Catherine Stine's IDEA CITY

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Fun Ways to Teach a Class-Write a Rap Song!

My son has been taking Arab class during these last two years of high school. The teacher, Anna Swank, is exceptionally creative and inspiring. She's taken them to a Lebanese restaurant in Queens, where they ordered food, and spoke to the staff in Arabic, on trips to the neighborhood deli, to chat with the owner, a Christian Egyptian, who makes wicked good sandwiches, and even to Syria and Tunisia.
For senior project, my son and his friends, many of whom are also musicians,

decided to write and perform an Arab rap, which underscored the importance of learning the language. Of course, they were determined to totally entertain themselves while doing it. And isn't that the part of the learning process that ultimately cements the subject in your mind? (My son is the tall one in the wheat-colored shirt, and then in the black soccer shirt). Their lip-synching is a bit off, but hey, this is video art 101. (They recorded the soundtrack and then tried to synch the video)

In addition, here is a link to today's New York Times article on Anna Swank's class. Kudos to all. Teaching and learning should always be this fun!

Most of Anna's students will go on to study the language and culture in college. I know my son will take Arabic 3.

Which begs the question, what have your teachers, your kids' teachers, and you done to reach out to your brother and sisters across the globe? And how creative can your teaching really be? I know I'll be stretching as I ready myself for teaching Writing & Lit this fall to college freshmen. My students are mostly film and art majors, struggling to write and make sense of the literary cannon. I intend to bring in film, and art right along with the books. And I'll use Anna Swank as a true inspiration as I proceed.


  1. Thanks for the follow!

    When I was teaching sixth-grade social studies, I would divide my students into groups and have them re-write an Egyptian hymn about the sun. Each group had to write the song in a very sterotypical way (not very pc, I know, but it was a great, fun way to get kids in a text and have them think through meaning).

    After writing it, they would perform. We usually had rappers, jocks, surfers, cheerleader, little kids, cowboys... all sorts.

  2. An Egyptian hymn. How cool is that?!

  3. I saw a Math Rap performed at a Math conference and it was really cool. As for me, I write stories for really little kids and I try my best not to make the "moral," in your face:)