Students love music. It’s just a simple fact.
So asking my students to learn a set of poetry terms by creating their own parodies and original songs, instead of regurgitating a bunch of meaningless definitions and examples, was a no-brainer. There is no doubt this approach works. Last year’s American Literature students rocked it out just the same.
Once again, a class of courageous and innovative students proved this project to be a success by creating a QR code jukebox with their smartphone mics.
Using this multi-hyperlinked spreadsheet, students were asked to study and interact with a list of poetry terms in a blended learning and teacher-assisted manner. Once students had investigated and familiarized themselves with the terms, leaders from student-selected teams drew either A, B, or C to determine which group of terms were to be used in their poems/songs. All teams consisted of three students, however, another member could be added at the cost of an additional five poetry terms. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of this assignment, besides the actual singing or rapping performance, was the understanding that all terms needed to be as original as possible. With a few minor exceptions, this requirement was met.
Providing each student with a laptop or tablet for this project is essential and powerful, especially when Google Drive is a part of the picture. Whether they created a shared Google spreadsheet, document, or presentation, students were immersed in the process of creating poetical art in real-time, collaborative moments. The creative, writing process was reminiscent of this Hall-and-Oates-inspired video.
After all teams’ poems/songs were written, the performance was the next step. Students were given the options of singing, rapping, or delivering their original creations in a fairly dramatic way, a la Shane Koyczan or Daniel Beaty on Def Poetry Jam.
The next technological component needed was unsurprisingly ubiquitous…smartphones. By using the ever-so-easy SoundCloud app, students transformed their smartphones into microphones and digital recorders. Some teams used karaoke tracks as background music, and others simply made their own beats. The process is an absolute blast to watch. Students get all excited as they rehearse over and over again in any area deemed acoustically suitable (stairwells, bathrooms, hallways, etc.).
After uploading the new track to the SoundCloud website via the smartphone app, each team copies the link, creates a QR Code using sites like Kaywa, and prints out a title sheet that includes the name of the original poem/song, all team members’ names, and the QR code that directs all participants to the SoundCloud track. A copy of the poem or lyrics of the song with all poetry terms labeled is also printed. The title sheet and a copy of the poem are posted on the classroom walls. Click here to see some examples.
Just for fun, I asked all students to print out an extra copy to post at the entrance to the school cafeteria.
Want to see this whole process in a video tutorial? Click here.
Before moving on to the next section, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that several teams got so involved with the process of writing cool songs they decided to create musical videos. Click here to see an example or view the one below.
The final product is simple but powerful. Sure, anybody can easily look around and say, “What’s the big deal? I just see a bunch of posted QR codes and poems.” The power, however, comes when students are asked to use their smartphones, armed with a QR code reader such as Red Laser, to participate in a gallery walk around the classroom. With each stop, students scan a QR code and quietly listen through their earbuds to the authentic poem/song as they read along.
Of course, it’s not just about jamming out to music or hearing an awesome poem. Students reinforce their knowledge of the poetry terms by challenging their peers’ examples. Feedback options range from having students leave post-it-notes to requiring submission of their assessments via a Google Drive form.
Take a listen for yourself and hear the learning as it plays directly from the classroom jukebox. You’ll find not too much has changed. Just the way you select the songs now.
And the cool way students can learn today.
(Care to play a song from our jukebox? Click on any link.)