge the engagement gap,” Mr. Mims said.

Two dozen rap songs with rapid-fire lyrics . . .  review global history and American history. Students are given a 250-page workbook in which to fill in the blanks and write answers, and they are supposed to download the songs onto their MP3 players and memorize them at home.

So far, Fresh Prep claims more rap review students pass the exam, but says “hip-hop as a review method is hard to teach to a neophyte teacher. Now Urban Arts is revising its strategy to make sure a Fresh Prep artist instructor is always in the room.”  That sounds expensive.

Though I’m no connoisseur of hip hop, the rap seems impossibly “convoluted” in syntax, complex in vocabulary and downright dreadful. The students had trouble following the Constitution rap, even with a text, the reporter notes.

“First Amendment, that’s freedom of speech, needed that desperately
Freedom of expression, plus church and state separately
Right to bear arms the deuce, Third the quartering of troops
Four: protection from search and seizure unless a warrant is used.”

Let’s say the students memorize the words. Will they understand the ideas?

I was amused by this section:

Now the States had powers for themselves preserved
Powers not belonging to the Federal Gov. are Reserved
These include making drivers license regulations
Laws for marriage and divorce and standards for education.

Perhaps Arne Duncan should try a little rap review.


Test Rock

Gary Lighthouse Charter School psyches up students for Indiana’s state exam with a rap: “We can make this test rock.” It’s based on Young Money’s Bedrock, which apparently is popular with middle schoolers. I can’t believe how young these teachers are.