Teaching with Rhythm and Rap

Teaching with Rhythm and Rap


We all recall songs, prayers, and poems we learned as early as age 4, 5, or 6—before we learned to read. The reason for our deep memories of these early experiences is that rhythm and rhyme have a unique ability to embed words and concepts indelibly in our brains.

In Hip-hop Poetry and the Classics, Sitomer and Cirelli (2004) show that rap lyrics possess the same literary components as classical poems: alliteration, allusion, metaphor, etc. Teachers can take advantage of the dynamic power of rap to instill important information in students’ memories. I’ve found that you don’t need experience with rap to use it successfully—all you need is the desire to try something new!

As a teacher, I discovered that rap is a great way to draw in all types of students and simultaneously meet state and national standards. “The Rap Protocol” provided here guides students to write their own raps about themes and concepts from complex texts. Writing raps about texts inspires students’ enthusiasm and enhances their ability to read complex texts closely, improve comprehension, review for tests, and relate texts to their own lives. “The Argument Rap,” also provided here, helps students master the complex skills necessary for writing a persuasive argument paper.

The Rap Protocol

  1. Tell students to use rhythm and rhyme to create a rap about a chapter/text. Not every line must rhyme; encourage alliteration and rhymes within lines.
  2. Explain that raps should use language appropriate for school.
  3. After writing, have students practice reading raps aloud expressively and rhythmically. Encourage gestures, clapping, body movement, and costumes.
  4. Have students perform raps for the class, families, and assemblies. Record performances and post on websites/blogs.
  5. Display raps on bulletin boards or display cases and publish them in school newsletters or online newspapers.

The Argument Rap

by Rosalie Fink

Let’s analyze an argument.

What must it contain?

The first component

Is the argument’s claim.


Some call the claim “the thesis.”

It’s the author’s main idea.

The important things about it?

It’s a statement and it’s clear.

Where does the claim belong?

Beginning? Middle? End?

Any place can work well,

But there’s usually a trend.


Often the first paragraph

States the claim there.

But sometimes the claim

Appears elsewhere.


The second component

Is called the evidence.

Data, details, facts, and reasons

Used to convince.


To convince your readers

That your argument is tight,

Use facts and examples

To convince them of its might.


Explain each fact fully

So they know you’re right.

Reasoning and logic

Make your argument tight.


Raise rebuttals or counterarguments

To show your awareness and strengthen your position.

Concede any weakness in your argument,

Acknowledge the strengths of the opposition.


Finally your argument needs to end

With a clear conclusion that leaves no confusion.

To give your argument an awesome end

Write a clear conclusion that leaves no confusion.


50999coYour Turn

Have you used raps successfully in your classroom? We’d love to hear what’s worked for you!

Want more about this topic? Check out Reading, Writing, and Rhythm: Engaging Content-Area Literacy Strategies, K-12




Author bio

Rosalie Fink, Ed.D.

Rosalie Fink, Ed.D., Professor

Rosalie Fink, Ed.D., is Professor of Literacy Emeritus at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A former classroom teacher and literacy specialist in New York public schools, she received her doctorate at The Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she was an invited Visiting Scholar in Education and won a Spencer Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship. She is the author of many articles and two books chosen by the International Literacy Association as Book Club Selections: Why Jane and John Couldn’t Read: And How They Learned and Inspiring Reading Success: Interest and Motivation in an Age of High-Stakes Testing. Dr. Fink gives workshops and lectures at conferences for teachers, parents, and administrators. For more information, please visit Dr. Fink’s website: www.rosaliefink.com.