Copyright

Writing a Rap Lesson Plan

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

With this lesson plan, your students are going to learn about the structure and aesthetic goals of rap music. They will apply this by writing and performing rap songs of their own.

Learning Objectives

  • Define the goals and aesthetic principles of rap music
  • Identify basic meters, beats, and structures of rap music
  • Apply rhyme and other literary motifs to a metered rhythm

Length

90-120 minutes, divided into two class periods

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.3.D

Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.4

Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1-3 above.)

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1.B

Work with peers to promote civil, democratic discussions and decision-making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed.

Materials

Instructions

  • Ask students if they have heard of rap music.
    • What is rap music? What defines it from other forms of music? What does it have in common with other forms of music?
    • Where does rap music come from? Where did it originate? How did this origin impact the meaning and style of rap?
  • NOTE: Depending on your class, this may be a good point for a quick discussion on cultural appropriation and appreciating the cultural value of an art form.
  • Distribute printed copies of Rap Music: Structure, Techniques & Tips. Break students into groups of three and have them read the lesson aloud, with one student reading at a time, switching every paragraph. Have students read the sections The Art of Rap Music and Writing Rap Lyrics. Pause here to discuss this information.
    • What are bars in music? Why does this matter? How does using this system help rappers establish beat, rhyme, and flow?
    • What sort of lyrics do you expect to find in a rap song? What is the purpose of exploring certain themes? How can lyrics be used to explore real issues like poverty, oppression or personal struggles? Are there limits to what you could rap about?
  • Ask each group to brainstorm a few topics that they feel would make a good basis for a rap song, and write them down.
  • Distribute or project a few lines from a popular rap song transcribed onto sheet music. Artists like Biggie Smalls, Method Man, or Rakim are good choices for studying lyrical beat within a meter. Using this example, show students how to read the sheet music. Play this portion of the song so students can hear the beat as the read the sheet music, and then have students practice singing/rapping along with it while you clap the tempo.
  • Continue reading the lesson, asking groups to read through the section Structure of a Rap Song, then pause here. Project or distribute the full sheet music/lyrics for a rap song and go over the basic structure. This does not need to be too in depth a discussion yet, but make sure students see how the verse-chorus structure works in a real song.
  • Ask students to complete the remaining sections of the lesson in their groups, and discuss.
    • Why do musicians tend to use shared structures? Why use the verse-chorus structure?
    • How does freestyle define rap? What does this tell us about the history of how rap/hip-hop likely emerged? What other American musical forms rely heavily on improvisation?
  • You may test student understanding with the Lesson Quiz

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