The Week in Rap exercise sequence offers a space for students to demonstrate their understanding of the language, ideas and events from the song in a format that engages their critical thinking, reading and writing skills. The activities touches on current events, geography, language arts, math, science skills… to name a few. We also know that students are being tasked with doing more evidence-based non-fiction reading and writing, and this sequence offers opportunities for practicing these crucial 21st century skills.
All of the components of the sequence can be done as a whole class, as independent work, in pairs, or in small groups. You could assign some for in-class work and some for homework. Additionally, they can be done as one-offs or serve as the springboard to more extensive research projects.
Ask students to take the key terms from the song and think about what they mean within the context of the particular news story. Students will practice summarizing the key ideas about a news story in their own words and demonstrating understanding of these ideas in writing. These terms are the same as those used for the Fill in the Blanks activity so you could start with Fill in the Blanks, and then students can move on to this activity to help reinforce the meaning of what is covered in the song.
Vocabulary is at the core of what we do. Every song incorporates key terms that are linked to the topic of the song directly, but they are also full of more general purpose words and phrases that are excellent vocabulary builders. This section focuses on those more general vocabulary words by having students first think about their meaning within the context of the song, and then think about and apply their meaning to other contexts as well.
For example, in the Week in Rap from October 17th, 2014, one of the words introduced in the General Vocabulary section of the activity is ‘advocate’. In the context of the song, ‘advocate’ is used as a noun and refers to a ‘child’s rights advocate’ in the news. This is also an opportunity to introduce the verb form of advocate meaning ‘to argue for or urge’. You can create your own scenarios and sentences to showcase the verb form of the word, and there are also two Flocabulary videos that feature ‘advocate’ as a verb. ‘It’s Alright’ is a video from the 8th grade Word Up series and includes the lyric: “I’ve advocated for raising pay, I pleaded cases to increase the wage.” And from the video ‘A More Perfect Union’, a song about the U.S. Constitution and origins of U.S. government: “I advocated revolution like Che, When the state gets too powerful and too paid. Your whole country owes me a debt, The name’s John Locke, don’t forget.” When students are exposed to words used in different subject areas, different contexts, and different parts of speech, they become more informed and flexible readers, writers and thinkers.
These words could provide a consistent pipeline of new vocabulary words to incorporate into your classroom throughout the year.
Every week, we provide a paragraph-long summary of each of the news stories and following each summary, a relevant question for the students to reflect on. Although these are opinion questions, it provides a great opportunity for students to show evidence-based thinking in their writing. This is also an activity that could start as a discussion--students can share their thoughts in a debate-style forum--and then they can use that the information generated from that discussion to do their own writing.
All of these summaries also link to relevant articles from mainstream news sources, so this can segue into reading longer and more sophisticated non-fiction texts and analyzing them as well. If there are topics of particular interest to a student or class, this can also provide the instigating question for a larger research project that students could take on.
If you’re a weekly Week in Rap user, you may already know about the printable activity provided each week. These will continue to be offered each week, and you can find it at the end of the packet. There is a rotating library of activities including:
--‘The Week in Map,’ a geographic perspective on the week’s news
--‘Two Truths and a Lie,’ a listening and reading comprehension and deductive reasoning
--‘The Week in Rap Crossword’
--‘The Week in Rap Trivia Quiz’
--‘Think About Your Thinking,’ a critical thinking skills activity