Friday, April 24, 2015

Epic Rap Battles as Assessment

With one to one Chromebooks this school year and fewer restrictions on internet browsing, the opportunities for meaningful technology integration in my classroom have grown exponentially. I have been able to post youtube videos to my Google classroom that students can watch at home and make flipped instruction possible, or even hold a Twitter chat to discuss the literature we read. But I would be kidding myself if I said students mostly used their Chromebooks for instruction! Our Chromebooks have also meant fun, a new toy for many students who might not have had their "own" devices before this experience.

One of my most adventurous assessments this year was born from combining my students' love for the fun of their Chromebooks with my love of redefining instruction with technology and alternate assessments--the Epic Rap Battle! Based on the Epic Rap Battles of History (example-Shakespeare vs. Dr. Seuss) my students love to watch on Youtube, I created an assessment for Ayn Rand's novel Anthem that is an Epic Rap Battle (assignment here)! One part poem, one part argumentative essay, one part performance, this assessment covers many standards!

Since we had already used the music creation site Soundtrap ( for our Poetry Is Music Marketing Project (lesson here), it only made sense to use the service again. I was immediately drawn to Soundtrap over other music creation services because it is collaborative in nature (more than one student can work on a song at a time) and my students can sign in with Google! Since Soundtrap had been very interested and supportive of our classroom use before, I asked the company if they could provide some prizes to help motivate my students to do their best work on this assignment! To my delight, they happily agreed to send some lanyards our way as soon as they were printed!

Our Epic Rap Battles didn't turn out as amazing as I had hoped for the first round.  My students were able to cite some text evidence, build arguments, and write some decent poems, but they REALLY struggled in the performance aspect. Since this was a major portion of the grade, I was forced to re-evaluate this time around. Next year, I plan to focus much more on the performance aspect of the project to help make this a non-issue.

Winning Epic Rap Battle Groups

Here is a good example of some ladies who brought attitude to the performance, even if they didn't rehearse enough not to need a script!

How do you incorporate student interests and/or pop culture into your lessons? Do you ever use music in your non-music classroom? I'd love to hear your stories!