Rhythmic Raps

Here’s a great idea for getting students to write rhythmic raps. We’ve used this technique time and again in our Poetry Jams and we first ‘lifted’ the idea from Alan Maley and Alan Duff after seeing it in their excellent book ‘Drama Techniques in Language Learning’ (Cambridge University Press).

What to do

The class is divided into groups of three or four. First, each group compiles a list of proper names, each group working on a different list. These lists could include, for example, the names of:

– rivers throughout the world
– living political figures
– capital or major cities
– historical figures
– wild animals
– authors, musicians, painters etc.
– brand names; cars, clothes, electronic goods
Once the list has been established, the names must be placed in a rhythmical sequence to make a rap which can be read aloud.

This activity can be used with elementary students and upwards and it is important to concentrate only on their names and their rhythmic combination. It can also serve as a way of teaching the pronunciation of the names of countries, nations, languages, etc.
Here are two examples of rhythmic poems; The first is taken from ‘ Messages’ by Noel and Diana Goodey and published by Cambridge University Press. The second is an extract from the poem ‘Me’ by Adrian Henri.
Listen to the words, listen to the beat.
Clap your hands and stamp your feet.
Rome, Spain, France, Greece
London England, Paris, Turkey
Washington, Italy, Canada, Istanbul
Titicaca, Mississippi, Argentina
Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro
Popocatepetl, Popocatepetl
(If you weren’t you, who would you like to be?)

Paul McCartney Gustav Mahler
Alfred Jarry John Coltrane
Charlie Mingus Claude Debussy
Wordsworth Monet Bach and Blake

Charlie Parker Pierre Bonnard
Leonardo Bessie Smith
Fidel Castro Jackson Pollock
Gaudi Milton Munch and Berg

Belà Bartók Henri Rousseau
Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns
Lukas Cranach Shostakovich
Kropotkin Ringo George and John

Guillaume Apollinaire
Cannonball Adderley
René Magritte
Hieronymus Bosch

Stéphane Mallarmé and Alfred de Vigny
Ernst Mayakovsky and Nicolas de Stael
Hindemith Mick Jagger Durer and Schwitters
Garcia Lorca
last of all


About The Henry Brothers

We are English teachers involved in ELT publishing in Turkey, and also touring the country giving workshops and presentations to English teachers, mainly on the use of poetry, storytelling and other lively activities in the classroom. We can be contacted by e-mail to canmoorcroft@gmail.com or paul.zarraga@gmail.com
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