Engagement, Promising Practices

“Rapping” Up a Unit

As a fun formative activity, I once asked the students in my two Grade 12 Physics classes, who had just finished a unit on relativity, to write a poem on topic(s) from the unit. More than a year later, as a PhD student in a Curriculum Theory class, I wrote the following piece describing what transpired.

You can perform the following rap song with this accompanying backbeat: www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DtgXdOYbq8

They started writing, for homework writing,
A relavistic poem ain’t that so exciting?
But when the day came, for show-and-tell fame,
My solid class – the “straight up” class, they hung their heads in shame.
Most didn’t do it, just wouldn’t try it,
And with each smiling shaking head I felt infuriated.
No marks, just for fun? They thought, “Prioritize!”
Extrinsic motivation, hard for me to sympathize.

My head grew warm, thought “do no harm,”
tried to stay calm, cause no alarm.
I let it go, told them to go,
but just to write a Haiku would it have hurt you so?

Yeah, I should have had some moral agency,
So now in retrospective hermeneutic philosophy,
I look for messages, uncover baggages,
Unwrap the words that hold the vessels of my consciousness.

And I realized that they were tired,
high marks they did desire.
The schooling ethos had a faster than the fastest pace.
Writing a poem might just bump you from scholarship race.

Slowing down the school curriculum…
How do you do it when the smartest brain is going numb?
With tests, reports, and academics?
With writing essays on things like moral ethics?

And here comes the generative lesson,
It goes deeper than I think I have you guessin’
Because, my friends, I have a quick surprise
Something that happened after – you don’t realize.

You see, I had another Physics bunch.
Goofier, but they were going through the same crunch.
I wasn’t hopeful, of this I was aware.
“Anyone with a poem that they would like to share?”

Yes! Most did! The best ones were long.
And two wrote it as a genuine rap song.

It goes to show, given same opportunities
Some fly, some sink – depends on personalities
Of the kids, of the class,
of the school, of the entire world mass
That weighs down on each and every one of them.
Makes it hard to pin the reason or just to blame.

Perhaps the lesson is one of fun.
To enjoy the work, not to “just to get ’er done.”
To share a poem, or any creative craft
It’s something special, it’s a virtuous act.
For it is done with the unselfish intent
To bring joy and rhythmic attention to the moment.

And so with that poetic reconstitution
I’d like to leave you with two considerations:
Has this process increased my durability?
Do I feel lighter and poised with self-assurety?
I don’t know but as this poem’s been heard,
I’ve had a lot of fun and that’s my last key “word.”


Note: This poem plays with concepts from two texts used in my course. The phrases moral agency, hermeneutic philosophy, generative lesson, and ideas like having a lighter and durable teaching self are taken from L. Fowler’s “Narrative Plains of Pedagogy: A curriculum of difficulty,” found in E. Hasebe-Ludt & W. Hurren (Eds.), Curriculum Intertext (NY: Peter Lang, 2003), 159-72. Vessels of my consciousness, slow schooling, rhythmic attention to the moment, and ideas like virtue and unselfishness connected to the aesthetics of curriculum are from R. Luce Kapler’s article, “Orality of Poetics of Curriculum,” in the Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies 1, no. 2 (2003): 79-93.

Collage: Dave Donald

First published in Education Canada, December 2016

Meet the Expert(s)

Suparna Roy

Suparna Roy

Coordinator of Teaching, Learning, & Innovation, Albert College

Suparna Roy, PhD, is presently Coordinator of Teaching, Learning, and Innovation at Albert College. She has taught IB Physics, General Science, and Mathematics internationally for nine years, and has a passion for inquiry-based, service-learning initiatives that explicitly cultivate moral values.

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