Education

Rapping teacher keeps middle school students engaged

Charlotte teacher raps to deliver history lessons

Ridge Road Middle School teacher Claire Tamayo, in her second year of teaching, has created a way to help her students remember history lessons.
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Ridge Road Middle School teacher Claire Tamayo, in her second year of teaching, has created a way to help her students remember history lessons.

What do you get when you cross Kendrick Lamar and Roman history? A social studies lesson by Ridge Road Middle School teacher Claire Tamayo.

With just one year of teaching under her belt, Tamayo has experimented with innovative teaching techniques to hold the attention of her sixth grade students and get them excited about learning.

If they’re hooked with the fun, then the content will sink in. Since it’s all about repetition, if we’re incorporating content and we’re doing hand motions or something that’s physical or repetitive, it sticks with them longer.

Claire Tamayo

Her latest concoction, ‘Romans had a Dream,’ is a spinoff of Kendrick Lamar’s rap song ‘Backseat Freestyle.’ One line from the song reads, “All my life I want money and power, respect my shine or lose your empire. You know your team is way smaller than ours so we gon’ conquer all in 72 hours.”

Tamayo tries to create one video to go with each unit the class learns. To do so, she picks a modern-day song with themes relating to the unit and re-writes the lyrics to incorporate content. Typically, she pre-records her performances to play in class and posts them on YouTube for students to review later.

It might all sound like fun and games, but Tamayo is serious about her innovative style of teaching. The sixth grade teacher typically spends 12-13 hours outside of regular school hours writing lyrics and recording performances for each unit.

Though ‘Romans Had a Dream’ was the first song she performed live, Tamayo regularly involves her students in a number of other in-person activities such as chanting and standing on tables to answer questions.

“How do I get their attention? How do I make sure that they’re paying attention but getting content at the same time?” Tamayo asked herself. “If they’re hooked with the fun, then the content will sink in. Since it’s all about repetition, if we’re incorporating content and we’re doing hand motions or something that’s physical or repetitive, it sticks with them longer.”

Most teachers wouldn’t consider the classroom a place for rap music, chanting or standing on tables, but Tamayo and her students say it’s a great way to learn.

“It’s different because instead of sitting in the classroom, just listening to teachers talk and not really wanting to pay attention because it might get a little boring, with Mrs. Tamayo, she expands how she teaches with other combinations of things like music,” said student Khalia Corry.

In addition to her interactive methods resulting in increased student involvement and attention, Tamayo says the students also helped increase positive attitudes and self-confidence among her students.

“The way we’re doing the chants and cheers, the standing, the things like that, I have seen a lot more positivity in the classroom,” she said. “From all of my blocks, I’ve seen they’re more engaged, like they want to participate. I have one little kid who is so sweet. He really struggles with self-confidence. He struggles with just being OK with saying, ‘I’m gonna answer this question even if it’s wrong.’ Over the last two weeks, he stands up on his desk, he says his answer with authority. Even if it’s wrong, he says, ‘That’s OK!’ To watch his confidence soar, it’s been unbelievable. I was not expecting that and it’s been awesome.”

With her second year of teaching coming to a close, Tamayo says she plans to continue innovative and interactive teaching methods.

“It’s just so much fun and it keeps their attention,” she said. “So I’ll definitely keep doing this all the time if I can.”

Notes

East Union Middle School: East Union Middle School in Marshville held a ponytail drive April 26 to encourage people to donate their healthy hair to create wigs for women who have lost their hair due to cancer treatments. The event was held in part by Pantene Beautiful Lengths and the American Cancer Society. Stylists from Uptown Salon and Spa collected the ponytails, which will be used to make wigs.

Robotics club: The East Union robotics team recently won an Innovation Award and placed second in the skills competition and the head to head competition for their performance at the second annual Robotics Challenge of Union County. The team, represented by Spencer Silsby, Alex Chaney and Mikel Brown competed among 21 teams to win their awards. The team finished out the competition by winning the award for robotic excellence.

Rocky River High School: Sophomore Kenya Livingston was recently invited to compete in the 10th annual Caribbean Scholastic International Invitational in Cuba. Livingston will compete in the high jump competition May 27-28. Twenty eight students were chosen to compete from the United States.

Also, Rocky River High School senior Ernaya Johnson was recently accepted, and given full scholarships to 10 prestigious colleges. She received scholarships based on her scholastic performance. The schools to which whe was accepted are: Harvard, Brown, Dartmouth, The University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, Duke University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Swarthmore College, The University of Ohio, and Johns Hopkins University.

Porter Ridge High School: Jennie Yearick, a math teacher at Porter Ridge High School was recently selected as the Union County Public Schools Hometown Hero for the month of April. She has been a teacher for 19 years, and has taught at Porter Ridge and Piedmont high schools. She currently serves as the leader of the Porter Ridge student council.

Charlotte Latin High School: Twenty-nine students from Charlotte Latin High School were recently recognized by the Duke University Talent Identification Program for their test scores in the ACT and SAT. All 29 students scored at or above the national average on at least one portion of either of the two tests.

Carmel Christian School: Kate Daugherty, a ninth grader at Carmel Christian School was recently accepted to the 2016 Triple Arts Musical Theatre Summer Intensive at the National Dance Institute in New York City. Daugherty also was accepted to Western Carolina University’s Triple Arts Musical Theatre Program. Both programs are directed by Broadway legends Terrence Mann and Charlotte d’Amboise.

Sarah Carson is a freelance writer: saraec1994@gmail.com.

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