Read, Write, Rap

Ms. Kiyak's English 12 class rapped their final project for the book "A Long Way Gone"

As many students know, rap music is one of the most widely popular and listened to music genre today.  It plays a big part in the lives of students at T.C. as well as people from all over the world, and was recently the inspiration for a big final project for the book A Long Way Gone.  On Friday November 5th, Sarah Kiyak’s 12th grade English class performed raps based on what they read in the novel.  The class read this book together, and as the ending to a very powerful story was able to incorporate the book and very popular music into their projects.

A Long Way Gone is a collection of memoirs by Ishmael Beah, who was a child soldier in the mid 1990s in Sierra Leone during their civil conflict.  “To him [the author], rap music was everything,” Ms. Kiyak said.  So she decided to incorporate rap music into the students project “…we thought that it would be clever and relevant to both the students lives and to the novel to have them produce a rap at the end,” she said.  The students were required to write one verse and each group as a whole had to come up with a chorus, and pick two people to perform in front of the class.  Each group was able to choose what theme their rap was based around, but each group all chose to do the same theme, “War is Hell.”

But the book isn’t just about rapping, it sends very powerful messages to all those who read it.  “I was able to read someone else’s life…it gave me an idea [of]…an exterior life from what I just know,” one of the performing students remarked.  “But it actually sucks about the corruption and the government problems that are affecting society,” they continued.  Ms. Kiyak agrees that there is something to be learned from the book“I think that his story has a universal message that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, that you can survive and that you can get better,” she said.

But the rap for the class wasn’t the only important part of the project; three teachers were chosen to be “American Idol”-style judges of the performances.   Simon, Paula, and Ellen (Alan) were all in attendance to see the groups perform their original raps based on the book and the feelings they had reading it.  All of the judges (even Simon) only had good things to say and lots of praise for the students; including that they came up with great lyrics and did a wonderful job keeping the beat of the music.

The project seems to have been a big hit with the students as well as the teachers in attendance.  “I thought it was great, I thought it was an awesome way to measure the students’ knowledge of the novel they read, while also incorporating fun and creativity and performance,” said English teacher Todd Koren, who played Alan (Ellen) DeGeneres.  He even admitted that he was jealous that Ms. Kiyak thought of this idea before him, and he might use the idea with some of his classes in the future.

Ms. Kiyak seems to have been really happy with the way things turned out “I wish the kids were a little more confident in themselves, but I think that they did a great job,” she said.  Based on all this positive feed-back from teachers and students, it looks like we’re going to be seeing a lot more of this kind of project in the future.